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SpongeBob SquarePants has built a veritable cartoon empire on the small screen since 1999, and the level of adoration for the Nickelodeon show was evident on a cold Saturday morning at New York City’s AMC Lincoln Square, as fans came out in droves to greet the stars who voice these celebrated characters — SpongeBob, Patrick, Mr. Krabbs, Pearl, Sandy, Squidward and Plankton. At the film’s world premiere along the sponge-yellow carpet, star-struck kids waved cardboard SpongeBob masks alongside parents, who confessed to watching the program.
Taking the popular show — 22 minutes of under-the-sea hilarity — and transforming it into a 90-minute sequel to 2004’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie was no simple task. It required being bigger — writing a storyline set on dry land, knitting together cartoon and live action and turning SpongeBob and friends into 3D CGI characters to battle a wily Antonio Banderas as Pirate Burger-Beard.
“I was a little worried how it would come off because SpongeBob has always been very traditionally animated by choice,” admitted Tom Kenny, who voices Spongebob. “It’s 2D; it’s hand-drawn. It’s very much handmade — it’s a quilt of a cartoon, one of the last ones left. This movie has to be epic. It has to be gigantic; it has to be a big event, and that means 3D CGI these days.” Still, he reassured fans, “SpongeBob and Patrick are who they’ve always been. They’re just in this new arena. And then when I got to see the movie last week, I loved what had been done with SpongeBob with the new graphics.”
For Banderas, as a live-action character, it was a different story. “It’s almost working a little bit blind but in the context of basically having fun,” he explained. “These movies will all the respect that I have for kids movies. If you don’t have fun doing it, they will not have fun watching it.”
Not only did Banderas have cartoon co-stars, but as a crusty pirate, he also had a tricky wardrobe. ” ‘Intense’ was the word,” he said of the makeup, wig and false beard he wore for the character. “I couldn’t get the makeup off normally. I had to shave it off — all this plastic coming off my face. It was like a bear attacks you in the morning and stays for 12 hours.”
Despite his beard blues, Banderas has a soft spot in his heart for SpongeBob. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if he’s a sponge or a stone; he’s a being that they created with a soul that is beautiful,” said Banderas. “He’s a very optimistic character. … He has a solution for every problem. That’s a good message for kids. There are good values that are attached — values of friendship and loyalty.”
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water floats into theaters Feb. 6.
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