An unexpected character from SpongeBob SquarePants made a crossover with Cartoon Network possible: Gary the snail. Here’s what happened.
There once was a crossover between Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, all thanks to one character from SpongeBob SquarePants – here’s what happened. Created by Stephen Hillenburg, SpongeBob SquarePants made its debut on Nickelodeon in 1999 and has been unstoppable ever since, becoming the most successful Nicktoon and expanding to other media as well, most notably videogames and film, and recently taking over the world of streaming through Paramount+ with the prequel series Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years.
SpongeBob SquarePants follows the daily adventures of the title character and his closest friends (and one recurrent villain) in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob is often accompanied by his best friends Patrick Star and Sandy Cheeks, his neighbor and coworker Squidward Tentacles, and his greedy boss Mr. Krabs, but there’s also another main character very loyal to SpongeBob that is often left aside, but he has a big personality: Gary the snail, SpongeBob’s pet, who made an unlikely crossover possible when he ran away from home.
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In SpongeBob SquarePants’ season 4 episode “Have You Seen This Snail?”, SpongeBob became obsessed with a challenge involving a paddle ball set and forgot to feed Gary. When the hungry snail approached him, SpongeBob got angry at him and continued with his game, so Gary decided to leave the house. Gary was taken in by an old lady who overfed him, while SpongeBob went around town putting up papers and asking everyone if they had seen his beloved pet. Gary soon discovered that the old lady had previously overfed many, many snails and thus caused them to die, and so he ran back home with SpongeBob. However, what SpongeBob SquarePants didn’t show nor mention is that Gary got a bit too far from home when he left.
Around the time when “Have You Seen This Snail?” aired, a snail that resembled Gary was seen at the bottom of the screen over at Cartoon Network. The joke, then, was that Gary had not only ran away from SpongeBob’s home but Nickelodeon as well, and he ended up in Cartoon Network. The marketing campaign for that particular episode of SpongeBob SquarePants was big and lasted for a whole month, creating a lot of anticipation among viewers. Along with off-air marketing moves, Nickelodeon launched an on-air sweepstakes called “Where’s Gary?” and every night for five days leading to the premiere of the episode, Patchy the Pirate (Tom Kenny) and different celebrity guests looked for Gary in various locations. The prize of the sweepstakes was a trip to the Nickelodeon Animation Studios to meet the production team of the show and to sit on a voice recording session with the cast of the show.
Even with all those prizes, guests, and interactions with the audience, having a Cartoon Network “version” of Gary over at that network was by far the funniest and most clever move the team behind SpongeBob SquarePants could have pulled – unless it was a one-sided thing and not Nickelodeon’s idea, though that seems unlikely. Luckily for SpongeBob, Gary found his way back to his two homes safely: Nickelodeon and the pineapple under the sea.
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