SpongeBob SquarePants’ Nosferatu episode creator explains how it happened
A century ago Nosferatuthe’s dastardly villain Count Orlok
Became an icon when he stepped through a doorway, mad-eyed and menacing claws to suck his victim’s blood. But just 20 years ago, the same character was shown as a little mischief scaring SpongeBob SquarePants. And Squidward by turning the lights on and off at the Krusty Krab. This is great Spongebob a joke but inconsistency that removes the vampire from his original film. And any semblance of context also illustrate Nosferatu the role of the standard of pop culture. Spongebob helped keep the 1922 film alive (or undead) in the public eye. Because Spongebob Writer and storyboard director Jay Lander told Polygon that the occasional visual gag in Season 2’s “Graveyard Change” was probably most viewers’ first encounter with the silent classic.
“Cemetery Shift”, which regularly ranks in the top five in ranked lists from SpongebobX Best episodes,
First aired on September 6, 2002. In the 11-minute episode, SpongeBob and Squidward work the night shift at the Krusty Krab, to the former’s delight and the latter’s dismay. Squidward amuses himself by scaring SpongeBob with a scary story about a “hashish throwing slasher”, but then the mysterious omens he made up about the killer start to come true, scaring them both. Fortunately, it turns out that all the signs of his imminent arrival have a mundane explanation – except for the flickering lights. In the last seconds of the episode, it is revealed that the titular vampire from Nosferatu – depicted using a slightly modified and crudely animated still from F.W. Murnau’s classic 1922 action film, turned off the lights as a joke. “Nose-fer-a-tu!” SpongeBob and Squidward talk affectionately like they hang out with him all the time. The Nosferatu smiles. The episode ends. No further explanation.
Count Orlok was not originally supposed to be the culprit.
Lander says that in an earlier draft of the episode after SpongeBob excitedly lists the work tasks he can now do at night (turning cakes, washing the bathroom, and burning his hand), there should have been a fourth joke in which he delivered a letter to the Battenboard Harry, a previously unseen, unmentioned creature that apparently just lives under the Krusty Krab. Then, at the end of the episode, Harry on the Batten will flip the switch. (Lender shared several Post-It Note sketches of “Harry’s Board” with Polygon.) But the joke “at night” already followed the comedy rule of triples, so the fourth “Harry’s Parking Lot” segment was cut. This meant that his appearance at the end would not be a callback, but just a completely random image. It wasn’t good enough. Fortunately, Lander came up with another, better idea.
“There was material in this magazine that I couldn’t track
, but I could be aware of,” says Lander. “So I could see that [old genre films like] This island earth existed, but I couldn’t see them unless they were shown on TV. “They showed a frame from Nosferatu. And he always stood motionless in the door, ”Lender recalls. “So my first experience with Orlok and with this image is a rambling inconsistency. When the moment came when I needed to come up with a replacement for non sequitur horror, that image was already in that slot in my brain. What is interesting, because Spongebobfor 20 years, the first experience with Orlok for everyone else was also a strange, incoherent, illogical depiction of horror.
This is what concerns Nosferatu.
It’s a groundbreaking, powerful film, but over the past century, it’s become not only a work of art but an artifact of pop culture. People who haven’t seen Nosferatu may still be aware of his existence, or at least vaguely aware of the rude, rat-like vampire from that silent film than Dracula. 1979 Salem Lot mini-series watched Nosferatu for his vampire design. Blue Öyster Cult wrote a song about him. The Queen and David Bowie used footage from the film in the video for the song “Under Pressure”. In dungeons and dragons, there is a whole type of vampire called “Nosferatu”. Monster Manual. As well as Vampire shadow conceived the creation of the film. Nosferatu is a reference as much as it is the film itself.
But even though the film has an 80-year lead in Spongebobit’s
Possible that more people saw Count Orlok in that episode of Spongebob than seen Nosferatu. That’s how these things go. Nosferatu it’s an iconic film full of powerful imagery, but the strength of that imagery (and the decades it’s been difficult or even impossible to watch the film) has ensured that Nosferatu’s core visual message has become more culturally dominant than the film. the full context today. “If not for the incredible reach Spongebob as a platform, no one under 30 will ever want to watch this film,” Lander says. He explains that it was only recently that he felt comfortable admitting his role in the mention of Nosferatu in Spongebobbut 20 years later, he can’t deny the gag had an impact.
“I know this show has more reach than any silent film,” Lander says.
If this sounds arrogant, he emphasizes what a feeling sponge Bob Square Pants was when the premiere took place. It was watched by around 15 million viewers weekly, a number hard to imagine in today’s media landscape, with a fragmented audience accepting an excess of niche options. “Nothing [today] could have the same cultural impact that SpongeBob had when it first came out,” says Lander. He also feels that the size of that audience means that he likely peaked with that one brief mention. “I have to admit that this is everything, this is my legacy. It is almost impossible to imagine something that I could do that would later deserve more attention, ”Lender says. “I could go and kill the President right now and the headline would say ‘The Man with the Nosferatu Gag and Presidential Assassin Jay Lander Died’.”
Now that streaming and YouTube have made it easy to watch so many movies, especially public ones like Nosferatu – it is not surprising that it is more watched and appreciated as a film. On its 100th anniversary, Nosferatu perhaps more widely appreciated in its original context than ever before. Technology and a resurgent interest in old movies, perhaps partly inspired by people who want to track down the references they grew up with, have made Count Orlok more than just a memorable image.
It’s funny, though, that Orlok is no longer inconsistent in sponge Bob Square Pants.
The vampire made a few more appearances in later episodes and in the prequel. Camp Corral: SpongeBob’s Early Years, Kidferatu is the camp leader. The occasional “Graveyard Shift” ending is, in hindsight, a continuity joke that Lander finds nifty, though he does feel that later returns to the joke “cut the legs a bit” from the original. And for those interested: Spongebobthe vampire flipping the switch is called “Nosferatu” and No Count Orlok, because Lander thought the film’s title was more recognizable and, more importantly, better in the sing-song tone we hear it at the end of the episode. Probably the right call for a joke and for NosferatuConstant PR, but it has its drawbacks.
“I have to deal with trolls who come to me and say: Actually, name Orlok.’,” Lender laughs. “Like, ok. I know. I knew it 20 years before you were born. But thanks for the thought.”