The cast of SpongeBob SquarePants reveals that Stephen Hillenburg appears in the animated hit's title sequence.
It was revealed during the show’s 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panel Thursday that Hillenburg — who died in November after battling ALS — is actually the man behind the lips and teeth viewers see in that pirate painting at the beginning of the show’s title sequence.
“I don’t know if its common knowledge or not, but when you see the opening and there’s that painting of the pirate and there’s lips moving, that’s Stephen,” said Rodger Bumpass, who voices Squidward.
“I think the painting, somebody found in a thrift store somewhere, on sale,” added Tom Kenny, who voices SpongeBob on the Nickelodeon staple.
The cast also revealed that the opening shot, before the camera moves below the water and into the animated world, was filmed at Samarai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky’s pool. “What a crossover, huh?” said Bumpass.
As the cast — who recently appeared in the partially live-action special SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout — approaches the first anniversary of Hillenburg’s death, they remain in awe of their show’s mastermind and all that he accomplished when SpongeBob premiered 20 years ago.
“SpongeBob has conquered the world,” said Kenny. “He’s in every county on earth, he’s on every conceivable product he can be on, but… it just reminds me of a time when SpongeBob only existed in Stephen Hellenberg’s desk drawer… I remember when he had me come over to his place and said, ‘I’m thinking about pitching this to Nickelodeon,’ and he took out that, it was just like, wow. It blew my mind. I’d never wanted to be in a show so bad.”
SpongeBob Squarepants was recently renewed for a 13th season.