The ninth season of SpongeBob SquarePants, created by former marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenburg, was announced on January 3, 2011. Season 9 first aired on July 21, 2012 with the episodes "Extreme Spots" and "Squirrel Record" and ended on February 20, 2017 with "Goodbye, Krabby Patty?" The season was released on DVD on October 10, 2017, nearly eight months after it had completed broadcast on television. This season was executive-produced by series creator Hillenburg and writer Paul Tibbitt, who also acted as the showrunner.
A total of 26 episodes were produced for this season, bringing the number of episodes up to 204, passing the 200-episode milestone. This season marks the show's transition to 1080i HD by now having episodes produced and aired in widescreen (16:9), the native aspect ratio of high-definition.
The season aired on Nickelodeon, which is owned by Viacom, and was produced by United Plankton Pictures and Nickelodeon. The season's executive producers were series creator Stephen Hillenburg and Paul Tibbitt, who also acted as the series' showrunner. During production of the eighth season, Deadline.com reported on January 3, 2011 that Nickelodeon had renewed the series for a ninth season, with 26 episodes in order, which would push the series over the 200th episode mark. SpongeBob SquarePants became the Nickelodeon series with the most episodes, surpassing Rugrats with 172 episodes, having 178 after the eighth season had complete broadcast on television.
In a statement, Brown Johnson, president of animation for Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group, said "SpongeBob's success in reaching over 200 episodes is a testament to creator Stephen Hillenburg's vision, comedic sensibility and his dynamic, lovable characters. The series now joins the club of contemporary classic Nicktoons that have hit this benchmark, so we're incredibly proud."
Series creator Stephen Hillenburg executive-produces the show alongside Paul Tibbitt, who has worked on the show since after the pilot. Tibbitt served as a director and writer on for its first three seasons and eventually taking over the showrunner position from Hillenburg. Tibbitt said, "We never imagined we would be on for that long but we're going to keep going. The trick is to try to keep the episodes funny and simple and press from there."
On July 21, 2012, the season premiered with the episodes "Extreme Spots" and "Squirrel Record" during a SpongeBob SquarePants television marathon event called "The Super Spongy Square Games." The episode "Extreme Spots" was written by Luke Brookshier, Marc Ceccarelli, and Derek Iversen, while Tom Yasumi served as animation director. It was guest starred by actor Johnny Knoxville. Moreover, "Squirrel Records" was written by Brookshier, Ceccarelli, and Iversen, and was directed by Alan Smart. During the television event, Nickelodeon also debuted two more episodes—"Demolition Doofus" and "Face Freeze!"—of the eighth season.
Animation was handled in South Korea at Rough Draft Studios. Production switched to high-definition in the season starting with the first episode "Extreme Spots." Animation directors credited with episodes in the ninth season included Alan Smart and Tom Yasumi. Episodes were written by a team of writers, which consisted of Casey Alexander, Brookshier, Ceccarelli, Zeus Cervas, Andrew Goodman, Iversen, Mr. Lawrence, and Blake Lemons. The season was storyboarded by Alexander, Brookshier, Ceccarelli, Cervas, and Blake Lemons. Animation directors included Alan Smart and Tom Yasumi.
Vincent Waller had confirmed on his Twitter account that production on the show has halted halfway through its ninth season, due to working on The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, but has recently resumed and continued to work on the rest of this season. Also, according to an interview with Princess Grace Foundation-USA, creator Stephen Hillenburg says he would return to the show following production on the second film adaptation, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.
On September 21, 2014, Vincent Waller tweeted that production of season 9 was halted halfway through to concentrate further on The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. He stated that season 9 went back in production again. This is why season 9 had been taking over 2 years to finish broadcast on television.
On June 5, 2015, Nickelodeon tweeted that "Stephen Hillenburg is back at Nickelodeon Animation Studios & there's a new [episode] on July 16!" This new episode was a continuation of season 9. This also supports an announcement by Viacom that 20 new episodes were to be released during summer 2015. However, only five episodes — "Lost in Bikini Bottom"/"Tutor Sauce," "The Executive Treatment"/"Squid Plus One" and "Pull Up a Barrel" — premiered before the end of September 22, 2015, which is the last day of summer.
The previous day, Nickelodeon tweeted a GIF image which was presumed to be new footage from a future season 9 episode. The image was revealed to be from "Lost in Bikini Bottom."
On September 4, 2015, Vincent Waller on Twitter revealed that "Krabs' Army" and "SpaceBob InvaderPants" - two rumored episodes since the end of the first half of season 9 - were actual episodes, but ended up being scrapped because "they didn't feel like they were worthy of the attention."
On October 25, 2016, Vincent Waller on Twitter released two screenshots from a future season 9 episode. These images were revealed to be from "Goodbye, Krabby Patty?," which was at the time known as "Factory Fresh."
In addition to the regular cast members, episodes feature guest voices from many ranges of professions, including actors, musicians, and artists. For instance, the season premiere, "Extreme Spots," was guest-starred by American stunt performer and actor Johnny Knoxville voicing the character of Johnny Krill. The writing staff wrote the episode specifically for Knoxville. Executive producer Paul Tibbitt said, "[Nickelodeon] wanted to do a show about extreme sports and the first thing that came to mind was Johnny Knoxville, because there are few humans living that are as extreme as him." Knoxville accepted the role because he is a fan of the show. Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway returned, reprising their respective roles as Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy in "Patrick-Man!" The episode was Borgnine's last voice-over work for the series, as on July 8, 2012, he died at the age of 95. In "License to Milkshake," comedian and Spinal Tap band member Michael McKean guest-starred as the voice of Captain Frostymug. Rapper Biz Markie guest-starred as Kenny the Cat in the episode of the same name.
In a DVD review for a season release, Paul Mavis of DVDTalk was positive on the episode "Extreme Spots," writing "[It] gets big laughs from some very funny bits, including a motorcycle ripping off SpongeBob's arms, and SpongeBob's pathetic attempts at 'extreme jump roping' and 'extreme pillow fighting.'" However, the episode "Squirrel Record" was described by Mavis as "the weakest entry" on the set.
The episode "SpongeBob You're Fired" was criticized for its line that refers to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps benefit). In a scene from the episode, Patrick tries to show SpongeBob the benefits of being unemployed, at which he said in response, "Unemployment may be fun for you, but I need to get a job." The scene was meant to demonstrate the title character's "eternal optimism and willingness to get back to work," and "do it in a way that's still funny and relatable." However, it was reported that political activists claim the "notorious line" as a "slam" to the Food Stamps benefit. In a report by The Hollywood Reporter, it stated there that the episode may have a political agenda about the social safety net. It added that "It's not the first time SpongeBob has waded into social commentary, though usually when it does, it bugs the right and supports the left."
Nickelodeon declined to comment on the issue caused by the message of the episode. However, Russell Hicks of Nickelodeon said the show is "tapping into the news of the moment, but did not specifically address any political leanings or ideologies within the episode." In a statement, Hicks said "Like all really great cartoons, part of SpongeBob's long-running success has been its ability to tap into the zeitgeist while still being really funny for our audience. As always, despite this momentary setback, SpongeBob's eternal optimism prevails, which is always a great message for everyone."
The episode "Gary's New Toy" received a nomination at the 2013 Golden Reel Awards for the Best Sound Editing - Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR Animation in Television category. The show itself received several recognitions. At the 40th Daytime Emmy Awards, the series was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing - Animation. The show won the 2013 Kids' Choice Awards for Favorite Cartoon. It also won the ASCAP Film and Television Awards for Top Television Series. At the BMI Film TV Awards, the show won the BMI Cable Award. Sarah Noonan was nominated at the Artios Awards of the Casting Society of America for her work.
|Title card||#||Title||Airdate||U.S. viewers (millions)|
|179a||"Extreme Spots"||July 21, 2012|
|SpongeBob and Patrick are dying to join Johnny Krill's extreme sports team.|
|179b||"Squirrel Record"||July 21, 2012|
|Sandy tries to break a number of world records.|
|180a||"Patrick-Man!"||October 27, 2012|
|Patrick becomes a superhero and plans to clean up Bikini Bottom.|
|180b||"Gary's New Toy"||October 14, 2012|
|SpongeBob must take drastic measures when Gary becomes obsessed with his new red ball.|
|181a||"License to Milkshake"||September 7, 2012|
|SpongeBob returns to the Milkshake Academy after discovering his milkshake license has expired.|
|181b||"Squid Baby"||September 3, 2012|
|A head injury makes Squidward think he's a baby, and SpongeBob and Patrick must look after him.|
|182a||"Little Yellow Book"||March 2, 2013|
|Squidward finds SpongeBob's diary, and reads in front of everyone in the Krusty Krab.|
|182b||"Bumper to Bumper"||November 17, 2012|
|Mrs. Puff tries a new method to try and get SpongeBob to pass his boating test.|
|183a||"Eek, an Urchin!"||October 27, 2012|
|The Krusty Krab Crew has a problem on their hands when SpongeBob finds an urchin.|
|183b||"Squid Defense"||January 1, 2013|
|After Squidward's groceries are stolen, SpongeBob and Sandy teach him karate to protect himself.|
|184a||"Jailbreak!"||March 16, 2013|
|Plankton is in jail, but he teams up with his cellmates to break out, and steal the Krabby Patty formula.|
|184b||"Evil Spatula"||March 9, 2013|
|Plankton gives SpongeBob a new spatula, and SpongeBob starts to believe that it's magic.|
|185||"It Came from Goo Lagoon"||February 17, 2014|
|A Giant Super Goo bubble has formed over Goo Lagoon, scaring Bikini Bottom!|
|186a||"Safe Deposit Krabs"||May 25, 2013|
|Mr. Krabs gets trapped in Bikini Bottom's new bank. It's going to be up to SpongeBob and Patrick to save him.|
|186b||"Plankton's Pet"||January 19, 2013|
|After another failed attempt for the formula, Plankton decides that he wants a pet to help him.|
|187a||"Don't Look Now"||October 14, 2013|
|SpongeBob and Patrick watch a horror movie, and become convinced that the villain of the movie is after them.|
|187b||"Séance Shméance"||October 14, 2013|
|SpongeBob attempts to make contact with the holy Sandwich Spirits in order to uncover a long lost sandwich recipe.|
|188a||"Kenny the Cat"||March 29, 2014|
|SpongeBob looks up to the newest celebrity in town, Kenny the Cat, who can hold his breath for an incredible period of time.|
|188b||"Yeti Krabs"||March 29, 2015|
|Mr. Krabs' scary story about a Yeti Krab that eats lazy employees like Squidward causes SpongeBob to work in overdrive.|
|189||"SpongeBob You're Fired"||November 11, 2013|
|When Mr. Krabs fires SpongeBob to save money, SpongeBob must find other work, at other restaurants.|
|190a||"Lost in Bikini Bottom"||July 16, 2015|
|SpongeBob gets lost when trying to take a shortcut to work.|
|190b||"Tutor Sauce"||July 16, 2015|
|Mr. Krabs tries to teach SpongeBob how to drive after he fails his driving test again.|
|191a||"Squid Plus One"||September 7, 2015|
|Squidward receives an invitation to a gallery opening and scrambles to find a friend to take with him.|
|191b||"The Executive Treatment"||September 7, 2015|
|While trying to order a special sandwich, Patrick gets swept up in the fast-paced world of business.|
|192a||"Company Picnic"||September 25, 2015|
|Mr. Krabs throws a company picnic to boost morale, but Plankton hosts his own picnic on the same day.|
|192b||"Pull Up a Barrel"||September 18, 2015|
|Mr. Krabs tells SpongeBob tales from his old navy days.|
|193a||"Sanctuary!"||October 16, 2015|
|SpongeBob takes care of stray snails.|
|193b||"What's Eating Patrick?"||October 2, 2015|
|Patrick enters a Krabby Patty-eating competition in order to defend Bikini Bottom's honor.|
|194a||"Patrick! The Game"||November 11, 2015|
|Patrick invents a new board game and invites SpongeBob, Sandy, and Squidward to play it with him.|
|194b||"The Sewers of Bikini Bottom"||November 11, 2015|
|After accidentally flushing Mr. Krabs' safe, SpongeBob and Squidward must go into the sewers to find it. Meanwhile, Mr. Krabs visits the new stadium, which is having plumbing issues.|
|195a||"SpongeBob LongPants"||February 15, 2016|
|SpongeBob starts wearing long pants, which causes his personality to change.|
|195b||"Larry's Gym"||February 15, 2016|
|When Larry the Lobster opens a new gym in Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob becomes his best customer.|
|196a||"The Fish Bowl"||May 2, 2016|
|When Sandy tries to study SpongeBob and Patrick's behavioral patterns, her science experiment goes awry.|
|196b||"Married to Money"||May 3, 2016|
|After following Plankton's advice, Mr. Krabs decides to marry the only thing he ever loved - money.|
|197a||"Mall Girl Pearl"||March 12, 2016|
|Pearl gets a job to be cool like her friends, but the only store that is hiring is the lamest store at the mall.|
|197b||"Two Thumbs Down"||March 12, 2016|
|SpongeBob loses the use of his thumbs.|
|198a||"Sharks vs. Pods"||May 4, 2016|
|The next confrontation of the toughest guys in town, The Sharks, may be too much for SpongeBob to handle.|
|198b||"CopyBob DittoPants"||May 5, 2016|
|Plankton clones SpongeBob to steal the secret formula, but his plans may be ruined by the original SpongeBob.|
|199a||"Sold!"||May 6, 2016|
|SpongeBob and Patrick move away after they think their houses have been sold, which thrills Squidward.|
|199b||"Lame and Fortune"||July 11, 2016|
|Plankton realizes that fortune cookies can predict the future, so he twists them to fit his own schemes.|
|200||"Goodbye, Krabby Patty?"||February 20, 2017|
|SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs seek business advice from an ad executive in Mr. Krabs' endeavor to launch a line of frozen Krabby Patties.|
|201a||"Sandy's Nutmare"||July 12, 2016|
|Sandy creates an acorn food sensation, but her tree pays the price for her greed.|
|201b||"Bulletin Board"||October 1, 2016|
|SpongeBob puts up a community bulletin board but anonymous reviews lead to trouble.|
|202a||"Food Con Castaways"||July 13, 2016|
|The gang heads to a food convention, but things go awry when they get lost in the woods.|
|202b||"Snail Mail"||October 22, 2016|
|SpongeBob lies to his penpal and continues the foul play when he visits.|
|203a||"Pineapple Invasion"||July 14, 2016|
|When SpongeBob hides the Krabby Patty formula in his house, Gary must protect it from Plankton.|
|203b||"Salsa Imbecilicus"||July 15, 2016|
|Sandy must save the day, after everyone in town becomes as stupid as Patrick.|
|204a||"Mutiny on the Krusty"||October 8, 2016|
|When a storm blows away the Krusty Krab, an insane Mr. Krabs has to guide his employees and customers back to their homes.|
|204b||"The Whole Tooth"||December 3, 2016|
|Patrick has to lose his last baby tooth, but he is frightened.|
- This is the longest-running season of SpongeBob SquarePants and any other American animated television series.
- This season contains the largest airing hiatus in the series. In this case, the time between the episodes "Kenny the Cat" and "Yeti Krabs."
- This season holds the record for the most celebrity guest stars.
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