One scene in a SpongeBob SquarePants episode was too scary for some viewers, and so it had to be changed. Here’s what happened and how it changed.
SpongeBob SquarePants is aimed at a young audience, but some of the writers’ decisions haven’t always been kid-friendly. Such is the case of a scene in the episode “Shanghaied”, which had to be changed after being shown in theaters before a movie. SpongeBob SquarePants was created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg and made its debut on Nickelodeon in 1999. Since then, the show has become one of the longest-running American animated series, and has successfully expanded to other media, mostly video games and film.
SpongeBob SquarePants follows the daily adventures of the title character and his friends (and a couple of enemies, even if he sees them as friends) in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom. Among those who often accompany SpongeBob in all types of adventures (though not always voluntarily) are Patrick Star and Squidward Tentacles – the former is SpongeBob’s best friend and the latter is his neighbor and co-worker at the Krusty Krab. In season 2, they got involved in a big problem with the Flying Dutchman in the episode “Shanghaied”, which also brought a minor problem to the writers of the episode, as they had to do a quick change to a scene that was deemed “too scary” for children.
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“Shanghaied” follows SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward as they come across the Flying Dutchman, a ghostly pirate with a bad temper and who is looking to acquire a new eternal crew to help him terrorize the residents of Bikini Bottom. The events of the episode are kickstarted by the anchor of the Dutchman’s ship crashing into SpongeBob’s house and later Squidward’s. They climb the anchor’s rope to complain to the Dutchman, but once they get to the ship they are informed they can’t leave and will be forced to work as ghostly crew for eternity. Squidward complains and so the Dutchman opens a zipper-like portal (called the “Fly of Despair”) and throws Squidward into it. As Squidward falls into that chaotic dimension, many creatures and objects can be seen in the background, and these turned out to be too much for some viewers.
“Shanghaied” was originally shown in theaters before a movie, but the demonic atmosphere of the “Fly of Despair”, which included skulls and skeleton remains, turned out to be too scary for some kids, and some changes were made before the episode aired on Nickelodeon. Before Squidward falls back into his home, the background of the “Fly of Despair” was replaced with a stock image of spaghetti and meatballs, but the first part of his journey down the dimension of chaos doesn’t seem to have changed much. The scene still shows some bizarre things, as are eyeballs, skulls, creatures with horns, a pink-headed monster, and more, and it’s unknown if these are the same ones shown in theaters or different, more toned down ones.
Fans of SpongeBob SquarePants have shared their different experiences with this particular episode, as some remember seeing the skulls and skeletons, and others are convinced it has always been spaghetti (in both scenes set in the “Fly of Despair”). This wasn’t the first and only time the people behind SpongeBob SquarePants unintentionally scared their audience, as it happened again when they pretty much made the “Squidward’s suicide” image (also known as “Red Mist”) canon. Every generation is different, so it remains to be seen if the writers of SpongeBob SquarePants will continue making weird and potentially scary decisions and how the audience will react to them.
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