Late last year, the entertainment world mourned the loss of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants who died after a battle with ALS. However, even in death, Hillenburg is still leaving his mark on each and every episode of the beloved animated series. As it turns out, the creator has had a cameo in every episode of SpongeBob that has ever aired, and that will continue as long as the show does. Until now, fans of the series had no idea.
During the SpongeBob SquarePants panel at San Diego Comic-Con Thursday, the cast of the series revealed that the mouth of the pirate that sings the iconic theme song actually belongs to Hillenburg.
“I don’t know if its common knowledge or not, but when you see the opening and there’s that painting of the pirate and there’s lips moving, that’s Stephen,” said Squidward voice actor Rodger Bumpass.
While the mouth of the pirate is enshrined an in iconic hidden cameo, the painting itself was just a random piece of art that someone from production found at a shop somewhere.
"I think the painting, somebody found it in a thrift store somewhere, on sale," added SpongeBob actor Tom Kenny. In fact, Kenny also has a bit of a connection to SpongeBob's pirate lore, as he plays the live-action Patchy the Pirate in the series' special episodes.
“SpongeBob has conquered the world,” said Kenny during the panel. “He’s in every country on earth, he’s on every conceivable product he can be on, but… it just reminds me of a time when SpongeBob only existed in Stephen Hellenberg’s desk drawer… I remember when he had me come over to his place and said, ‘I’m thinking about pitching this to Nickelodeon,’ and he took out that, it was just like, wow. It blew my mind. I’d never wanted to be in a show so bad.”