One of the most anticipated meetings in this year's festival was the Animated Chat with Stephen Hillenburg, held at the Animated Square in the penultimate day of the festival in Rio. The inspired creator of SpongeBob shared with the audience a little of the trajectory of one of the most successful animated series of all time. And apparently the source could not be different: it all started in the sea.
Graduated in marine biology in the 80s, Stephen has created an educational comic book called The Intertidal Zone, where life in the oceans was presented by... a sea-sponge! Later, he joined CalArts, where he completed master's degree in experimental animation in 1992, and directed two short films which run festivals around the world: the political satire The Green Beret and the abstract Wormholes, with insights inspired by Albert Einstein's the theory of relativity.
Stephen presenting his Wormholes
His early work has served as an entrance to work at Nickelodeon, where he joined the production crew of Rocco's Modern Life. It was there that his colleague Martin Olson discovered Hillenburgs's and suggested the biologist and animator to create a series of marine animals. The result is a blockbuster that won Emmys and Annies in several seasons in the last 10 years.
Whenever asked about what is autobiographical in character SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen, although denying any conscious intention, revealed: he showed a picture of a child and put it side by side with his famous creation.
About his direct influences, the animator recalled adult characters with child personality such as Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. According Hillenburg, the dynamics between Laurel and Hardy is a pillar of this kind of humor.
At the end of the screenings, Hillenburg also answered some questions from the audience, mostly made by small fans of the series. And he could not avoid one of the most insidious: what is the secret recipe of Crab Burger. And the animator ran way: "I don't not know , it's is a secret even to me. But nice try!"