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SpongeBob SquarePants has been on the air for 15 years and during that time has featured some changes of the guard in terms of its creative team. This week, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water director Paul Tibbitt announced that former showrunner and series creator Stephen Hillenburg will be returning to SpongeBob SquarePants in January.
Currently, the information regarding Hillenburg’s return is relegated to that one, lonesome tweet, but regardless of what capacity Hillenburg returns to the show, it should still be a big deal. Hillenburg, a marine biologist and animator, had a heavy hand in SpongeBob SquarePants during the early years, creating episodes and serving as the showrunner on the series. The show was so wildly successful in the ratings that Nickelodeon commissioned the first movie based on the hit series, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which Hillenburg directed.
After the movie’s success, Nickelodeon wanted another season made and commissioned it. However, Hillenburg quit the day-to-day work on the set, only retaining his rights as an executive producer on the show. Tibbitt has been a huge voice on the show since then, also executive producing the series and now directing the new movie. If anyone is going to be in the know about Hillenburg’s big return in January, it’s him.
Like all shows that have had longevity over the years, SpongeBob SquarePants has found a voice that has allowed it to remain popular. SpongeBob has never been a show that has been afraid to try new things and the comedy has even incited its own share of controversy over the years. In short, it’s an old series that in many ways has managed to stay fresh, and adding Hillenburg to the mix should only improve its outlook. Now, we’ll just have to wait and see in what capacity he will be coming back.
Fortunately, it should be taken as a huge win for fans that Tibbitt seems excited. Sometimes creative types don't want to share any power. In that way, Hillenburg's reemergence could be seen as a threat, but in all honesty, it seems like everyone is excited. That's great to hear. Hopefully it leads to some of the most interesting and creative episodes SpongeBob SquarePants has ever produced.