The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run might be a balm for this year we've lived through, but it also serves a purpose in setting up next year's prequel TV series.
Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years will premiere in 2021 on the newly-rebranded Paramount Plus (formerly CBS All Access), before a later airing on Nickelodeon, and marks the first spin-off of SpongeBob SquarePants.
The series is set at a summer sleepaway camp called Camp Coral where a 10-year-old SpongeBob meets Patrick, Sandy, Squidward, Plankton and Mr Krabs for the first time at the craziest camp in the kelp forest.
It's already generated some controversy among SpongeBob fans as the show's creator Stephen Hillenburg was reportedly against spin-offs from the show, especially any that would age down the characters.
And it's not likely that Sponge on the Run will quell any fan fears as it retcons the backstories of the characters in order to set up the prequel show. Spoilers for the movie follow, so look away now if you haven't seen it yet.
Away from the main plot, Sponge on the Run effectively acts as a "backdoor pilot" for Kamp Koral. In TV terms, that's an episode of an established show that introduces characters to an audience, before a spin-off show centred on those new characters is launched.
While we all know SpongeBob, Patrick, Gary and co, Kamp Koral will show the beloved characters as we've never seen them before. The new movie features flashbacks to SpongeBob's Camp Coral days though to establish these younger versions of the characters, as well as the show's main setting.
When SpongeBob comes home to find Gary "snailnapped" by King Poseidon, we get a brief flashback to when he met Gary at camp, offering him a pickle and establishing a life-long bond. Except that's not quite how the fans would remember it, as in the TV show it was revealed that SpongeBob adopted Gary at the local animal shelter.
It's the first retcon in Sponge on the Run that is used to set up Kamp Koral, with other retcons coming in a sequence towards the end.
As Sandy, Mr Krabs, Squidward and Plankton put on an elaborate show to rescue SpongeBob, Patrick and Gary from King Poseidon, we get several flashbacks to when the various characters met SpongeBob at the summer camp and the positive impact he had on their lives.
So Patrick meets SpongeBob when he's homesick and SpongeBob offers to be his friend, while SpongeBob tells Sandy that she can do anything she wants (inspiring her later life as a scientist) and Squidward is given the talent show prize by SpongeBob (despite the fact he was rubbish).
For some characters, a firm backstory has never been established, but Sponge on the Run does retcon the first season episode 'Tea at the Treedome', where SpongeBob originally met Sandy for the first time, and second season episode 'The Secret Box', where it was revealed SpongeBob and Patrick have been friends since they were babies.
Executive producer Vincent Waller has assured fans that there is "an answer" to the changed backstories which will be revealed in Kamp Koral.
It could well be that there's a logical reason for it all, or it might just establish that canon isn't a thing in the potential SpongeBob extended universe. For now though, fans might just have to ignore those flashbacks and enjoy the rest of Sponge on the Run instead.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is now available to watch on Netflix, excluding the US, Canada and China.
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