Viktoriya Berezovskaya ’16 /Emertainment Monthly Staff
Thanksgiving’s here, and according to the commercial calendar, that means the Christmas season has already started. Reindeer and tinsel lining CVS’s seasonal aisle are not all that marks the start of this magical time of year—CBS is poised to premiere a new Spongebob Christmas special tonight at 9:30.
Titled “It’s a Spongebob Christmas!”, the new special is the second the series has had, the first being the memorable “Christmas Who?”, which aired all the way back in 2000. The new special is notable for being the first episode in the series to be made using solely stop-motion animation, with the only hint of Spongebob’s usual cell animation style appearing in the opening theme, which is the same as usual. Even Patchy the Pirate and Potty the Parrot, who are typically portrayed in live-action, get the stop-motion treatment. The stop-motion, evidently inspired by classic Christmas specials such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, was a bold move and a serious departure from the Spongebob we all know and love. The jury’s still out on whether it was a good idea or not.
Where “Christmas Who?” told the story of Bikini Bottom’s first Christmas, “It’s a Spongebob Christmas!” clearly takes place after Spongebob and his friends have a few Christmases under their belts. Plankton, for one, mentions having received coal for years in a row. Fed up and determined to get some real presents this year, he makes Jerktonium-contaminated fruitcake and gets Spongebob to distribute it to everyone in town. The idea is to make everyone turn into horrible jerks so that Plankton looks good enough in comparison that he gets put on Santa’s Nice List. Meanwhile, Patchy and Potty look for Santa’s workshop in a stolen mail truck, and shenanigans ensue.
The wacky and contrived nature of the plot is fun and lighthearted in a surprisingly entertaining way—reminiscent of older Spongebob episodes. A lot of long-time fans criticize the newer seasons and episodes, saying Spongebob has gotten much worse, and those fans will find that this special is, at least in terms of plot, a welcome return to the old standard of quality. That is, of course, if they can get past the jarring stop-motion and the cringe-worthy songs that the episode seems determined to force down its viewers’ throats. The writers really dropped the ball on some of those lyrics, to the point that it is tough to watch the entire first five or so minutes, which are extremely saturated with song. The last song of the special, however, picks the ball back up. It is honestly pretty good, and long-time viewers might find it familiar. In fact, that song was released on the “Spongebob’s Greatest Hits” CD in 2009. It aired on Nickelodeon before then, around Christmastime 2008. The disparity in quality makes a little more sense now. If you can stand the first few songs and the animation, this is a very wholesome special that feels a lot more like the old Spongebob than you would expect. It is not exactly the same as what we nostalgic teens and twenty-somethings had in our childhood, but it is definitely an improvement on the newer episodes. For long-time Nicktoons lovers, this is not a half-bad early Christmas present—definitely not the lump of coal a lot of us expected it to be.
Watch it if: You love Spongebob enough to be patient with a new special’s flaws, or you want a fun and wholesome Christmas special to watch with your younger siblings.
Don’t watch it if: You love Spongebob and the thought of stop-motion animation and too-corny songs is too much of a disappointment.