This is a list of characters from the Nickelodeon animated comedy series SpongeBob SquarePants. The show focuses on the title character and his various aquatic friends in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom. In addition to the television series, they have appeared in three theatrical films and a Broadway musical.
The ten main characters were created and designed by Stephen Hillenburg, a former marine biology teacher at the Ocean Institute. Some of the characters originated in The Intertidal Zone, an educational book about undersea life that Hillenburg illustrated in the 1980s.
As described in the book SpongeBob Exposed!, Stephen Hillenburg first drew early versions of the show's characters in 1984 during his time as a marine biology teacher at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California. He wrote an educational comic book called The Intertidal Zone that featured talking sea animals, notably "Bob the Sponge". Bob acted as the co-host of the comic and resembled an actual circular sea sponge wearing sunglasses. In 1987, Hillenburg left the institute to pursue his dream of becoming an animator and eventually came to Nickelodeon to work on Rocko's Modern Life.
The first other characters Hillenburg created were Patrick the starfish, Mr. Krabs the crab, Pearl the whale, and Squidward the octopus. Their characteristics were inspired by the traits and appearances of their species. SpongeBob is a square sponge, befitting of his "square" and nerdy personality. Patrick's demeanor is similar to real starfish, because he looks dumb and slow but can get aggressive from time to time. Mr. Krabs is a penny-pinching crab who uses his big claws to grab money. Hillenburg decided to design Pearl while guiding whale watches at the Ocean Institute, taking some inspiration from a whale skeleton exhibit there as well. He drew Pearl with a small body and an oversized head to reference sperm whales' huge brain size. He designed Squidward as an octopus because of the species' bulbous mantle, which looks like a large bulbous head and gives the impression of an overinflated ego. Hillenburg drew Squidward with six tentacles instead of eight because it was simpler for animation.
Several new characters were added before Hillenburg pitched the series to Nickelodeon. He made a series bible, a book outlining the show's central concepts. He added Sandy the squirrel as a new friend of SpongeBob. Plankton was briefly outlined in the book as a possible minor villain who would only show up in one or two episodes, and Karen was meant to be no more than his computer helper. However, after production on the first season started, Plankton's chosen voice actor Doug Lawrence (also a staff writer for the show) really liked his character. Following his first voice recording, Lawrence drafted some of his own episode ideas for Plankton, hoping to prove he could survive as more than a one-note guest star. From the second season onward, Plankton and Karen's roles in the series grew as Lawrence wrote ideas to give them more personality. He decided to write Karen as Plankton's wife to enhance the two villains' relationship and create more story possibilities. Plankton and Karen were both officially promoted to main cast members in the credits of the 2004 movie, which they play central roles in.
Hillenburg added SpongeBob's teacher, Mrs. Puff the pufferfish, shortly after his pilot episode pitch was accepted. Executives for Nickelodeon asked him to make a major creative change: to have SpongeBob attend a school. They initially wanted to make him a child character, since their most successful cartoons at the time focused on school-age kids. Hillenburg said the network wanted SpongeBob to be like "Arnold [from Hey Arnold!] under the sea," but he told them, "No, that's not the show." To compromise, he decided to put SpongeBob in a boat driving school—this allowed him to keep writing SpongeBob as age-ambiguous while using the school idea as a main plot element. He designed Mrs. Puff as a pufferfish who would humorously blow up into a ball, just like a car airbag, whenever she is in a boat crash.
|SpongeBob SquarePants||Tom Kenny||A yellow sea sponge who lives in a furnished pineapple house with his pet snail Gary. He works as a fry cook at a fast-food restaurant called the Krusty Krab and diligently attends Mrs. Puff's Boating School. He is relentlessly optimistic and cheerful.
Broadway actor: Ethan Slater
|Patrick Star||Bill Fagerbakke||SpongeBob's best friend, a pink starfish who wears green flowered swim trunks. He lives under a rock and is known for being dimwitted and foolish. Despite his low intelligence, he is loyal and occasionally insightful.
Broadway actor: Danny Skinner
|Squidward Tentacles||Rodger Bumpass||SpongeBob's next-door neighbor and coworker at the Krusty Krab, who lives in an Easter Island Head. He is an arrogant and pessimistic turquoise octopus who fancies himself a talented artist and musician.
Broadway actor: Gavin Lee
|Eugene H. Krabs||Clancy Brown||A red cheapskate crab who is SpongeBob's boss and the owner of the Krusty Krab. He is a single father who lives in an anchor with his teenage whale daughter, Pearl. He is obsessed with collecting money.
Broadway actor: Brian Ray Norris
|Sheldon J. Plankton||Doug Lawrence||A tiny green copepod who is a skilled inventor with a Napoleon complex. He runs a failed rival restaurant to the Krusty Krab called the Chum Bucket alongside his talking computer Karen, which he built himself.
Broadway actor: Wesley Taylor
|Karen Plankton||Jill Talley||Plankton's sentient computer who lives in the Chum Bucket laboratory and provides him with his evil plans to run the Krusty Krab out of business. Her system is built into most of Plankton's inventions.
Broadway actor: Stephanie Hsu
|Sandy Cheeks||Carolyn Lawrence||A squirrel from Texas who wears a diving suit and lives in an air-filled glass Treedome to breathe underwater. She is a good friend of SpongeBob and works as an explorer, thrill-seeker, and scientist.
Broadway actor: Lilli Cooper
|Mrs. Puff||Mary Jo Catlett||SpongeBob's teacher at boating school, where students drive boats like underwater cars. She is a patient, elderly pufferfish who wears a sailor suit and is usually exasperated by SpongeBob's reckless driving.
Broadway actor: Abby C. Smith
|Pearl Krabs||Lori Alan||A sixteen-year-old sperm whale who is Mr. Krabs' daughter and the heir to his restaurant and riches. As a high schooler, she does not yet have a job at the family business and instead works at the mall.
Broadway actor: Jai'len Josey
|Gary the Snail||Tom Kenny||SpongeBob's pet sea snail who does not speak but instead communicates through cat-like meows. He is surprisingly smart and often serves a voice of reason for his owner.
Broadway actor: Allan K. Washington (vocals only)
|Patchy the Pirate||Tom Kenny||The host of the series' special episodes. He is a live-action pirate and the president of the fictional SpongeBob fan club. His greatest dream is to meet his idol SpongeBob one day.|
|Potty the Parrot||Stephen Hillenburg, Paul Tibbitt and Doug Lawrence||Patchy's sarcastic, wisecracking pet parrot who appears alongside him in specials. Potty is depicted as a crudely-made marionette puppet with very obvious strings and googly eyes.|
|French Narrator||Tom Kenny||A French-accented scuba diver who often introduces episodes and narrates time cards. He is usually only heard as an off-screen voice.|
|Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy||Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway||Two retired superheroes who starred in SpongeBob and Patrick's favorite television show when they were younger. They normally stay at the Shady Shoals rest home.|
|The Flying Dutchman||Brian Doyle-Murray||The irritable, loud-voiced ghost of a pirate who haunts the seven seas and collects souls in a napsack. He has a floating ghost ship and lives in a cavern that contains Davy Jones' locker.|
|King Neptune||John O'Hurley and Jeffrey Tambor||The green-skinned merman god who rules the sea. He lives in a palace in the sunken city of Atlantis. His name is often used by Bikini Bottomites in place of God's in interjections.|
|Larry the Lobster||Doug Lawrence||A muscular, weight-lifting lobster who is a lifeguard at the local goo beach, Goo Lagoon. He is a bodybuilder and workout fanatic.|
|Realistic Fish Head||Doug Lawrence||A realistic-looking trout who appears in the opening theme and in various episodes as a news anchorman.|
|Perch Perkins||Dee Bradley Baker||A famous field news reporter who wears a pair of headphones and always carries a microphone. He is usually accompanied by a news crew.|
|Harold and Margaret SquarePants||Tom Kenny and Sirena Irwin||SpongeBob's parents, who more closely resemble circular sea sponges than their son. They are proud of SpongeBob but are embarrassed that he does not yet have a driving license.|
|Grandma SquarePants||Marion Ross||SpongeBob's paternal grandmother who spoils him with cookies and gifts whenever he visits. Much to SpongeBob's chagrin, she leaves very obvious lipstick marks on his forehead when she gives him a kiss.|
|Squilliam Fancyson||Dee Bradley Baker||Squidward's high school rival from band class who has gone on to become extremely rich and succeed at everything Squidward has only dreamed of doing. He takes great pride in his unibrow.|
|Betsy Krabs||Paul Tibbitt and Sirena Irwin||Mr. Krabs' mother and Pearl's grandmother. She is overbearing and still treats Mr. Krabs slightly like a child. She is a friend of Old Man Jenkins and lives in a pink anchor.|
|Mrs. Tentacles||Rodger Bumpass||Squidward's mother. She seems to like baking cookies.|
|Captain||Patrick Pinney||The painting of a pirate's head who sings the show's opening theme. He has made occasional cameo appearances outside of the intro sequence.|
|Bubble Bass||Dee Bradley Baker||An overweight green bass who was a recurring nemesis to SpongeBob in the first season. He disappeared from the series until season eight, when he returned as an occasional patron of the Krusty Krab.|
|Flats the Flounder||Thomas F. Wilson||A flounder who appeared as a background character in the first season and later joined Mrs. Puff's class in "The Bully", wherein he became SpongeBob's bully.|
|Fred||Doug Lawrence (usually) and Tom Kenny||A fish townsperson who is known for shouting "My leg!" whenever there is some kind of destruction or disaster.|
|Harold||Various, including Dee Bradley Baker, Doug Lawrence, and Thomas F. Wilson||A blue customer with a shark-like dorsal fin and sharp teeth who is known for his tendency to yell and start trouble.|
|Old Man Jenkins||Various, including Tom Kenny and Dee Bradley Baker||An elderly fish who is sometimes seen as a customer or resident of Shady Shoals. His appearance and job changes repeatedly.|
|Dr. Gill Gilliam||Rodger Bumpass||The local physician and traveling snail veterinarian. He has a suave voice and a calm, soothing demeanor.|
|Scooter||Carlos Alazraqui and Clancy Brown||A purple surfer fish who talks like a southern Californian and is often seen at Goo Lagoon. He is known for calling SpongeBob "dude."|
|Tom||Bill Fagerbakke, Doug Lawrence, and Dee Bradley Baker||A common background fish character who has a short temper and a loud voice in many of his appearances.|
|Dirty Bubble||Charles Nelson Reilly and Tom Kenny||Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy's worst nemesis, a giant floating bubble with an evil face.|
|Man Ray||John Rhys-Davies and Bob Joles||A villain against Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy who resembles a man with a manta ray head.|
|Sandals||Tom Kenny and Dee Bradley Baker||A common Bikini Bottomite best known for comedic one-liners.|
|Anchovies||Rodger Bumpass||A group of fish appearing numerously, and well known for saying "meep."|
|Princess Mindy||Scarlett Johansson||King Neptune's daughter who helps SpongeBob and Patrick in the first movie. She knows the name of every sea creature and will become queen of the sea one day.|
|Dennis||Alec Baldwin||A hitman who is hired to exterminate SpongeBob and Patrick by stepping on them with an oversized cleat boot. He drives a motorcycle and is eventually defeated when he is hit by a fishing boat.|
|David Hasselhoff||Himself||An actor, known for his role on the Baywatch series, who brings SpongeBob and Patrick back home to Bikini Bottom from Shell City. In the movie, he has comically-exaggerated superpowers and can swim like a motorboat.|
|Cyclops||Neil Ross||The guardian of Shell City. He is a man who always wears an old-fashioned diving suit and turns sea animals into cheap trinkets for his seaside novelty shop.|
|Burger-Beard||Antonio Banderas||A pirate who is the main villain of the second movie. He finds a book capable of rewriting reality and uses it to steal the Krabby Patty formula, open up a fast food drive-in, and change Bikini Bottom into a wasteland.|
|Bubbles||Matt Berry||A mystical dolphin who acts as the watchman of the universe. In the second movie, he helps SpongeBob and his friends get to the surface and grants them the ability to breathe air.|
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- Hillenburg, Stephen (March 1, 2003). The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: The Case of the Sponge "Bob". Paramount Home Entertainment.
- Neuwirth, Allan (April 1, 2003). Makin' Toons: Inside the Most Popular Animated TV Shows and Movies. Skyhorse Publishing. Archived from the original on April 15, 2017.
- Encalada, Debbie (May 1, 2014). How "SpongeBob SquarePants" Stayed Fresh and Subversive Over 15 Years. Verizon Hearst Media.
- Bourbeau, Mary Ann (November 15, 2015). Meet the voice behind a 'SpongeBob' character. Gannett Company.
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- Walter Foster (January 1, 2002). How to Draw SpongeBob SquarePants.
- SpongeBob character guide at NickSplat
- SpongeBob character microsite at Nick Asia
- Which SpongeBob Character Are You? at Nick.com
- List of SpongeBob characters at SpongePedia
- List of SpongeBob characters at Wikipedia