What They Say:
Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years is an upcoming spin-off series that acts as a prequel to SpongeBob SquarePants. It will premiere on Paramount+ (formerly known as CBS All Access) in the United States on March 4, 2021.6 The show is animated in CGI. It features younger versions of the main characters from the original show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The upcoming “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years” may be one of the most anticipated shows for kids this year. For me, it’s one of the most baffling uses of animation resources. Not because I have a dislike for the sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea (the SpongeBob Squarepants ‘First 100 Episodes’ and ‘Next 100 Episodes’ DVD’s get regular rotation in my house WITHOUT the presence of children), but because I wasn’t entirely sure why[italiazed] the studio wanted to make the series. “SpongeBob Squarepants” is still in production and going strong. One of the core appeals to Spongebob himself is his childlike innocence (which is why episodes can revolve around either adult problems or those that children can relate to). For that matter, the characters are younger in this series yet they are still voiced by the adult veterans of the series.
Probably the most baffling thing was that the series was going to be fully CGI animated. While this was also (I must admit) the most intriguing aspect about it, I assumed this could only end in failure because high-quality CGI for a weekly series still isn’t common and I didn’t see Viacom pouring millions of dollars into this thing when they already had a show that cost a fraction of the cost with it’s 2D animation (and seemed to be very similar in concept). I got to preview the show with a full episode at a drive-in screening for “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena (self-promotion alert: Full review of that movie coming soon to this very website), where the audience got to preview the new show before it premiers on Paramount+ on March 4th. The results were…underwhelming, to be perfectly honest. Primarily because my fears about the spin-off being pointless were more than spot on; they were so correct that I briefly wondered if I was secretly psychic.
There is absolutely, positively, NOTHING original about “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years!” It’s literally “SpongeBob Squarepants” with CGI animation! I cannot even come up with anything remotely clever to say that would even suggest it was a different show. Basically, someone decided that they wanted to make a new SpongeBob series that was exactly like the other one, only this time everyone would be kids and the show would be ten times more expensive to make. Considering the added expense, one would think that the characters would be given age-appropriate voices. Not only to emphasize the difference in the age, but to save the studio a few bucks on a cast that has turned this gig into a very comfortable living over the years. By not doing this I don’t see a kid version of SpongeBob: I see “SpongeBob Squarepants.” For that matter, Patrick, Sandy, and Squidward don’t act any differently as children than they do as adults.
Mr. Krabs is the only character who stands out because he hasn’t become the money-loving owner of the Krusty Krab, and it’s interesting to see his early years essentially revolving around nurturing kids (though a joke about him concerned about how much it will cost him to drain them of a sugar rush removed any illusion that we were going to get to know a different version of this character). Basically, the episode I saw (which involves some local hillbillies getting the kids high on sugar and then bartering the cure to Mr. Krabs) was so much like a regular episode of “SpongeBob Squarepants” that if someone had told me it was the same show only in CGI for once I’d have no reason to doubt them. With the exception of Sandy the characters themselves don’t even look much younger than their older counterparts. There was nothing added here except a new coat of paint. If Nickelodeon wanted a spin-off show, they would have been better off finally giving Patchy a moment to shine on his own.
What’s even more bizarre about the whole project is that the movie this show is spun-off from (the aforementioned “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”) doesn’t even present a version of this show in THAT movie! In the film the characters look younger, are voiced by actual children, and even have different character designs (Sandy gains braces and glasses in the show when she has none in the movie). For that matter, ‘Kamp Koral’ is spelled as ‘Camp Coral,’ bringing more into question why Paramount spent millions of dollars on a promotional film that doesn’t even resemble the show that it was created to promote. Was one of these products made under protest or something? Never mind. That said, there is one final topic we must discuss: Whether or not the show itself is worth watching.
I’ve just spent several paragraphs gripping about how “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years” is basically the EXACT same show as “SpongeBob Squarepants” (to the point where trying to make comparisons is almost entirely pointless), but does that make it a bad show?! And the answer to that is…no, not really. Granted, I’ve only seen one episode, but the thing about “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years” is that – while there is absolutely, positively, unquestionably nothing different between this show and “SpongeBob Squarepants” – it’s not a bad show. I mean, honestly, I know that that answer seems pretty anti-climactic at this point in the review, but it’s not. If you like “SpongeBob Squarepants” I see no reason you won’t like “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years.” As a SpongeBob fan, it did provide a lot of laughs and I felt right at home. Whether it was pointless as a ‘spin-off’ or not is the real question here.
And if it’s such a pointless spin-off why make it in the first place? Well, the obvious answer is money. I mean, really, that’s why anything gets made. Ultimately though, this is being used as a tool to lure people into subscribing to Paramount+. When it was commissioned I have little doubt that it was going to be used to get kids to bug their parents to subscribe to CBS All Access, because ads would air on Nickelodeon (preferably during “SpongeBob Squarepants” itself) about a new series starring their favorite characters as kids, but it would be exclusive to a streaming service. The fact that the show (objectively) doesn’t offer anything that kids aren’t already getting on TV for free would be beside the point: There would be a new SpongeBob series out there, and the only way to get it would be if mom and dad ponied up the money for a new streaming service.
With cable packages becoming less popular by the day, the timing seems more appropriate that the series would be used to launch the rebranded Paramount+, which will now be offering not only ALL the episodes of “SpongeBob Squarepants” but the exclusive “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years” as well! It’s a marketing strategy that would make Mr. Krabs himself proud. Really, the worst thing that’s going to happen is that you’re going to be getting twice the amount of SpongeBob Squarepants a year. If you like the sponge that should make you happy. If you don’t, the big draw to Paramount+ might be the new ‘Star Trek’ series instead. I doubt this will be too much of a good thing (countless reruns of the marque product hasn’t hurt its profitability yet, so why would doubling it do it in?). At the end of the day, there’s only one thing to say about the whole thing: Hope you enjoy paying for another streaming service.
Streamed By: Paramount+