To my knowledge, this is the first “serious” book on Spongebob, in the sense that the cartoon is being treated as a considerable work of modern culture. Hopefully it won’t be the last.
For gift giving, the timing couldn’t be better—a high-end coffee table treatment of the world’s most popular cartoon sponge. The book is nestled cleverly in a semi-transparent slipcase and really lights up a room. Visually, the book is a treasure for Spongebob fans, especially the older ones (a small child would tear out the little storyboards; a Little Golden Book would do just fine).
With the book’s Hendrix-like moniker, The Spongbob Squarepants Experience, rather than “Happy Birthday” or “15 Years,” the book has to cut a wide swath beyond congratulation and commemoration. It does do that and much more.
Like an “Art Of” book, it’s loaded with spectacular color reproductions and vibrant sketches. Like a “Treasury” book it has lots of stuff to open, unfold and otherwise marvel upon. Among the tchotchkes are a comic book, storyboards and gag sketches. When you see the work and artistry behind Spongebob Squarebob as a massive body of work, it transcends its well-earned “funny cartoon” reputation and is seen as a huge effort by eminently talented animators, background painters, layout people and voice artists (who all get a profile as each character is discussed).
It’s rare today to find an all-around cartoon property like Spongebob, who isn’t as seen largely as a sitcom, “adult” cartoon or kid’s show, that is standing the test of time. Spongebob and his fellow characters have the flexibility, potential and staying power of Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. It’s about time it is recognized in this way
Jerry Beck’s text acknowledges the history and impact of Spongebob and his friends on the world over the last fifteen years. It is not simply “decoration” in a pretty book, but of course Jerry’s copy could never be that, even in its most abbreviated form (I love that little Flintstones book). To keep things interesting, the pages have sidebars and running categories like and “favorite lines” and whimsical “little known facts.”
Like Oliver Twist, I want some more. Do another one, Jerry.