Bill Fagerbakke, Jill Talley, and Dana Snyder Talk the SpongeBob Universe

In 2023, Nickelodeon will take viewers on a multidimensional adventure throughout Bikini Bottom with the first-ever SpongeBob Universe crossover special, SpongeBob SquarePants Presents The Tidal Zone. The one-hour special encompasses SpongeBob SquarePantsThe Patrick Star Show, and Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years. At New York Comic Con, I had the opportunity to speak with Bill Fagerbakke, Jill Talley, and Dana Snyder about the beloved show and spin-offs.

Since its launch on July 17, 1999, SpongeBob SquarePants has reigned as the most-watched animated series for nearly 20 consecutive years.

We discussed how big of an impact the series has had on so many viewers, what a positive environment conventions are, Patrick finally getting his own spin-off, improvising for their characters, and much more! Keep reading for our interview.


SpongeBob SquarePants has always been such a huge part of my life, it is a comfort show. So I kind of want to start off with that. Obviously, this franchise is iconic, I feel like everyone knows SpongeBob and everyone’s watched it at some point in their lives. What is it like for all of you to be part of the legacy and continue to add to it?
Bill Fagerbakke: Nothing prepares you for it. One year in this ridiculous profession, you’re really just happy to have– most jobs you get might last a few days, and then on an occasion, you’ll get a regular gig on something that maybe runs two, three years, maybe. Most cable animation will run one to three years or something like that and so, nothing prepares you. I’m constantly dazzled by the longevity of the show by the kind of rich connection with a whole generation of people. It’s incredible. It’s beautiful, it’s a beautiful thing. When you hear the expression, “Thank you for my childhood,” like 500 times, it never stops getting to me, really.
Jill Talley: Plus, it’s a good show to be associated with. I think there are shows that go on a long time that people probably go, “Hey, it’s a living. I’m here, I’m doing a show. It’s a moneymaker for me and I’ll stick with it.” But this show, I actually love it, you know what I mean? So it’s extra, it’s like icing on the cake. It’s a really great show and a positive show at a time when we need that. So that’s really good too. And like Bill said, you impact people of all different ages and you see it when you’re out in the world. You see little kids that love it and you see older people that love it, so that’s really fun.

Fagerbakke: And now young parents sharing it with their young children.
Dana Snyder: I mean, I’m just happy to be here. I feel like I want to contest. Basically, I did. I did win a contest, like GrandPat, I won a contest.


What is it like being at a convention like this? I mean, you’ve spoken about meeting the fans, but seeing people dressed as your character and in-person at the panel must be a whole different thing.
It’s thrilling and you feel the love, really, I know that sounds so corny, but when you’re in the room with all these people that love the show, it’s really nice.
Fagerbakke: Yeah, I feel like I should pay for it because it’s good for one’s soul and mental health. But given the unique environment of a Comic Con anyway, which I’ve always been taken by, you have all these people coming together for one reason, which is to celebrate what they love and there’s no cynicism. It’s just like, “Oh, isn’t that great? Look in his costume!”

Talley: It’s a really positive environment here. When you go and you see these people that are all bonding, like they’re bonding over this– especially the obscure stuff. You’ll see people walking through a con and it’s two Queen Amidalas that see each other across the room or whatever, you know, “Oh my God, I love yours,” “I love yours.” There’s something really positive and people are really nice, like you said, there’s no cynicism.
Snyder: In the normal world, you’d expected the two samurai Queen Amidalas to say, “Only one of us.” Here, there’s two of us? That’s even better! That becomes an even bigger photo op. Everyone’s like, “Hey, two of them are together, let’s take a picture!”

Fagerbakke: My favorite Patrick costume moment was at San Diego Comic-Con a few years ago. It was the mom and dad and their three kids, which were roughly two, four, and six. All five of them were dressed as Pat and it was breathtaking. I think probably that guy is one of the 10,000 contacts on Tom’s phone.


I mean, you kind of led me to my next question: so many people love it and that has led to some great guest voice actors. Was there anyone that you were shocked or excited to hear take on a role?
My favorite voice that I heard was, only as a fan, no question is Ernest Borgnine. I think that’s pretty awesome and perfect for it.
Fagerbakke: Tim Conway and Ernest Borgnine working together, which was my childhood with McHale’s Navy and them walking in to do a cartoon, here are these two guys that made me laugh. You know what was really cool? When Jon Hamm did the episode as Don Grouper and he really enjoyed being a part of the experience. He stayed after he was done to watch us finish the episode and he really enjoyed cause a lot of times your A-listers, they’ll do it from their castle in England or something. But he actually came in and he was really cool.
Talley: He’s also like a real comedy fan. He’s someone who loves comedy and he’s good at comedy. So I feel like he’s, you know, we think of him just as Don Grouper, but he’s so much more. Jon this is for you, this is a shoutout for you.

We have The Patrick Star Show now, can you tell me what your reaction was to this beloved character getting his own spin-off, and then getting to explore that world with new characters?
Talley: I say it’s about time.
Fagerbakke: I was terrified. I was really scared. I was very concerned because, to me, Patrick existed in relationship to SpongeBob, he just kind of spun around SpongeBob’s sun. So I was really concerned, then Vincent and Marc were telling me about the idea and it was just such an amazing idea, and so it became exciting once I got over my silly concerns. And getting to work with Jill as my sister, Squidina, was so great because we never worked together on SpongeBob. She’s always with Douglas and Tom, and we may have said hi once. Then, of course, GrandPat who has really become this really interesting motor on the show. He really drives a lot of stuff, which is so much fun to play off of that character. Squidina and Patrick, I think have a great relationship. It’s really vivid.

Snyder: It’s a thrill. I mean, for me, it’s a thrill. The party bus has been rolling for like 22 years, and all of a sudden they pulled over like, “Hey, we got room for one more, dude.” “What, really?” “You, come on!”
Talley: Here’s the other thing about doing a show like this is when you hear the description of the show, when someone explains something to you, you just sit there and you’re going, “Okay, yeah, yeah,” it’s like what you’re saying is so crazy, the concept is so crazy layered and stuff. I’m the kind of person who when I see the finished product, I go, “Got it, okay,” because it’s so creative, it’s like your brain can’t even imagine.


Yeah, I have to imagine that’s so fascinating to hear the descriptions and then to really see it come to life. Was there a favorite moment or episode where you were excited or curious to see the final version after voicing it or reading the script?
Fagerbakke: I was so excited when I saw the multi-media approach to doing the stories and the kind of jumping around within the traditional narrative. I mean, it’s so exciting. It’s so dynamic to be a part of that, because it works well, frankly, on camera, and now we’re doing it in animation where it’s perfect. That’s really great for sure, and the first time I saw the black and white, you know, Dr. Plankenstein’s Castle blew me away.
Talley: Yeah, and this cartoon in particular is just so creative. Our cartoons are already creative, but this one because it has all the different time jumps and different media mixed in, it’s on another level. It’s really, really creative.

There are so many iconic quotes. Do you have any favorites or ones that fans always ask you about?
Patrick’s got some really good ones. You know, what was funny was I was doing a phoner interview on speakerphone at the time my youngest daughter was eight and she was sitting in there with me. I said, “Okay, you can be in the room, but you have to be quiet.” She goes, “Okay.” The person asked me if I ever did the voice of Patrick just in normal life or whatever and I said no. Carson goes, “Dad!” I go, “What?” She goes, “Whenever you see a spider around the house, you go ‘Spider! Spider! Spider!’” I didn’t even really know it.
Talley: I don’t know that Karen has any specific lines, I think it’s more of with Plankton, like her general, weird, fine line of putting him down and loving him at the same. I always think of it as The Honeymooners, that she’s this moderate one of the two of them. So she can put him down, but you know she loves him. So it’s more of a vibe I would say for her than specific lines.


Talley: It’s so fun and I mean, the thing about COVID and doing everything on Zoom that’s been hard, is I really loved being in the studio because we would play around. I think we get to play around a little bit more in between the dialogue and find little moments back and forth. That’s always my favorite, any time when you can kind of improvise a little bit and play around is always really fun. We would just banter, like argument banter, which would go off the rails, it would just escalate and we would make each other laugh. I mean, that’s a goal, make each other laugh. We’ve been doing this show for so long and these characters for so long. I think because the characters are so defined, you can make jokes within that character, because you, the actor, knows how that character thinks. So when you get in there and it’s like Plankton and Karen are having an argument, I can think exactly what Karen would say.

Fagerbakke: I think Hillenburg said once that we were in the DNA of the character, which is obviously remarkable and a rare experience for any actor just because you don’t normally get to do a character so long and we still love our characters, we don’t hate our characters.
Talley: And we’re still finding things about our characters.
Fagerbakke: That’s the key, right? Also, we have younger writers coming in and they grew up with the show, you know what I’m saying? They want to honor what Hillenburg created and show that they loved, and that’s extraordinary. That’s really cool.
Talley: The characters are very protected and which is, like you say with Stephen, I mean, I think that’s a really nice feeling to know that everybody loves these characters. It’s not just the cast. It’s not just the writers. It wasn’t just Stephen. It’s like the world loves these characters. Everyone’s protective of them, you know what I mean? So even these writers that come in, they’re not going to go off and try to do something.