Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants focuses on the American animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants and its immersion into global popular culture. The film documents the show's early inspirations, and its origins. Among the millions of fans are celebrities such as LeBron James and Ricky Gervais, who express their insights for the show and its title character, SpongeBob. It also features the series' impact on the US President Barack Obama, the inmates of San Quentin State Prison, and children around the world.Archive footage
Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants was directed by Patrick Creadon. The documentary film originally aired on television on the cable network VH1 in the United States on July 14, 2009. It also aired on Nick at Nite on July 23, 2009, with a TV-PG parental rating. It was first announced in early 2009. On a press release, Viacom told:
Commissioned by Nickelodeon to commemorate the anniversary of the series' first episode, the documentary chronicles the beloved character's journey to international pop culture icon status and showcases the series' impact on everyone from President Barack Obama, kids across the globe and San Quentin inmates who readily sing its catchy theme song. The one-hour documentary, features an opening song from Avril Lavigne and commentary from creator Steve Hillenburg, cast and crew members, industry experts, fanatics and celebrities like LeBron James, Ricky Gervais and Rosario Dawson.
The documentary film was endorsed to mark the celebration of the series' 10th anniversary, following a SpongeBob marathon the next weekend. The anniversary was also celebrated with the premiere of the television film SpongeBob's Truth or Square and the special episode "To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants".
On September 22, 2009, the documentary became available in the DVD compilation SpongeBob SquarePants: The First 100 Episodes as a bonus feature. The DVD consists 14 discs and runs 2200 minutes long. Other bonus features included in the DVD set are Limited edition etched Plexiglass case, Limited edition 3D lenticular, Audio Commentary from the Animation Team, Life Lessons from Bikini Bottom, "Help Wanted": The Seven Seas Edition, and Kick-Wham-Pow-Bob Music Video.
The documentary film received positive reviews. David Hinckley of the New York Daily News said that the "documentary's most interesting moments come from Hillenburg, who created SpongeBob as a secondary character in a comic before breaking him out on his own in July 1999." He added that "it's fun for the whole family." R.L. Shaffer of IGN wrote "what's here is still incredibly fun to pilfer though and a true delight for longtime fans." Gord Lacey of TV Shows on DVD called the film "the single-best feature that's appeared on a Nickelodeon DVD set." Michael Cavna of The Washington Post called it "some 'cult' to have."
Aaron H. Bynum of Animation Insider said that it "is essentially of two halves, the first of which is where the value lies. The first twenty minutes or so of the documentary is excellent; profiling Hillenburg and the writers, storyboard artists, and voice actors that have accompanied him on his journey." He added that the "remainder of the documentary is chiefly fluff."