Iconic Nickelodeon series “SpongeBob SquarePants” has never been afraid to get weird — see the episode where vampire Nosferatu pranks the Krusty Krab or the time SpongeBob and his friends nearly got killed by a live-action gorilla. But this January, the show is really embracing its freak flag with “The Tidal Zone,” a new three-part special that sees the reality of Bikini Bottom dissolve before the sea creature’s eyes.
According to an ad released by Nickelodeon, the special sees the reality of the main series merge with those of its two spinoff series, both of which premiered last year: “The Patrick Star Show,” which focuses on SpongeBob’s best friend hosting a talk show with his family, and the Paramount+ kids series “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years,” about younger versions of the main show’s cast attending summer camp. The special will see characters from each series interact, along with some assorted “SpongeBob” randomness — the sea sponge turns into a robot in the ad for unexplained reasons.
“SpongeBob SquarePants” was created by the late marine science educator Stephen Hillenburg, who died from complications of ALS. “Kamp Koral” and “The Patrick Star Show” were both greenlit and produced after his passing, causing some controversy, as Hillenburg reportedly did not approve of extending the franchise past the original show. Previous series showrunner Paul Tibbit spoke out against “Kamp Koral” when it was announced, calling it “greedy, lazy executive-ing” and claiming that Hillenburg would have hated the spinoff.
The main series and “Kamp Koral” stars Tom Kenny as the title character, with Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Clancy Brown, Mr. Lawrence, Jill Talley, Carolyn Lawrence, Mary Jo Catlett, and Lori Alan rounding out the supporting cast of voice actors. “The Patrick Star Show” features Fagerbakke as Patrick, with Cree Summer, Tom Wilson, Talley, and Dana Snyder portraying the starfish’s family members. The three series are showrun and executive produced by Marc Ceccarelli and Vincent Walker, and produced by Nickelodeon Animation Studio and Hillenburg’s company United Plankton Pictures.
Since it premiered in 1999, “SpongeBob” has become the fifth longest-running animated series of all time and one of the most profitable franchises for Paramount, generating over $13 billion in merchandising revenue alone. The success and critical acclaim of the series has led to three theatrical film spinoffs: “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” “Sponge Out of Water,” and “Sponge on the Run.” Three spinoff films focusing on different characters are expected to be released on Paramount+, while another theatrical film is reportedly in the works.
“The Tidal Zone” crashes onto Nickelodeon starting January 13, with additional episodes premiering January 14 and 15. Watch the ad for the special below.