The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – Paul Tibbitt Q&A

Sponge Out of Water

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is the sequel to the film which graced box-offices in 2004, so it seems odd to wait a whole 11 years to release a sequel, but if there’s the demand now, then why not.

In the film, this time round, SpongeBob Squarepants (Tom Kenny) goes on a quest to discover a stolen recipe that takes him to our dimension, our world, where he tangles with a pirate. The sizeable cast also includes Antonio Banderas – most recently seen in a cheesy commercial talking to animated food items which should also remain non-animated in real life, Clancy Brown, Thomas F Wilson, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Mr. Lawrence, Kaitlyn Ervin and Carolyn Lawrence, and directing reins are in the hands of Paul Tibbitt, who has done the honours with a number of episodes beforehand.

And it’s Mr Tibbitt whose Q&A we are proud to present below, courtesy of JI Cuenca.

Q. How did the opportunity to direct this movie come to you?

    A. I was producing the TV show when they told me that it had been 10 years since the previous movie and asked if I would be interested in directing a new one.

Q. And what was the next step?

    A. I got together with Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob and the person who had recommended me for the job, and we talked about the possible story. And as there was one we had been working on for the TV show that we felt could be bigger, we started working that out.

Q. How did that transition from working on the TV show to directing the movie feel to you?

    A. Well, as I had already directed hours and hours of the TV show it didn’t feel like a huge leap to me.

Q. But the movie is different…

    A. Yes, there were certainly aspects of the film that were different, but in the end we practically took our crew from the TV show and moved to a different building to make it.

Q. How did you deal with the challenge of combining animation with live action?

    A. We were helped by Mike Mitchell, who had experience in making hybrid movies that combined animation with live action. This way we kind of broke the film into two parts: he shot the bulk of the live action stuff, and then we took care of the animation and the CG. Mike really helped us navigate through things we hadn’t done before. And once the story started coming together it became really fun.

Q. Getting the right CG look for the main character of SpongeBob must have been key.

    A. Oh yes, but we were lucky to count on a great crew that included the Australian CG company Iloura, as they were huge fans of the show. And at first we were a bit concerned to see what SpongeBob was going to look like in CG, but they got it perfect right away! When we saw the first tests they immediately took a huge weight off our shoulders.

Q. What is it about SpongeBob SquarePants that makes him so beloved all over the world to people of all ages?

    A. I think it’s his optimism. He doesn’t have such a great job, but he loves it and does it really well. And everything to him is great! He is sort of the embodiment of a man who at the same time is very much a child too. I think kids that see it can think, “OK, I don’t have to completely grow up.” And at the same time adults can think that it’s OK to stay in touch with the kid inside them a little bit.

Q. What made you choose Antonio Banderas to play the main villain of the story, the pirate Burger-Beard?

    A. We chose Antonio Banderas for the role because we loved him in the Spy Kids movies, where he proved he could be funny and physical at the same time. And that’s just what we needed!

Q. And what was he like to work with him?

    A. Antonio was great because he is an amazing actor! And he surprised us with everything he brought to the character and with the way he did most of his own stunts in the end. The truth is that he was very easy to work with.

Q. What kind of a pirate were you envisioning as Burger-Beard?

    A. We didn’t want him to be the typical Long John Silver kind of pirate we have already seen in so many movies, but luckily we knew Antonio would bring something fresh and different to the table.

Q. And he drives this spectacular pirate boat vehicle that you actually built, right?

    A. Yes, and we had this guy driving it that could hardly see where he was going! Everything you see on the screen about it is real up to the masts, and then we put the sails on later. It was pretty fantastic to see that peculiar vehicle going up and down the street. The first time we saw it we were all pretty flabbergasted.

Q. Did you feel any pressure for bringing such a popular character and his unique world to life on the big screen?

    A. Yes, it was definitely intimidating. What concerned us the most was the CG look of it all, but things have changed a lot in the 10 years that have passed since the previous film was made and we were confident to get it right.

Q. But you surely have to take into consideration the fact that you just can’t please everyone…

    A. That’s true. And you have to be aware of that and take it with a pinch of salt, as we are just trying to make people laugh and have a good time in the cinema. That’s our agenda.

Q. So, was it hard to get the story and the script right?

    A. The main problem about taking an 11-minute cartoon and expanding it into an 85-minute film is, first of all, that it implies a different kind of writing. For instance, in the TV show most of the characters are meant to be kind of hyperactive; but how do you make a feature film about hyperactive characters without driving people crazy?

Q. Who is your favorite character of the SpongeBob universe?

    A. I think my favorite is Mr. Krabs. He is so single-minded, and it’s hilarious to see the depths he goes to for his greed! He is lucky to have SpongeBob as his employee, but I just think he is the worst boss ever.

Q. Was it key to keep the spirit of the TV show in the movie?

    A. Oh yes, and Paramount agreed with that. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid things being lost in translation, but I think we have been quite successful in keeping the spirit of the show.

Q. How did the idea of giving your main characters superpowers come up?

    A. The idea actually came from a past TV episode, although in this case we wanted to make sure that the powers related to each character; so, we kind of super-charged their own personality traits.

Q. And did you enjoy directing the voice actors?

    A. Yes, even though it was the part of my job I had the least amount of training in, because these guys have been together doing this for years and they really know the characters and play off each other so well.

Q. How do you look back at this whole experience?

    A. As a great opportunity that allowed me to do some fun and crazy stuff.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is out on August 3rd on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and DVD, and check back soon for a Blu-ray competition!

Check out the trailer below and click on the Blu-ray packshot for the full-size image: