16 July 1999

John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, died when the Piper Saratoga PA-32R aircraft he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

1 May 1999

SpongeBob SquarePants premieres on Nickelodeon.

SpongeBob SquarePants
SpongeBob SquarePants logo by Nickelodeon.svg
GenreComedy[1]
Surreal comedy[2]
Created byStephen Hillenburg
Developed by
Creative director(s)
Voices of
Narrated byTom Kenny (various episodes)
Theme music composer
  • Derek Drymon
  • Mark Harrison
  • Stephen Hillenburg
  • Blaise Smith
Opening theme"SpongeBob SquarePants Theme Song", performed by Patrick Pinney
Ending theme"SpongeBob Closing Theme", composed by Steve Belfer
Composer(s)
  • Steve Belfer
  • Nicolas Carr
  • Sage Guyton
  • Jeremy Wakefield
  • Brad Carow (1999–2002)
  • The Blue Hawaiians (1999–2002)
  • Eban Schletter (2000–present)
  • Barry Anthony Trop (2006–2013)
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons12
No. of episodes262 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Donna Castricone (1999–2002)
  • Helen Kafatic (2002–2004)
  • Anne Michaud (2001)
  • Dina Buteyn (2005–2010)
  • Jennie Monica Hammond (2010–present)
  • Supervising producers:
  • Derek Drymon (2002–2004)
  • Paul Tibbitt (2005–2015)
  • Marc Ceccarelli (2015–2018)
  • Vincent Waller (2015–2018)
Running time
  • 11 minutes (regular episodes only)
  • 22 minutes (special episodes only)
Production company(s)
DistributorViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks
Release
Original networkNickelodeon[a]
Picture format
Audio format
Original releaseMay 1, 1999 (1999-05-01) –
present (present)
Chronology
Related showsRocko's Modern Life
Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years
External links
Website

SpongeBob SquarePants is an American animated comedy television series created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg for Nickelodeon. The series chronicles the adventures and endeavors of the title character and his aquatic friends in the fictional underwater city of Bikini Bottom. The fifth-longest-running American animated series, its popularity has made it a media franchise. It is the highest rated series to air on Nickelodeon and ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks' most distributed property. As of late 2017, the media franchise has generated $13 billion in merchandising revenue for Nickelodeon.[4]

Many of the series' ideas originated in The Intertidal Zone, an unpublished educational book that Hillenburg created in 1989 to teach his students about undersea life.[5] He began developing SpongeBob SquarePants into a television series in 1996 following the cancellation of Rocko's Modern Life. He turned to Tom Kenny, who had worked with him on that series, to voice the title character. SpongeBob was originally going to be named SpongeBoy, and the series called SpongeBoy Ahoy!; both of these were changed as the name was already trademarked.

Nickelodeon held a preview for the series in the United States on May 1, 1999, after it aired the 1999 Kids' Choice Awards. The series officially premiered on July 17, 1999. It has received worldwide critical acclaim since its premiere and had gained enormous popularity by its second season. A feature film, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, was released in theaters on November 19, 2004. A second film adaptation, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, followed on February 6, 2015. A third film and prequel to the television series, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, is expected to be released in Canadian theaters on August 14, 2020 followed by a premiere on video-on-demand and CBS All Access in 2021. In 2018, the series began airing its twelfth season; it was renewed for a thirteenth season on July 17, 2019.[6] As of July 30, 2020, all prior seasons of the show are available on CBS All Access.[7]

SpongeBob SquarePants has won a variety of awards including: six Annie Awards, eight Golden Reel Awards, four Emmy Awards, 17 Kids' Choice Awards, and two BAFTA Children's Awards. The series has been involved in several public controversies including speculation over SpongeBob's intended sexual orientation. A Broadway musical based on the series opened in 2017 to critical acclaim.[8] Two spin-off series, Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years and an untitled spin-off based on the character Squidward Tentacles, are in development as of 2019.

Premise

Setting

A blue colored image of an atoll.
Bikini Atoll, a coral reef in the Pacific Ocean. Tom Kenny confirmed the fictitious city of Bikini Bottom is named after Bikini Atoll.

The series takes place primarily in the benthic underwater city of Bikini Bottom located in the Pacific Ocean beneath the real-life coral reef known as Bikini Atoll.[9][10][11][b] Its citizens are mostly multicolored fish who live in buildings made from ship funnels and use "boatmobiles", amalgamations of cars and boats, as a mode of transportation. Recurring locations within Bikini Bottom include the neighboring houses of SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward; two competing restaurants, the Krusty Krab and the Chum Bucket; Mrs. Puff's Boating School, which includes a driving course and a sunken lighthouse; the Treedome, an oxygenated glass enclosure where Sandy lives; Shady Shoals Rest Home; a seagrass meadow called Jellyfish Fields; and Goo Lagoon, a subaqueous brine pool that is a popular beach hangout.[13]

When the SpongeBob crew began production of the series' pilot episode, they were tasked with designing stock locations, to be used repeatedly, where most scenes would take place like the Krusty Krab and SpongeBob's pineapple house.[14] The idea was "to keep everything nautical", so the crew used plenty of rope, wooden planks, ships' wheels, netting, anchors, boilerplates, and rivets to create the show's setting. Transitions between scenes are marked by bubbles filling the screen, accompanied by the sound of rushing water.[14]

The series features "sky flowers" as a main setting material.[14] When series background designer Kenny Pittenger was asked what they were, he answered, "They function as clouds in a way, but since the show takes place underwater, they aren't really clouds. Because of the tiki influence on the show, the background painters use a lot of pattern."[14] Pittenger said the sky flowers were meant to "evoke the look of a flower-print Hawaiian shirt".[14]

Characters

Illustration of the series' ten main characters.
The series' main characters. Top row, from left to right: Pearl, Plankton, and Karen. Bottom row: Sandy, Mr. Krabs, SpongeBob, Squidward, Gary, Patrick, and Mrs. Puff.

The series revolves around the title character and an ensemble cast of his aquatic friends. SpongeBob SquarePants is an energetic and optimistic sea sponge who lives in a submerged pineapple with his pet snail Gary, who meows like a cat. SpongeBob has a childlike enthusiasm for life, which carries over to his job as a fry cook at a fast food restaurant called the Krusty Krab. His greatest goal in life is to obtain a license to drive a boatmobile. His favorite pastimes include "jellyfishing", which involves catching jellyfish with a net in a manner similar to butterfly catching, and blowing soap bubbles into elaborate shapes.

Living two houses away from SpongeBob is his best friend Patrick Star, a dim-witted yet friendly pink starfish who resides under a rock. Despite his mental setbacks, Patrick sees himself as intelligent.[15] Squidward Tentacles, SpongeBob's next-door neighbor and co-worker at the Krusty Krab, is an arrogant, ill-tempered octopus who lives in an Easter Island moai. He enjoys playing the clarinet and painting self-portraits but hates his job as a cashier. He also dislikes living between SpongeBob and Patrick because of their childish nature. The owner of the Krusty Krab is a miserly red crab named Mr. Krabs who talks like a sailor and runs his restaurant as if it were a pirate ship. He is a single parent with one teenage daughter, a sperm whale named Pearl, to whom he wants to bequeath his riches. Pearl does not want to continue the family business and would rather spend her time listening to pop music or working at the local shopping mall.[16] Another of SpongeBob's friends is Sandy Cheeks, a thrill-seeking and athletic squirrel from Texas, who wears an air-filled diving suit to breathe underwater.[17] She lives in an oak tree entrapped in a clear glass dome locked by an airtight, hand-turned seal and is an expert in karate, as well as a scientist.

Located across the street from the Krusty Krab is an unsuccessful rival restaurant called the Chum Bucket.[18] It is run by a small, green, one-eyed copepod[19] named Plankton and his computer-wife, Karen.[20] Plankton constantly tries to steal the secret recipe for Mr. Krabs's popular Krabby Patty burgers, hoping to gain the upper hand and put the Krusty Krab out of business.[21] Karen supplies him with evil schemes to obtain the formula, but their efforts are always unsuccessful and their restaurant rarely has any customers.[22] When SpongeBob is not working at the Krusty Krab, he is often taking boat-driving lessons from Mrs. Puff, a paranoid but patient pufferfish. SpongeBob is Mrs. Puff's most diligent student and knows every answer to the oral exams he takes, but he panics and crashes when he tries to drive a real boat.[23] When Mrs. Puff endures one of SpongeBob's crashes or is otherwise frightened, she puffs up into a ball.[24]

Special episodes of the show are hosted by a live-action pirate named Patchy and his pet parrot Potty, whose segments are presented in a dual narrative with the animated stories.[25] Patchy is portrayed as the president of a fictional SpongeBob fan club, and his greatest aspiration is to meet SpongeBob himself. Potty likes to make fun of Patchy's enthusiasm and causes trouble for him while he tries to host the show. An unseen figure called the French Narrator often introduces episodes and narrates the intertitles as if the series were a nature documentary about the ocean. His role and distinctive manner of speaking are references to the oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.[26] Recurring guest characters appear throughout the series including: the retired superheroes Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, who are idolized by SpongeBob and Patrick; a pirate specter known as the Flying Dutchman; the muscular lifeguard of Goo Lagoon, Larry the Lobster; and the merman god of the sea, King Neptune.

Production

Development

Early inspirations

Aerial photograph of the Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California
Before creating SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg taught marine biology to visitors of the Ocean Institute (located in Dana Point, California).[27]

Series' creator Stephen Hillenburg first became fascinated with the ocean as a child and began developing his artistic abilities at a young age. Although these interests would not overlap for some time—the idea of drawing fish seemed boring to him—Hillenburg pursued both during college, receiving a major in marine biology and a minor in art. After graduating in 1984, he joined the Ocean Institute, an organization in Dana Point, California, dedicated to educating the public about marine science and maritime history.[27][28]

While Hillenburg was there, his love of the ocean began to influence his artistry. He created a precursor to SpongeBob SquarePants: a comic book titled The Intertidal Zone used by the institute to teach visiting students about the animal life of tide pools.[28] The comic starred various anthropomorphic sea lifeforms, many of which would evolve into SpongeBob SquarePants characters.[29] Hillenburg tried to get the comic professionally published, but none of the companies he sent it to were interested.[28]

A large inspiration to Hillenburg was Ween's 1997 album The Mollusk, which had a nautical and underwater theme. Hillenburg contacted the band shortly after the album's release, explaining the baseline ideas for SpongeBob SquarePants, and also requested a song from the band, which they sent on Christmas Eve. This song was "Loop de Loop", which was used in the episode "Your Shoe's Untied".[30][31][32]

Conception

While working as a staff artist at the Ocean Institute, Hillenburg entertained plans to return eventually to college for a master's degree in art. Before this could materialize, he attended an animation festival, which inspired him to make a slight change in course. Instead of continuing his education with a traditional art program, Hillenburg chose to study experimental animation at the California Institute of the Arts.[28] His thesis film, Wormholes, is about the theory of relativity.[33] It was screened at festivals, and at one of these, Hillenburg met Joe Murray, creator of the popular Nickelodeon animated series, Rocko's Modern Life. Murray was impressed by the style of the film and offered Hillenburg a job.[33][34] Hillenburg joined the series as a director and later, during the fourth season, he took on the roles of producer and creative director.[29][33][34][35]

Martin Olson, one of the writers for Rocko's Modern Life, read The Intertidal Zone and encouraged Hillenburg to create a television series with a similar concept. At that point, Hillenburg had not even considered creating his own series. However, he realized that if he ever did, this would be the best approach.[28][33][36] He began to develop some of the characters from The Intertidal Zone, including the comic's "announcer", Bob the Sponge.[28] He wanted his series to stand out from most popular cartoons of the time, which he felt were exemplified by buddy comedies like The Ren & Stimpy Show. As a result, Hillenburg decided to focus on a single main character: the "weirdest" sea creature he could think of. This led him to the sponge.[28] The Intertidal Zone's Bob the Sponge resembles an actual sea sponge, and at first, Hillenburg continued to use this design.[28][33][34][37] In determining the new character's behavior, Hillenburg drew inspiration from innocent, childlike figures that he enjoyed, such as Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Jerry Lewis, and Pee-wee Herman.[28][34][38][39][40] He then considered modeling the character after a kitchen sponge and realized this idea would match the character's square personality perfectly.[28][33][34] Patrick, Mr. Krabs, Pearl, and Squidward were the next characters Hillenburg created for the show.[41]

To voice the series' central character, Hillenburg turned to Tom Kenny, whose career in animation had started alongside Hillenburg's on Rocko's Modern Life. Elements of Kenny's own personality were employed to develop the character further.[42] Initially, Hillenburg wanted to use the name SpongeBoy—the character had no last name—and the series was to have been called SpongeBoy Ahoy![37][42] However, the Nickelodeon legal department discovered—after voice acting had been completed for the original seven-minute pilot episode—that the name "SpongeBoy" was already in use for a mop product.[42] A character of the same name was already trademarked by Flaming Carrot Comics creator Bob Burden.[43] In choosing a replacement name, Hillenburg felt he still had to use the word "Sponge", so that viewers would not mistake the character for a "Cheese Man". He settled on the name "SpongeBob". "SquarePants" was chosen as a family name after Kenny saw a picture of the character and remarked, "Boy, look at this sponge in square pants, thinking he can get a job in a fast food place."[38] When he heard Kenny say it Hillenburg loved the phrase and felt it would reinforce the character's nerdiness.[38][44]

Assembling the crew

Derek Drymon, who served as creative director for the first three seasons, has said that Hillenburg wanted to surround himself with a "team of young and hungry people".[39] Many of the major contributors to SpongeBob SquarePants had worked before with Hillenburg on Rocko's Modern Life: this included: Drymon, art director Nick Jennings, supervising director Alan Smart, writer / voice actor Doug Lawrence (often credited as Mr. Lawrence), and Tim Hill, who helped develop the series bible.[39][40]

Although Drymon would go on to have a significant influence on SpongeBob SquarePants, he was not offered a role on the series initially. As a late recruit to Rocko's Modern Life, he had not established much of a relationship with Hillenburg before SpongeBob's conception. Hillenburg first sought out Drymon's storyboard partner, Mark O'Hare—but he had just created the soon-to-be syndicated comic strip, Citizen Dog.[39] While he would later join SpongeBob as a writer,[45] he lacked the time to get involved with both projects from the outset.[39] Drymon has said, "I remember Hillenburg's bringing it up to Mark in our office and asking him if he'd be interested in working on it ... I was all ready to say yes to the offer, but Steve didn't ask; he just left the room. I was pretty desperate ... so I ran into the hall after him and basically begged him for the job. He didn't jump at the chance."[39] Once Hillenburg had given it some thought and decided to bring Drymon on as creative director, the two began meeting at Hillenburg's house several times a week to develop the series. Drymon has identified this period as having begun in 1996, shortly after the end of Rocko's Modern Life.[39]

Jennings was also instrumental in SpongeBob's genesis.[46] Kenny has called him "one of SpongeBob's early graphics mentors".[40] On weekends, Kenny joined Hillenburg, Jennings, and Drymon for creative sessions where they recorded ideas on a tape recorder.[40] Kenny performed audio tests as SpongeBob during these sessions, while Hillenburg voice acted the other characters.[37][40]

Hill contributed scripts for several first-season episodes (including the pilot)[47][48][49][50] and was offered the role of story editor, but turned it down—he would go on to pursue a career as a family film director.[51][52] In his stead, Pete Burns was brought in for the job. Burns hailed from Chicago and had never met any of the principal players on SpongeBob before joining the team.[39]

Pitching

The execs from Nickelodeon flew out to Burbank, and we pitched it to them from the storyboards. We had squeezy toys, wore Hawaiian shirts, and used a boom box to play the Tiny Tim song ['Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight'] that comes on in the third act. We really went all out in that pitch because we knew the pilot lived or died by if the execs laughed. When it was over, they walked out of the room to discuss it. We figured they would fly back to New York and we'd hear in a few weeks. We were surprised when they came back in what seemed like minutes and said they wanted to make it.

Derek Drymon[39]

While pitching the cartoon to Nickelodeon executives, Hillenburg donned a Hawaiian shirt, brought along an "underwater terrarium with models of the characters", and played Hawaiian music to set the theme. The setup was described by Nickelodeon executive Eric Coleman as "pretty amazing".[33] They were given money and two weeks to write the pilot episode "Help Wanted".[33] Drymon, Hillenburg, and Jennings returned with what was described by Nickelodeon official Albie Hecht as, "a performance [he] wished [he] had on tape".[33] Although executive producer Derek Drymon described the pitch as stressful, he said it went "very well".[33] Kevin Kay and Hecht had to step outside because they were "exhausted from laughing", which worried the cartoonists.[33]

In an interview, Cyma Zarghami, then-president of Nickelodeon, said, "their [Nickelodeon executives'] immediate reaction was to see it again, both because they liked it and it was unlike anything they'd ever seen before".[53] Zarghami was one of four executives in the room when SpongeBob SquarePants was screened for the first time.[53]

Before commissioning the full series, Nickelodeon executives insisted that it would not be popular unless SpongeBob was a child who went to school, with his teacher as a main character.[54] Hillenburg recalled in 2012 that Nickelodeon told him, "Our winning formula is animation about kids in school... We want you to put SpongeBob in school."[28] Hillenburg was ready to "walk out" on Nickelodeon and abandon the series, since he wanted SpongeBob to be an adult character.[28] He eventually compromised by adding a new character to the main cast, Mrs. Puff, who is a boat-driving teacher. Hillenburg was happy with the compromise and said, "A positive thing for me that came out of it was [how it brought] in a new character, Mrs. Puff, who I love."[28]

Executive producers and showrunners

Photograph of Stephen Hillenburg standing holding a book with the title SpongeBob SquarePants looking to his right
Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob SquarePants

Until his death in 2018, Hillenburg had served as the executive producer over the course of the series' entire history and functioned as its showrunner from its debut in 1999 until 2004. The series went on hiatus in 2002, after Hillenburg halted production to work on the feature film The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.[43] Once the film was finalized and the third season finished, Hillenburg resigned as the series' showrunner. Although he no longer had a direct role in the series' production, he maintained an advisory role and reviewed each episode.[53][55]

It reached a point where I felt I'd contributed a lot and said what I wanted to say. At that point, the show needed new blood, and so I selected Paul [Tibbitt] to produce. I totally trusted him. I always enjoyed the way he captured the SpongeBob character's sense of humor. And as a writer, you have to move on—I'm developing new projects.

Stephen Hillenburg, The Washington Post[56]

When the film was completed, Hillenburg intended it to be the series finale, "so [the show] wouldn't jump the shark." However, Nickelodeon wanted more episodes.[57] Hillenburg appointed Paul Tibbitt, who had previously served on the show as a writer, director, and storyboard artist, to take over his role as showrunner to produce additional seasons.[58] Hillenburg considered Tibbitt one of his favorite members of the show's crew,[59] and "totally trusted him".[56]

On December 13, 2014, it was announced that Hillenburg would return to the series in an unspecified position.[60] On November 26, 2018, at the age of 57, Hillenburg died from complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which had been diagnosed in March 2017.[61][62] Nickelodeon confirmed via Twitter the series would continue after his death.[63] In February 2019 incoming president Brian Robbins vowed Nickelodeon would keep the show in production for as long as the network exists.[64]

As of the ninth season, former writers and storyboard directors Vincent Waller and Marc Ceccarelli act as showrunners.

Writing

According to writer and storyboard artist Luke Brookshier, "SpongeBob is written differently to many television shows".[65] Unlike most of its contemporaries, SpongeBob SquarePants does not use written scripts.[65][66] Instead, storylines are developed by a team of five outline and premise writers. A two-page outline is then assigned to a team of storyboard directors, who produce a complete rough draft of the storyboard. One of the methods used to assemble storyboards was to use Post-it notes. Most of the dialogue and jokes are added during this stage.[43][65] Brookshier has likened this process to how cartoons were made "in the early days of animation."[65]

The decision to eschew scripts for storyboards is one that Hillenburg made early in the series' development.[43] Rocko's Modern Life had also used storyboarding derived from short outlines, and having worked on that series, Hillenburg felt strongly about adopting the process for SpongeBob SquarePants—even though Nickelodeon was beginning to show a greater preference for script-driven cartoons.[39][67] Another series' writer, Merriwether Williams, explained in an interview that she and Mr. Lawrence would write a draft for an episode in an afternoon and be done at 4:00 pm.[68]

The writing staff often used their personal experiences as inspiration for the storylines of the series' episodes.[39][56] For example, the episode "Sailor Mouth", where SpongeBob and Patrick learn profanity,[56] was inspired by creative director Derek Drymon's experience as a child of getting into trouble for using the f-word in front of his mother.[39] Drymon said, "The scene where Patrick is running to Mr. Krabs to tattle, with SpongeBob chasing him, is pretty much how it happened in real life".[39] The end of the episode when Mr. Krabs uses even more profanity than SpongeBob and Patrick, was inspired "by the fact that my [Drymon's] mother has a sailor mouth herself".[39] The idea for the episode "The Secret Box" also came from one of Drymon's childhood experiences.[56][68] Hillenburg explained, "Drymon had a secret box [as a kid] and started telling us about it. We wanted to make fun of him and use it."[56]

Almost every episode is divided into two 11-minute segments. Hillenburg explained: "[I] never really wanted to deliberately try to write a half-hour show".[56] He added, "I wrote the shows to where they felt right".[56]

Voice actors

Steve described SpongeBob to me as childlike and naïve. He's not quite an adult, he's not quite a kid. Think a Stan Laurel, Jerry Lewis kind of child-man. Kind of like a Munchkin but not quite, kind of like a kid, but not in a Charlie Brown child's voice on the TV shows.

—Tom Kenny[40]

SpongeBob SquarePants features the voices of: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown, Mr. Lawrence, Jill Talley, Carolyn Lawrence, Mary Jo Catlett, and Lori Alan. Most one-off and background characters are voiced by: Dee Bradley Baker, Sirena Irwin, Bob Joles, Mark Fite and Thomas F. Wilson.

Kenny voices SpongeBob SquarePants and a number of other characters, including SpongeBob's pet snail Gary and the French narrator. He also physically portrays Patchy the Pirate in live-action segments of most special episodes. Kenny previously worked with Stephen Hillenburg on Rocko's Modern Life. When Hillenburg created SpongeBob SquarePants, he approached Kenny to voice the main character.[69] Kenny originally used the voice of SpongeBob for a minor character on Rocko.[42] He forgot how to perform the voice initially and did not intend to use it afterward. Hillenburg, however, used a video clip of the episode to remind Kenny of the voice.[42] When Hillenburg heard Kenny perform the voice, he knew immediately he wanted it for his character. He said to Nickelodeon executives, "That's it—I don't want to hear anybody else do the voice. We've got SpongeBob."[40] The network insisted on auditioning more actors, but Hillenburg turned them down; in the words of Tom Kenny, "one of the advantages of having a strong creator is that the creator can say, 'No, I like that—I don't care about celebrities.'"[40] While Kenny was developing SpongeBob's voice, the show's casting crew wanted him to have a unique, high-pitched laugh in the tradition of Popeye and Woody Woodpecker.[70]

Fagerbakke voices Patrick Star[71] and other miscellaneous characters. At the same time when Hillenburg, Derek Drymon and Tim Hill were writing the pilot "Help Wanted", Hillenburg was also conducting auditions to find voices for the characters.[39] Fagerbakke auditioned for the role of Patrick after Kenny had been cast.[72] Fagerbakke recalled that during this audition, "Hillenburg actually played for me a portion of Tom [Kenny]'s performance [as SpongeBob], and they were looking for a counterpoint."[72] In an interview, Fagerbakke compared himself to the character and said, "It's extremely gratifying".[73] Whenever Patrick is angry Fagerbakke models his performance after American actress Shelley Winters.[74]

Squidward Tentacles is voiced by Rodger Bumpass, who describes him as "a very nasally, monotone kind of guy." He said the character "became a very interesting character to do" because of "his sarcasm, and then his frustration, and then his apoplexy, and so he became a wide spectrum of emotions".[75] Arthur Brown, author of Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Cartoons!, has compared Squidward's voice to that of Jack Benny's,[76] a similarity Bumpass says is mostly unintentional.[75] Voice acting veteran Clancy Brown voices Mr. Krabs, SpongeBob's boss at the Krusty Krab. Hillenburg modeled Mr. Krabs after his former manager at a seafood restaurant, whose strong Maine accent reminded Hillenburg of a pirate.[77] Brown decided to use a "piratey" voice for the character with "a little Scottish brogue" after hearing Hillenburg's description of his boss.[78] According to Brown, his Mr. Krabs voice was mostly improvised during his audition and it was not challenging for him to find the correct voice.[78]

Mr. Lawrence had met Hillenburg before on Rocko's Modern Life. While working on the pilot episode of SpongeBob, Hillenburg invited him to audition for all the characters.[79] Since other voices had been found for the main cast already, Lawrence began by voicing a variety of minor characters. This included Plankton, who was initially only set to appear in one episode.[79][39] Mr. Lawrence recalls that Nickelodeon executives told Hillenburg, "'we could stunt-cast this. You know, we could have Bruce Willis do this voice.' And Steve was just like, 'it's Doug [Lawrence], don't you hear it? This is the character! This is the guy!'"[79] Jill Talley, Tom Kenny's wife, voices Karen Plankton.[80] Being a Chicago native, she uses a Midwestern accent for the character.[81] Electronic sound effects are underlaid by the series' audio engineers to create a robotic sound when she speaks.[82] Talley and Mr. Lawrence often improvise Plankton and Karen's dialogue. Lawrence called improvisation his "favorite part of the voice over" in 2009.[83] He elaborated in a 2012 interview, saying, "I always enjoy the back-and-forth. [Talley and I] start to actually overlap so much talking to each other that [the voice directors] have to tell us, 'hey, stop doing that, separate what you're saying!'"[79]

Carolyn Lawrence voices Sandy Cheeks. She was in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, with a friend who knew SpongeBob SquarePants casting director Donna Grillo. Her friend said to Grillo that Lawrence had "an interesting voice". Grillo invited her to audition and she got the role.[84][85] American actress Mary Jo Catlett,[86] who is known for her live-action roles on television programs from the 1970s such as Diff'rent Strokes and M*A*S*H provides Mrs. Puff's voice.[81] As of 2017, voicing Mrs. Puff has become her only regular television role; Catlett described herself as "basically retired" in 2013, since she feels that voicing Mrs. Puff requires less preparation than her performances in person.[87] Lori Alan voices Pearl Krabs.[88] During her audition for the role, Alan was shown an early drawing of the characters and noted that Pearl was much larger than the rest of the cast. She decided to reflect the character's size in her voice by making it deep and full in tone. She aimed to make it invoke the sound of whales' low vocalizations while also sounding "spoiled and lovable."[89] In an interview with AfterBuzz TV, Alan said she knew Pearl "had to sound somewhat like a child," but needed "an abnormally large voice."[90]

In addition to the regular cast, episodes feature guest voices from many professions, including actors, athletes, authors, musicians, and artists. Recurring guest voices include: Ernest Borgnine, who voiced Mermaid Man from 1999 until his death in 2012;[91] Tim Conway as the voice of Barnacle Boy from 1999 until his death in 2019;[92] Brian Doyle-Murray as the Flying Dutchman;[93] and Marion Ross as Grandma SquarePants.[94] Notable guests who have provided vocal cameo appearances include: David Bowie as Lord Royal Highness in the television film Atlantis SquarePantis;[95][96] John Goodman as the voice of Santa in the episode "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!"; Johnny Depp as the voice of the surf guru, Jack Kahuna Laguna, in the episode "SpongeBob SquarePants vs. The Big One";[97] and Victoria Beckham as the voice of Queen Amphitrite in the episode "The Clash of Triton".[98][99]

Voice recording sessions always include a full cast of actors, which Kenny describes as "getting more unusual".[40] Kenny said, "That's another thing that's given SpongeBob its special feel. Everybody's in the same room, doing it old radio-show style. It's how the stuff we like was recorded".[40] Series writer Jay Lender said, "The recording sessions were always fun ..."[100] For the first three seasons, Hillenburg and Drymon sat in the recording studio and directed the actors.[101] Andrea Romano became the voice director in the fourth season,[101] and Tom Kenny took over the role during the ninth. Wednesday is recording day, the same schedule followed by the crew since 1999.[101] Casting supervisor Jennie Monica Hammond said, "I loved Wednesdays".[101]

Animation

Approximately 50 people work together to animate and produce an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.[65] Throughout its run, the series' production has been handled domestically at Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, California. The finished animation has been created overseas at Rough Draft Studios in South Korea.[56][102] The California crew storyboard each episode. These are then used as templates by the crew in Korea,[56] who animate each scene by hand, color each cel on computers, and paint backgrounds. Episodes are finished in California, where they are edited and have music added.[65]

During the first season, the series used cel animation.[58] A shift was made the following year to digital ink and paint animation.[58] In 2009, executive producer Paul Tibbitt said: "The first season of SpongeBob was done the old-fashioned way on cells [sic], and every cell sic had to be part-painted, left to dry, paint some other colors. It's still a time-consuming aspect of the process now, but the digital way of doing things means it doesn't take long to correct".[58]

In 2008, the crew began using Wacom Cintiqs for the drawings instead of pencils. The fifth season episode "Pest of the West", one of the half-hour specials, was the first episode where the crew applied this method. Series' background designer Kenny Pittenger said, "The only real difference between the way we draw now and the way we drew then is that we abandoned pencil and paper during the fifth season".[14] The shift to Wacom Cintiqs let the designers and animators draw on computer screens and make immediate changes or undo mistakes. Pittenger said, "Many neo-Luddites—er ... I mean, many of my cohorts—don't like working on them, but I find them useful. There's no substitute for the immediacy of drawing on a piece of paper, of course, but digital nautical nonsense is still pretty fun".[14]

Illustration of the show's character models with SpongeBob on the left
Screen Novelties created character models based on the works of Rankin/Bass for the show's stop-motion episodes.

Since 2004, the SpongeBob crew has periodically collaborated with the LA-based animation studio Screen Novelties to create stop-motion sequences for special episodes. The studio produced a brief claymation scene for the climax of the first theatrical film.[103] It was re-enlisted in 2009 to create an exclusive opening for the series' tenth anniversary special.[104][105] The abominable snow mollusk, an octopus-like creature made of clay who acts as the antagonist of the double-length episode "Frozen Face-Off," was also animated by the company.[106] Animation World Network reported that "within the SpongeBob creative team, there was always talk of doing a more involved project together" with Screen Novelties.[106] As a result, the group was asked to create an episode animated entirely in stop motion in 2011. This project became "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!”,[107] which reimagined the show's characters as if they were part of a Rankin/Bass holiday film.[108] Tom Kenny, who is normally uninvolved in the writing process, contributed to the episode's plot; he said in 2012 that he and Nickelodeon "wanted to do something just like those old school, stop-motion Rankin-Bass holiday specials ... which I watched over and over again when I was a kid growing up in Syracuse."[103] Unconventional materials such as baking soda, glitter, wood chips and breakfast cereal were used in mass quantities to create the special's sets.[109] Members of the Screen Novelties crew received one win and two nominations at the 30th Annie Awards,[110] a nomination at the 2013 Golden Reel Awards,[111] and a nomination at the 2013 Annecy International Animated Film Festival for animating the episode.[112] The team built a dolphin puppet named Bubbles, voiced by Matt Berry, for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.[113] Sequences involving Bubbles included a blend of stop motion and traditional animation. A second special animated in stop motion, themed around Halloween and using the same Rankin/Bass-inspired character models, was produced for season 11.[114][115]

Music

[The music has gone] from mostly sea shanties and Hawaiian music à la Roy Smeck meets Pee-wee Herman—still the main style for the show—in the early episodes, but it now includes film noir, West Side Story to [Henry] Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith and [Steven] Spielberg. There's Broadway-type scores and plain old goofy, loopy, weird stuff. I try to push the envelope on this show without getting in the way of the story, and I try to push it up and way over the top when I can get away with it, all the time keeping it as funny and ridiculous as possible.

—Music editor Nicolas Carr[116]

Mark Harrison and Blaise Smith composed the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song.[117] Its lyrics were written by Stephen Hillenburg and the series' original creative director Derek Drymon. The melody was inspired by the sea shanty "Blow the Man Down".[34] An old oil painting of a pirate is used in the opening sequence. Dubbed "Painty the Pirate", according to Tom Kenny, Hillenburg found it in a thrift shop "years ago".[42] Patrick Pinney voices Painty the Pirate, singing the theme song as the character.[34] Hillenburg's lips were imposed onto the painting and move along with the lyrics.[42] Kenny joked this is "about as close of a glimpse as most SpongeBob fans are ever going to get of Steve Hillenburg", because of his private nature.[34]

A cover of the song by Avril Lavigne can be found on the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie soundtrack.[118][119] Another cover by the Violent Femmes aired on Nickelodeon as a promotion when the series moved to prime time.[120]

Steve Belfer, one of Hillenburg's friends from CalArts, wrote and performed the music heard over the end credits.[39] This theme includes ukulele music at Hillenburg's request.[39] Drymon said, "It's so long ago, it's hard to be sure, but I remember Hillenburg having the Belfer music early on, maybe before the pilot".[39]

The series' music editor and main composer is Nicolas Carr.[116] After working with Hillenburg on Rocko's Modern Life, he struggled to find a new job in his field. He had considered a career change before Hillenburg offered him the job. The first season's score primarily featured selections from the Associated Production Music Library, which Carr has said includes "lots of great old corny Hawaiian music and big, full, dramatic orchestral scores."[116] Rocko's Modern Life also used music from this library. It was Hillenburg's decision to adopt this approach. Carr has described the selections for SpongeBob SquarePants as being "more over-the-top" than those for Rocko's Modern Life.[116]

Hillenburg felt it was important for the series to develop its own music library, consisting of scores that could be reused and re-edited throughout the years. He wanted these scores to be composed by unknowns, and a group of twelve was assembled. They formed "The Sponge Divers Orchestra", which includes Carr and Belfer. The group went on to provide most of the music for later seasons, although Carr still draws from the Associated Production Music Library, as well as another library that he founded himself—Animation Music Inc.[116]

Broadcast

Episodes

SeasonSegmentsEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
14120May 1, 1999 (1999-05-01)March 3, 2001 (2001-03-03)
23920October 26, 2000 (2000-10-26)July 26, 2003 (2003-07-26)
33720October 5, 2001 (2001-10-05)October 11, 2004 (2004-10-11)
43820May 6, 2005 (2005-05-06)July 24, 2007 (2007-07-24)
54120February 19, 2007 (2007-02-19)July 19, 2009 (2009-07-19)
64726March 3, 2008 (2008-03-03)July 5, 2010 (2010-07-05)
75026July 19, 2009 (2009-07-19)June 11, 2011 (2011-06-11)
84726March 26, 2011 (2011-03-26)December 6, 2012 (2012-12-06)
94926July 21, 2012 (2012-07-21)February 20, 2017 (2017-02-20)
102211October 15, 2016 (2016-10-15)December 2, 2017 (2017-12-02)
115026June 24, 2017 (2017-06-24)November 25, 2018 (2018-11-25)
12TBA26November 11, 2018 (2018-11-11)TBA

Tenth anniversary

Ten years. I never imagined working on the show to this date and this long...I really figured we might get a season and a cult following, and that might be it.

—Stephen Hillenburg[121]

Nickelodeon began celebrating the series' 10th anniversary on January 18, 2009, with a live cast reading of the episode "SpongeBob vs. The Big One". The reading—a first for the series—was held at that year's Sundance Film Festival.[122][123] The episode, which premiered on TV on April 17, 2009, features Johnny Depp as a guest star.[124] Other celebratory actions taken by the network included the launching of a new website for the series (spongebob.com) and the introduction of new merchandise. A "SpongeBob and water conservation-themed element" was also added to Nickelodeon's pro-social campaign The Big Green Help.[122] In an interview, Tom Kenny said, "What I'm most proud of is that kids still really like [SpongeBob SquarePants] and care about it ... They eagerly await new episodes. People who were young children when it started 10 years ago are still watching it and digging it and think it's funny. That's the loving cup for me."[125]

Three nights before the official anniversary date, an hour-long documentary on the series, Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants, premiered on VH1.[121][122][123][125][126] Critically acclaimed duo Patrick Creadon and Christine O'Malley created the film as a followup to I.O.U.S.A.—a documentary on America's financial situation. Creadon remarked, "After spending two years examining the financial health of the United States, Christine and I were ready to tackle something a little more upbeat. Telling the SpongeBob story feels like the perfect fit."[122] On Friday, July 17, Nickelodeon marked the official anniversary of the series, with a 50-hour television marathon titled "The Ultimate SpongeBob SpongeBash Weekend". It began with a new episode, "To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants". Saturday saw a countdown of the top ten episodes as picked by fans, as well as an airing of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. The marathon finished on Sunday, with a countdown of episodes picked by celebrities and the premiere of ten new episodes.[122][127][128]

Nickelodeon continued celebrating the anniversary through the rest of the year. An eight-episode DVD set featuring To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants was released shortly after the marathon on July 21.[129][130] Next a 2,200 minute, 14-disc DVD set titled The First 100 Episodes was released on September 22.[130][131][132] Finally, on November 6, an hour-long television film, titled Truth or Square, debuted on Nickelodeon. The film is narrated by Ricky Gervais and features live action cameo appearances by: Rosario Dawson, Craig Ferguson, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, LeBron James, P!nk, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and Robin Williams.[133][134][135] It was released as part of a five-episode DVD set on November 10, 2009.[136]

Twentieth anniversary

On February 11, 2019, Nickelodeon announced it would recognize the twentieth anniversary of SpongeBob SquarePants with a series of celebrations known as the "Best Year Ever".[137][138] In honor of the anniversary, Pantone created color shades known as "SpongeBob SquarePants Yellow" and "Patrick Star Pink" to be used by Nickelodeon's licensing partners.[139][140][141] Romero Britto, Jon Burgerman, and the Filipino art collective Secret Fresh were commissioned by Nickelodeon to create art pieces devoted to SpongeBob SquarePants. Some of these pieces were to be adapted into commercial products.[139][140] On February 12, in conjunction with Nickelodeon's announcement of the "Best Year Ever", Cynthia Rowley presented a SpongeBob SquarePants-themed wetsuit during New York Fashion Week.[142][143][144] A month later, Marlou Breuls presented the SpongeBob SquarePants-themed "Icon Collection" during Amsterdam Fashion Week.[145][146] That summer, Nike, in collaboration with Kyrie Irving, released a SpongeBob SquarePants series of shoes, accessories, and apparel.[147] In July, for the first time ever, SpongeBob SquarePants became the theme of a cosmetics line, which was released as a limited time offering by HipDot Studios.[142][148][149] The "Best Year Ever" also introduced an official SpongeBob SquarePants YouTube channel and a new mobile game based on the series, along with new toy lines.[141][142]

The "Best Year Ever" formally began on July 12, 2019, with the premiere of the one-hour, live-action/animated TV special SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout.[137][138][150] It continued that month at San Diego Comic Con, with two panels, a booth, and various activities devoted to the series.[141][151] The "Best Year Ever" was recognized on Amazon Prime Day with an exclusive early release of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Best 200 Episodes Ever!, a 30-disc DVD compilation of two box sets, SpongeBob SquarePants: The First 100 Episodes and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Next 100 Episodes. The collections received a standard nationwide release on August 27.[152] The "Best Year Ever" continued into 2020 culminating with the August 7 release of The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.[137][138][153]

Reception

Ratings and run-length achievements

Within its first month on air, SpongeBob SquarePants overtook Pokémon as the highest rated Saturday-morning children's series on television. It held an average national Nielsen rating of 4.9 among children aged two through eleven, denoting 1.9 million viewers.[154][155] Two years later, the series had firmly established itself as Nickelodeon's second highest-rated children's program, after Rugrats. SpongeBob SquarePants was credited with helping Nickelodeon take the "Saturday-morning ratings crown" for the fourth straight season in 2001.[156] The series had gained a significant adult audience by that point—nearly 40 percent of its 2.2 million viewers were aged 18 to 34.[157] In response to its weekend success, Nickelodeon gave SpongeBob SquarePants time slots at 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM, Monday through Thursday, to increase the series' exposure.[157][158] By the end of 2001 SpongeBob SquarePants boasted the highest ratings for any children's series, on all of television.[159][160][161] Weekly viewership of the series had reached around fifteen million, at least five million of whom were adults.[159]

In October 2002, another Nickelodeon series, The Fairly OddParents, ranked as the number two program for children between two and eleven years old.[162] Its ratings at that time were almost equal to SpongeBob SquarePants' then-average of 2.2 million viewers per episode.[162] The Fairly OddParents even briefly surpassed SpongeBob SquarePants, causing it to drop into second place. At this time, The Fairly OddParents had a 6.2 rating and nearly 2.5 million child viewers, while SpongeBob SquarePants had a 6.0 rating and 2.4 million child viewers aged two to eleven.[163] Nickelodeon "recognized" The Fairly OddParents for its climbing ratings and installed it in a new 8:00 PM time slot, previously occupied by SpongeBob SquarePants.[162] In an interview, Cyma Zarghami, then-general manager and executive vice president of Nickelodeon, said, "Are we banking on the fact that Fairly OddParents will be the next SpongeBob? ... We are hoping. But SpongeBob is so unique, it's hard to say if it will ever be repeated."[162]

In 2012, however, the series' ratings were declining.[164][165] The average number of viewers aged two to eleven watching SpongeBob at any given time dropped 29% in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to Nielsen. Wall Street Journal business writer John Jannarone suggested the series' age and oversaturation might be contributing to its ratings' decline and might also be directly responsible for the decline in Nickelodeon's overall ratings.[166] Media analyst Todd Juenger attributed the decline in Nickelodeon's ratings directly to the availability of streaming video content on services like Netflix, a provider of on-demand Internet streaming media.[167]

Philippe Dauman, the president and CEO of Viacom, contradicted that notion, saying: "We are getting nice revenues through these subscription VOD deals", adding Netflix only has "some library content" on its service.[168][169] A Nickelodeon spokesman said SpongeBob is performing consistently well and remains the number one rated animated series in all of children's television.[166] He added, "There is nothing that we have seen that points to SpongeBob as a problem."[166] Dauman blamed the drop on "some ratings systemic issues" at Nielsen, citing extensive set-top-box data that "does in no way reflect" the Nielsen data.[170]

Juenger noted SpongeBob could affect the ratings of other Nickelodeon programming because children often change channels to find their favorite programs, then stay tuned to that network.[166] Nickelodeon reduced its[clarification needed] exposure on television. In the first quarter of 2012, the network cut back on the number of episodes it aired by 16% compared to a year earlier.[166]

On April 22, 2013, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced their intentions not to renew their existing deal with Viacom.[171] Viacom's deal with Netflix expired, and shows such as SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer were removed.[172] However, seasons five through eight of SpongeBob are still available to stream on Netflix in Canada.[173] On June 4, 2013, Viacom announced a multi-year licensing agreement which would move its programs, such as SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer, to Amazon.com, Netflix's top competitor.[174][175] Amazon agreed to pay more than $200 million to Viacom for the license, its largest subscription streaming transaction ever.[176][177]

SpongeBob SquarePants is one of the longest-running series on Nickelodeon.[178] It became the network's series with the most episodes during its eighth season, surpassing the 172 episodes of Rugrats.[179] In the ninth season, its 26 episodes brought the number of episodes produced to 204.[180][181][182] In a statement, Brown Johnson, Nickelodeon's animation president said, "SpongeBob's success in reaching over 200 episodes is a testament to creator Stephen Hillenburg's vision, comedic sensibility and his dynamic, lovable characters. The series now joins the club of contemporary classic Nicktoons that have hit this benchmark, so we're incredibly proud."[183][184]

Critical reception

SpongeBob SquarePants has received universal critical acclaim, being praised for its appeal to different age groups, and the show has earned numerous awards and accolades throughout its run. James Poniewozik of Time magazine described the title character as "the anti-Bart Simpson, temperamentally and physically: his head is as squared-off and neat as Bart's is unruly, and he has a personality to match—conscientious, optimistic and blind to the faults in the world and those around him."[185] According to Laura Fries of Variety magazine, the series is "a thoughtful and inventive cartoon about a hopelessly optimistic and resilient sea sponge ... Devoid of the double entendres rife in today's animated TV shows, this is purely kid's stuff. ... However, that's not to say that SpongeBob is simplistic or even juvenile. It's charming and whimsical, but clever enough to appeal to teens and college-aged kids, as well."[186] The New York Times' critic Joyce Millman said SpongeBob "is clever without being impenetrable to young viewers and goofy without boring grown-ups to tears. It's the most charming toon on television, and one of the weirdest. And it's also good, clean fun, which makes sense because it is, after all, about a sponge." Millman wrote, "His relentless good cheer would be irritating if he weren't so darned lovable and his world so excellently strange. ... Like Pee-wee's Playhouse, SpongeBob joyfully dances on the fine line between childhood and adulthood, guilelessness and camp, the warped and the sweet."[187]

Robert Thompson, a professor of communications and director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, told The New York Times

There is something kind of unique about [SpongeBob]. It seems to be a refreshing breath from the pre-irony era. There's no sense of the elbow-in-rib, tongue-in-cheek aesthetic that so permeates the rest of American culture—including kids' shows like the Rugrats. I think what's subversive about it is it's so incredibly naive—deliberately. Because there's nothing in it that's trying to be hip or cool or anything else, hipness can be grafted onto it.[188]

In another interview with Los Angeles Times, he commentated on the show's adult audience: "[On one hand] It's a kind of time machine that transports parents back to when they watched TV in their footie [pajamas]. On the other hand, it's very hip in the way it's presented. It is very edgy to adults who know how to read and listen between the frames."[189] Television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz ranked SpongeBob SquarePants as the 22nd greatest American TV series of all time in their 2016 book TV (The Book).[190] In a 2007 interview, Barack Obama said SpongeBob is his favorite TV character and admitted that SpongeBob SquarePants is "the show I watch with my daughters."[191][192][193]

Awards and accolades

SpongeBob SquarePants has received many awards and nominations; among these are four Emmy Awards (Outstanding Special Class Animated Program in 2010;[194] Outstanding Sound Editing – Animation" in 2014;[195] Outstanding Children's Animated Series in 2018; and Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program in 2018 for Kenny);[196] six Annie Awards;[197][198][199][200][201] and two BAFTA Children's Awards.[202][203] Television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz included the series in their 2016 book TV as the 22nd greatest American television series of all time, saying that "SpongeBob SquarePants is an absurdist masterpiece that Salvador Dalí and Groucho Marx would have watched together in their smoking jackets".[204][205] In 2006, IGN ranked SpongeBob SquarePants 15th on its list, Top 25 Animated Series of All Time,[206] and in 2013, it ranked the series 12th on its list, The Top 25 Animated Series for Adults.[207] In addition, the website's UK division ran a Top 100 Animated Series list, and like its US counterpart, ranked SpongeBob SquarePants 15th.[208]

TV Guide listed SpongeBob SquarePants himself at number nine on its list 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time in 2002.[209] In June 2010, Entertainment Weekly named SpongeBob one of the 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years.[210] Viewers of UK television network Channel 4 voted SpongeBob SquarePants the 28th Greatest Cartoon in a 2004 poll.[211][212] The series is among the All-TIME 100 TV Shows as chosen by Time television critic James Poniewozik in 2007. He said, "It's the most funny, surreal, inventive example of the explosion in creative kids' (and adult) entertainment that Nick, Cartoon Network and their ilk made possible."[213] In 2013, the publication ranked SpongeBob SquarePants the eighth Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time.[214]

Legacy

SpongeBob hot air balloon
SpongeBob balloon at the Hot air balloon festival in León, Guanajuato, Mexico in November 2010
SpongeBob SquarePants wax statue
SpongeBob SquarePants wax statue, in National Wax Museum Plus, in Dublin, Ireland

In July 2009, Madame Tussauds wax museum in New York launched a wax sculpture of SpongeBob in celebration of the series' 10th anniversary. SpongeBob became the first animated character sculpted entirely out of wax.[215][216][217][218] In May 2011, a new species of mushroom, Spongiforma squarepantsii, was described and named after the series' title character.[219]

The character has also become a trend in Egypt at Cairo's Tahrir Square.[220] After the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, SpongeBob became a fashion phenomenon, appearing on various merchandise items from hijabs to boxer shorts.[221][222] The phenomenon led to the creation of the Tumblr project called "SpongeBob on the Nile". The project was founded by American students Andrew Leber and Elisabeth Jaquette and attempts to document every appearance of SpongeBob in Egypt.[223] Sherief Elkeshta cited the phenomenon in an essay about the incoherent state of politics in Egypt in an independent monthly paper titled Midan Masr. He wrote, "Why isn't he [SpongeBob] at least holding a Molotov cocktail? Or raising a fist?"[224] The phenomenon has even spread to Libya, where a Libyan rebel in SpongeBob dress was photographed celebrating the revolution.[225] Although The Guardian and Vice have asserted that the trend has little to no political significance,[220][221] "joke" presidential campaigns have been undertaken for SpongeBob in Egypt and Syria.[221][223]

A clip was posted to YouTube in February 2013 that features soldiers in the Russian army and navy singing the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song as they march.[226][227] According to the website that uploaded the video, this is one of the "most popular marching songs" in the Russian military.[226] The video garnered nearly 50,000 views within its first week.[227]

Following Hillenburg's death in November 2018, more than 1.2 million fans signed a petition for the National Football League to have the song "Sweet Victory" from the season 2 episode "Band Geeks" performed in his honor at the Super Bowl LIII halftime show. Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium's Twitter account, the venue of the show, tweeted a GIF of SpongeBob dancing in "Band Geeks" in December. Maroon 5 who were performing at the game, included a brief clip of SpongeBob in a preview video, leading fans to believe the song would be performed. While the song's opening was ultimately included, it served as a transition into artist Travis Scott's set, which left many fans disappointed.[228][229] In response to fans' disappointment at not hearing the complete "Sweet Victory" song during the halftime show at the Super Bowl LIII, the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League showed a clip of the full "Sweet Victory" song during a game at the American Airlines Center. In the clip, the characters' band uniforms are recolored green after the Stars.[230][231]

Criticism

Controversies

In 2005, an online video that showed clips from SpongeBob SquarePants and other children's shows set to the Sister Sledge song "We Are Family" to promote diversity and tolerance was attacked by an evangelical group in the United States. They saw SpongeBob being used to "advocate homosexuality".[232][233] James Dobson of Focus on the Family accused the video of promoting homosexuality because it was sponsored by a pro-tolerance group.[233] The incident prompted the question whether SpongeBob is gay. Although the character has enjoyed popularity with gay viewers, series creator Stephen Hillenburg had already denied SpongeBob is gay three years earlier, clarifying at the time he considered the character to be "somewhat asexual".[234] After Dobson's comments, Hillenburg reasserted his position, stating that sexual preference does not play a part in what they are "trying to do" with the series.[235][236] Tom Kenny and other production members were distraught that the issue had arisen.[42]

Dobson later said his comments were taken out of context and his original complaints were not with SpongeBob, the video, or any of the characters in the video, but rather with the organization that sponsored the video, the We Are Family Foundation. Dobson said they posted pro-gay material on their website, but later removed it.[237] After the controversy, John H. Thomas, the United Church of Christ's general minister and president, said they would welcome SpongeBob into their ministry. He said: "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."[238]

Queer theorist Jeffery P. Dennis, author of the journal article "Queertoons", argued that SpongeBob and Sandy are not romantically in love, but added he believed SpongeBob and Patrick "are paired with arguably erotic intensity".[239] Martin Goodman of Animation World Magazine called Dennis' comments regarding SpongeBob and Patrick "interesting".[240][c] Ukrainian website Family Under the Protection of the Holy Virgin, which has been described as a "fringe Catholic" group by The Wall Street Journal, criticized SpongeBob SquarePants for its alleged "promotion of homosexuality".[242] The group sought to have the series banned, along with several other popular children's properties. The National Expert Commission of Ukraine on the Protection of Public Morality took up the matter for review in August 2012.[242]

Questions of SpongeBob's sexuality resurfaced in 2020 after Nickelodeon's official Twitter account posted an image of the character, in rainbow colors with text celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and its allies during Pride Month. Although the post did not make any assertions about SpongeBob's sexual orientation, numerous users responded on social media, claiming they already had their suspicions that he might be gay or reasserting Hillenburg's description of asexuality.[243]

In April 2009, Burger King released a SpongeBob-themed advertisement featuring a parody of Sir Mix-a-Lot's song "Baby Got Back". The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood protested the ad for being sexist and inappropriately sexual, especially considering SpongeBob's fan base includes young children.[244][245][246][247][248] In official statements released by Burger King and Nickelodeon, both companies claimed the campaign was aimed at parents.[247][248]

"The children who watched the cartoon were operating at half the capacity compared to other children."

—Angeline S. Lillard, University of Virginia[249]

A 2011 study conducted at the University of Virginia, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggested that allowing preschool-aged audiences to watch the series caused short-term disruptions in mental function and attention span because of frequent shot changes, compared to control groups watching Caillou and drawing pictures.[250][251] A Nickelodeon executive responded in an interview the series was not intended for an audience of that age and that the study used "questionable methodology and could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust".[252][253] In 2014, the education minister of Kazakhstan, Zabira Orazalieva, deemed the show too violent for children, labeling the titular character a "self-absorbed hooligan"[254] who "regularly inflicts violence on others in his community and seems to enjoy what he does".[255][256]

Several of the series' episodes have also been the subject of controversy. In a report titled "Wolves in Sheep's Clothing", which documents the increase in potentially violent, profane, and sexual content in children's programming, the Parents Television Council, a watchdog media group, claimed the season 2 SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Sailor Mouth" was an implicit attempt to promote and satirize use of profanity among children.[257] "SpongeBob's Last Stand" and "Selling Out" have been criticized for promoting environmentalism and left-wing politics because of their negative portrayal of big business.[258] "SpongeBob, You're Fired", a 2013 season 9 episode, caused widespread controversy and sparked a political debate over its portrayal of unemployment;[258] after Fox News and the New York Post commented on the episode, Media Matters for America accused the two organizations of using the episode to "attack the social safety net".[259] This statement was echoed by Al Sharpton, who claimed conservatives' "new hero" to be "a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea".[260]

Declining quality

Various media outlets including MSN, The A.V. Club, and Vulture have reported that SpongeBob's popularity declined following the release of the 2004 film and Hillenburg's departure as showrunner.[261][262][263] In 2012, MSN cited a post on the Encyclopedia SpongeBobia Wikia, which said that many fans felt the series had "jumped the shark" following the release of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and that online fansites were becoming "deserted".[261]

In 2018, Vulture noted the most popular online memes of the series usually focused on episodes from the first three seasons.[263] That same year, The A.V. Club wrote that as the series went on, "[it] leaned hard into kid-friendly physical humor and gross out moments that appealed to no one in particular".[262] Episodes produced since the first film have been variously categorized by DVD Talk and DVD Verdict as "tedious",[264] "boring" and "dreck",[265] a "depressing plateau of mediocrity",[266] and "laugh-skimpy".[267]

Other media

Spin-offs

Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years

On February 14, 2019, it was announced that a SpongeBob SquarePants spin-off is in development.[138] On June 4, it was announced it spinoff will be titled Kamp Koral. The plot will focus on a 10-year-old SpongeBob and his friends at the titular camp located in the Kelp Forest, where they spend the summer catching jellyfish, building campfires, and swimming in Lake Yuckymuck.[268][269][268] It serves as a tie-in to the animated film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.[268]

It was confirmed production of the series began in June 2019.[138][269]

Nickelodeon animation head Ramsey Naito said of the series, "SpongeBob has an incredible universe to expand upon and the greenlight for Kamp Koral is a testament to the strength and longevity of these characters known and loved by generations of fans around the world." Like SpongeBob SquarePants, the series will be executive produced by Vincent Waller and Marc Ceccarelli. Kamp Koral will be produced using computer animation rather than the digital ink and paint animation used for SpongeBob SquarePants.[268]

On February 19, 2020, it was announced that the series had an official title of Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years, and would be premiering in July 2020.[270]

On July 30, 2020, it was announced that the series would be released on CBS All Access, the ViacomCBS streaming service, in early 2021.[271][272]

Untitled Netflix spin-off series and films

In November 2019, a "music-based" Squidward television series was reported to be in development for Netflix.[273] In early March 2020, ViacomCBS announced that it will be producing two spin-off films based on the series for the streaming service.[274]

Streaming

Orignally, the series was streaming on Netflix. However, the series was removed in 2013 due to their deal with Viacom not being renewed.[275] The series was also available to stream on Hulu starting in 2012 until the series was removed in 2016.[276] The series later streamed on Prime Video in 2013 after the Netflix deal ended.[277] As part of CBS All Access's rebranding plan, the series joined along with other ViacomCBS shows on July 30, 2020.[271][272]

Currently, the first 5 seasons are available to be streamed on Prime Video, the first 8 seasons through NickHits (via Prime Video, Apple TV Channels, and The Roku Channel), and the first 11 seasons through CBS All Access.[278]

The series is available to stream on Netflix in Canada.[279]

Home video

SpongeBob SquarePants DVD releases
Season DVD release date
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
1 October 28, 2003[280] November 7, 2005[281] November 30, 2006[282]
2 October 19, 2004[283] October 23, 2006[284] November 30, 2006[285]
3 September 27, 2005[286] December 3, 2007[287] November 8, 2007[288]
4 September 12, 2006[289] November 3, 2008[290] November 7, 2008[291]
January 9, 2007[292]
5 September 4, 2007[293] November 16, 2009[294] December 3, 2009[295]
November 18, 2008[296]
6 December 8, 2009[297] November 29, 2010[298] December 2, 2010[299]
December 7, 2010[300]
7 December 6, 2011[301] September 17, 2012[302] September 12, 2012[303][304]
8 March 12, 2013[305] October 28, 2013[306] October 30, 2013[307]
9 October 10, 2017[308] TBA September 2, 2020[309]
10 October 15, 2019[310] TBA September 2, 2020[311]
11 March 31, 2020[312][313] TBA September 2, 2020[314]
12 TBA TBA TBA

Comic books

The 32-page bimonthly comic book series, SpongeBob Comics, was announced in November 2010[315] and debuted the following February.[316] Before this, SpongeBob SquarePants comics had been published in Nickelodeon Magazine,[315][317][318] and episodes of the television series had been adapted by Cine-Manga,[315][319] but SpongeBob Comics was the first American comic book series devoted solely to SpongeBob SquarePants.[315][317][318] It also served as SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg's debut as a comic book author.[316][317][318] The series was published by Hillenburg's production company, United Plankton Pictures, and distributed by Bongo Comics Group.[315][317][318] Hillenburg described the stories from the comic books as "original and always true to the humor, characters, and universe of the SpongeBob SquarePants series." Leading up to the release of the series, Hillenburg said, "I'm hoping that fans will enjoy finally having a SpongeBob comic book from me."[317][318]

Chris Duffy, the former senior editor of Nickelodeon Magazine, serves as managing editor of SpongeBob Comics.[317][318] Hillenburg and Duffy met with various cartoonists—including James Kochalka, Hilary Barta, Graham Annable, Gregg Schigiel, and Jacob Chabot—to contribute to each issues.[317][318] Retired horror comics writer and artist Stephen R. Bissette returned to write a special Halloween issue in 2012, with Tony Millionaire and Al Jaffee.[320] In an interview with Tom Spurgeon, Bissette said, "I've even broken my retirement to do one work-for-hire gig [for SpongeBob Comics] so I could share everything about that kind of current job."[321]

In the United Kingdom, Titan Magazines published comics based on SpongeBob SquarePants every four weeks from February 3, 2005,[322] through November 28, 2013.[323] Titan Magazines also teamed up with Lego to release a limited edition SpongeBob-themed comic.[324]

Films

Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies produced The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, an animated film adaptation of the series released on November 19, 2004.[325] The film was directed by Hillenburg, and written by long-time series writers Derek Drymon, Tim Hill, Kent Osborne, Aaron Springer, Paul Tibbitt, and Hillenburg. He and Julia Pistor produced the film, while Gregor Narholz composed the film's score.[326][327][328] The film is about Plankton's evil plan to steal King Neptune's crown and send it to Shell City. SpongeBob and Patrick must retrieve it and save Mr. Krabs' life from Neptune's raft and their home, Bikini Bottom, from Plankton's plan. It features guest appearances by Jeffrey Tambor as King Neptune, Scarlett Johansson as the King's daughter Mindy, Alec Baldwin as Dennis, and David Hasselhoff as himself,[329] and received a positive critical reception,[330][331] It grossed over $140 million worldwide.[332]

Three television films were released: SpongeBob's Atlantis SquarePants in 2007, SpongeBob's Truth or Square in 2009, and SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout in 2019.

A sequel to the 2004 film, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, was released in theaters on February 6, 2015.[333] The series' main cast members reprised their roles.[334] The underwater parts are animated traditionally in the manner of the series—the live-action parts use CGI animation with the SpongeBob characters.[335][336] The film has a budget similar to the previous film and cost less than $100 million to produce.[337][338][339]

On April 30, 2015, Viacom announced a third film was in development.[340] In April 2018, Tim Hill was named as director, and the film's original title, It's a Wonderful Sponge, was revealed. Paramount originally scheduled a release date of July 17, 2020, later moving it earlier to May 22, 2020.[341] In October 2018, it was announced the movie will be an origin story of how SpongeBob came to Bikini Bottom and how he got his square pants. Around the same time, it was announced that Hans Zimmer will compose the music. The first poster along with a title change to Sponge on the Run was revealed on November 12, 2019,[342] with the first trailer releasing on November 14.[343] The film was later delayed to July 31, 2020 (and later August 7, 2020) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[344][153] The film's worldwide theatrical release was later cancelled in June 2020 and it was announced that it would release in Canadian theaters on August 14, 2020, followed by a release on PVOD before heading to CBS All Access in early 2021.[345][346]

Music

Collections of original music featured in the series have been released on the albums SpongeBob SquarePants: Original Theme Highlights (2001), SpongeBob's Greatest Hits (2009), and The Yellow Album (2005). The first two charted on the US Billboard 200, reaching number 171 and 122, respectively.[347][348] Several songs have been recorded for the purpose of a single or album release, and have not been featured on the show. For example, the song "My Tidy Whities" written by Tom Kenny and Andy Paley was released only on the album The Best Day Ever (2006). Kenny's inspiration for the song was "underwear humor",[349] saying: "Underwear humor is always a surefire laugh-getter with kids ... Just seeing a character that odd wearing really prosaic, normal, Kmart, three-to-a-pack underwear is a funny drawing ... We thought it was funny to make a really lush, beautiful love song to his underwear".[349] A soundtrack album The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie – Music from the Movie and More..., featuring the movie's score was released along with the feature-length film in November 2004. Various artists including the Flaming Lips,[350] Wilco,[351] Ween,[352] Motörhead,[353] the Shins,[354] and Avril Lavigne[355] contributed to the soundtrack that reached number 76 on the US Billboard 200.[356]

Theme park rides

Photograph of the entrance and lift hill of the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge ride at the Mall of America.
Entrance and lift hill of SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge ride at the Mall of America

The SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D film and ride opened at several locations including Six Flags Over Texas, Flamingo Land Resort, and the Shedd Aquarium.[357] The ride features water squirts, real bubbles, and other sensory enhancements. In 2012, Nickelodeon teamed up again with SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment and Super 78 to produce SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D: The Great Jelly Rescue.[358] The attraction opened in early 2013 at the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration.[359] It was also installed at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort Orlando in Orlando, Florida.[360][361][362] The seven-minute film follows SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy up to their old hijinks, while rescuing the jellyfish of Jellyfish Fields from Plankton's evil clutches.[359]

SpongeBob SquarePants appears at the Mall of America's Nickelodeon theme park re-branded from the Mall of America's Park at MOA, formerly Camp Snoopy, to Nickelodeon Universe in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb of Bloomington, Minnesota. The new theme park features a SpongeBob-themed Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter custom roller coaster. The SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge, which opened March 15, 2008, has replaced the Mystery Mine Ride and Olde Time Photo store at the west end of the theme park.[363][364]

On May 23, 2015, an interactive 3D show titled SpongeBob SubPants Adventure opened in Texas at Moody Gardens. According to Moody Gardens President and CEO John Zendt, "Visitors will be able to interact with the Nickelodeon characters on a digital stage as they have never been able to do before."[365]

Video games

Numerous video games based on the series have been produced. Some of the early games include: Legend of the Lost Spatula (2001)[366] and SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom (2003). In 2013, Nickelodeon published and distributed SpongeBob Moves In!, a freemium city-building game app developed by Kung Fu Factory for iOS and Android.[367][368][369][370] On June 5, 2019, THQ Nordic announced SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, a full remake of the console versions of the original 2003 game.[371][372][373] The game was released 1 year later on June 23, 2020[374][375] and includes cut content from the original game.[376]

SpongeBob SquareShorts

Nickelodeon launched the first global SpongeBob SquarePants-themed short film competition, SpongeBob SquareShorts: Original Fan Tributes, in 2013.[377][378] The contest encouraged fans and filmmakers around the world to create original short films inspired by SpongeBob for a chance to win a prize and a trip for four people to a screening event in Hollywood. The contest opened on May 6 and ran through June 28, 2013.[379][380] On July 19, 2013, Nickelodeon announced the competition's finalists,[381][382][383] and, on August 13, 2013, the under 18 years of age category was won by David of the United States for his The Krabby Commercial, while the Finally Home short by Nicole of South Africa won the 18 and over category.[384]

Theater

SpongeBob SquarePants was adapted as a stage musical in 2016 by director Tina Landau. SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical premiered in Chicago in 2016 and opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre on December 4, 2017.[385] The musical opened to critical acclaim,[386] and tied for most-nominated production at the 2018 72nd Tony Awards with twelve Tony nominations.[387]

Merchandise

Photograph of a SpongeBob SquarePants figure set on a beach
A set of SpongeBob SquarePants figures modeled after the main characters

The popularity of SpongeBob SquarePants inspired merchandise from T-shirts to posters.[71] It was reported that the franchise generated an estimated $8 billion in merchandising revenue for Nickelodeon.[388] It is also the most distributed property of ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks.[352] SpongeBob is viewed in 170 countries speaking 24 languages, and has become "a killer merchandising app".[389] The title character and his friends have been used as a theme for special editions of well-known family board games, including Monopoly,[390] Life,[391] and Operation,[392] as well as a SpongeBob SquarePants edition of Ants in the Pants,[393] and Yahtzee.[394]

In 2001, Nickelodeon signed a marketing deal with Target Corporation and Burger King, expanding its merchandising.[157] The popularity of SpongeBob has translated well into sales. In 2002, SpongeBob SquarePants dolls sold at a rate of 75,000 per week—faster than Tickle Me Elmo dolls were selling at the time.[395] SpongeBob has gained popularity in Japan, specifically with Japanese women. Nickelodeon's parent company Viacom purposefully targeted marketing at women there. Skeptics initially doubted that SpongeBob could be popular in Japan, as the character's design is very different from already popular designs for Hello Kitty and Pikachu.[396] Ratings and merchandise sales showed SpongeBob SquarePants has caught on with parents and with college audiences.[10] In a 2013 promotion, college-oriented website Music.com gave away 80,000 SpongeBob T-shirts, four times more than during a similar promotion for Comedy Central's South Park.[10]

Kids' meal tie-ins have been released in fast food restaurants in many parts of the world, including Burger King in Europe and North America, as well as Wendy's in North America, and Hungry Jack's in Australia. A McDonald's Happy Meal tie-in with SpongeBob-themed Happy Meal boxes and toys was released in Europe and other international markets in the summer of 2007.[397] In Australia, the advertisement for the McDonald's SpongeBob Happy Meal won the Pester Power Award because the ads enticed young children to want its food because of the free toy.[398] As a tie-in beverage for the DVD release of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, 7-Eleven released the limited edition Under-the-Sea Pineapple Slurpee in March 2004.[399] Pirate's Booty released limited edition SpongeBob SquarePants Pirate's Booty snacks in 2013.[400][401]

In 2007, high-end SpongeBob-themed electronics were introduced by Imation Electronics Products under the Npower brand, including MP3 players, digital cameras, a DVD player, and a flatscreen television.[402] Pictures of SpongeBob SquarePants began to appear on the labels of 8 ounce cans of Green Giant cut green beans and packages of frozen Green Giant green beans and butter sauce in 2007, which featured free stickers. This was part of an initiative to encourage kids to eat their vegetables.[403] The Simmons Jewelry Co. released a $75,000 diamond pendant as part of a SpongeBob collection.[217][404] In New Zealand, the UK-based Beechdean Group unveiled the SpongeBob SquarePants Vanilla Ice Cream character product as part of a license deal with Nickelodeon.[405] NZ Drinks launched the SpongeBob SquarePants bottled water.[406]

Build-A-Bear Workshop introduced the new SpongeBob SquarePants collection in stores and online in North America on May 17, 2013.[407][408][409] Shoppers can dress their SpongeBob and Patrick plush in a variety of clothing and accessories. Sandy Cheeks and Gary the Snail are also available as pre-stuffed minis.[410] Build-A-Bear Workshop stores nationwide celebrated the arrival of SpongeBob with a series of special events from May 17 through May 19.[411]

On July 13, 2013, Toyota, with Nickelodeon, unveiled a SpongeBob-inspired Toyota Highlander.[412] The 2014 Toyota Highlander was launched on SpongeBob Day at the San Diego Padres v. Giants game.[413][414][415] The SpongeBob Toyota Highlander visited seven U.S. locations during its release, including the Nickelodeon Suites Resort Orlando in Florida.[416]

In April 2019, Nickelodeon released a series of toys adapted from various SpongeBob Internet memes. These included "Handsome Squidward", "Imaginaaation SpongeBob", "Mocking SpongeBob", "SpongeGar", and "Surprised Patrick". Shortly after the release of the line, most of the toys sold out on Amazon.com.[417][418]

Footnotes

  1. ^ Episode 175, "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!", was first broadcast on CBS.[3]
  2. ^ In 2015, Tom Kenny confirmed the fictitious city is named after Bikini Atoll. He denied an Internet fan theory, however, that connected the series' characters to nuclear testing that occurred on the atoll.[12]
  3. ^ Jeffery's comments were also published by the Journal of Popular Film & Television in an article called "The Same Thing We Do Every Night: Signifying Same-Sex Desire in Television Cartoons".[241] This is the article that is referred to by Goodman.

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Bibliography

External links

28 March 1999

Kosovo War: Serb paramilitary and military forces kill 146 Kosovo Albanians in Izbica.

Kosovo War
Part of the Yugoslav Wars[2]
Kosovo War header.jpg
Clockwise from top-left: Yugoslav general staff headquarters damaged by NATO air strikes; a Zastava Koral buried under rubble caused by NATO air strikes; memorial to local KLA commanders; a USAF F-15E taking off from Aviano Air Base
DateFebruary 1998 – 11 June 1999
Location
Kosovo (then part of FR Yugoslavia) and Albania (Albanian & OSCE Claim)[3][4][5][6]
Result

Kumanovo Treaty

Territorial
changes
No legal changes to Yugoslav borders according to Resolution 1244, but effective political and economic separation of Kosovo from FR Yugoslavia due to being placed under UN administration and subsequent declaration of independence
Belligerents

UCK KLA.svg KLA

Republic of Kosova
(Unrecognised state)


 FR Yugoslavia
Commanders and leaders

UCK KLA.svg Adem Jashari 
UCK KLA.svg Hashim Thaçi
UCK KLA.svg Sylejman Selimi
UCK KLA.svg Ramush Haradinaj
UCK KLA.svg Agim Çeku


NATO Wesley Clark


Albania Kudusi Lama [13]

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milošević
Dragoljub Ojdanić

Vlastimir Đorđević[14] Sreten Lukić
Strength

UCK KLA.svg 17,000–20,000 KLA insurgents[15]


NATO cca. 80 aircraft
(Operation Eagle Eye)[16]
NATO 1,031 aircraft
(Operation Allied Force)[17]
NATO 30+ warships and submarines[18]

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 85,000 soldiers[19] (including 40,000 in and around Kosovo)[18]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 20,000 policemen
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 100 SAM sites[18]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1,400 artillery pieces
(Both ground & air defence)[18]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 240 aircraft [18]
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 2,032 armoured vehicles & tanks[18]
Serbian paramilitary units (Šakali, Škorpioni), unknown number

Russia Russian volunteers, unknown number[20][21]
Casualties and losses

UCK KLA.svg 1,500 insurgents killed (per the KLA)[22]
UCK KLA.svg 2,131 insurgents killed (per the HLC)[23]


United States 2 killed (non-combat) and 3 captured[24][25]
United States 2 aircraft shot down and 3 damaged
[26][27][28][29]
United States Two AH-64 Apaches and an AV-8B Harrier crashed (non-combat)[30]
NATO 47 UAVs shot down[31]

France Possible unknown number of DGSE officers killed[32]

Caused by KLA:
300+ soldiers killed (per the Yugoslav military)[33]
Caused by NATO:
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1,008–1,200 killed[b]
14 tanks,[38] 18 APCs, 20 artillery pieces[39] and 121 aircraft and helicopters destroyed[40]

Caused by KLA and NATO:
1,084 killed (per the HLC)[23]

Albania 8,692 Kosovar Albanian civilians killed or missing[41]
Albania 90% of Kosovar Albanians displaced during the war[42] (848,000–863,000 expelled from Kosovo,[43][44][45] 590,000 Kosovar Albanians displaced within Kosovo)[42]
1,641[23]–2,500[46] Serb and other non-Albanian civilians killed or missing (445 Roma and others)[23]
230,000 Kosovo Serbs, Romani and other non-Albanian civilians displaced[47]
/Albania Civilian deaths caused by NATO bombing: 489–528 (per Human Rights Watch)[48] or 454–2,500 (per the HLC and Tanjug);[49][46] also includes China 3 Chinese journalists killed

13,548 civilians and fighters dead overall (Albanians, Serbs, Bosniaks, Roma)[41]

The Kosovo War was an armed conflict in Kosovo that started in late February 1998[50][51] and lasted until 11 June 1999.[52] It was fought by the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (i.e. Serbia and Montenegro), which controlled Kosovo before the war, and the Kosovo Albanian rebel group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), with air support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) from 24 March 1999.[53]

The KLA, formed in the early 1990s to fight against Serbian persecution of Kosovo Albanians,[54] initiated its first campaign in 1995 when it launched attacks against Serbian law enforcement in Kosovo. In June 1996 the group claimed responsibility for acts of sabotage targeting Kosovo police stations, during the Kosovo Insurgency.[55][56] In 1997, the organisation acquired a large amount of arms through weapons smuggling from Albania, following a rebellion in which weapons were looted from the country's police and army posts. In early 1998, KLA attacks targeting Yugoslav authorities in Kosovo resulted in an increased presence of Serb paramilitaries and regular forces who subsequently began pursuing a campaign of retribution targeting KLA sympathisers and political opponents;[57] this campaign killed 1,500 to 2,000 civilians and KLA combatants.[58][59]

After attempts at a diplomatic solution failed, NATO intervened, justifying the campaign in Kosovo as a "humanitarian war".[60] This precipitated a mass expulsion of Kosovar Albanians as the Yugoslav forces continued to fight during the aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia (March–June 1999).[61][62] By 2000, investigations had recovered the remains of almost three thousand victims of all ethnicities,[63] and in 2001 a United Nations administered Supreme Court, based in Kosovo, found that there had been "a systematic campaign of terror, including murders, rapes, arsons and severe maltreatments", but that Yugoslav troops had tried to remove rather than eradicate the Albanian population.[64]

The war ended with the Kumanovo Treaty, with Yugoslav and Serb forces[65] agreeing to withdraw from Kosovo to make way for an international presence.[66][67] The Kosovo Liberation Army disbanded soon after this, with some of its members going on to fight for the UÇPMB in the Preševo Valley[68] and others joining the National Liberation Army (NLA) and Albanian National Army (ANA) during the armed ethnic conflict in Macedonia,[69] while others went on to form the Kosovo Police.[70] After the war, a list was compiled which documented that over 13,500 people were killed or went missing during the two year conflict.[71] The Yugoslav and Serb forces caused the displacement of between 1.2 million[72] to 1.45 million Kosovo Albanians.[73] After the war, around 200,000 Serbs, Romani, and other non-Albanians fled Kosovo and many of the remaining civilians were victims of abuse.[74] Serbia became home to the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons in Europe.[75][76]

The NATO bombing campaign has remained controversial, as it did not gain the approval of the UN Security Council and because it caused at least 488 Yugoslav civilian deaths,[77] including substantial numbers of Kosovar refugees.[78][79][80]

Background

Kosovo in Tito's Yugoslavia (1945–1980)

The modern Albanian-Serbian conflict has its roots in the expulsion of the Albanians 1877–1878 from areas that became incorporated into the Principality of Serbia.[81][82] Tensions between the Serbian and Albanian communities in Kosovo simmered throughout the 20th century and occasionally erupted into major violence, particularly during the First Balkan War (1912–13), World War I (1914–18), and World War II (1939–45). After 1945 the socialist government under Josip Broz Tito systematically repressed all manifestations of nationalism throughout Yugoslavia, seeking to ensure that no republic or nationality gained dominance over the others. In particular, Tito diluted the power of Serbia—the largest and most populous republic—by establishing autonomous governments in the Serbian province of Vojvodina in the north and Kosovo and Metohija in the south. Kosovo's borders did not precisely match the areas of ethnic Albanian settlement in Yugoslavia (significant numbers of Albanians remained in the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). Kosovo's formal autonomy, established under the 1945 Yugoslav constitution, initially meant relatively little in practice. The secret police (the UDBA) cracked down hard on nationalists. In 1956 a number of Albanians went on trial in Kosovo on charges of espionage and subversion. The threat of separatism was in fact minimal, as the few underground groups aiming for union with Albania had little political significance. Their long-term impact became substantial, though, as some—particularly the Revolutionary Movement for Albanian Unity, founded[when?] by Adem Demaçi—would eventually form the political core of the Kosovo Liberation Army (founded in 1990). Demaci himself was imprisoned in 1964 along with many of his followers. Yugoslavia underwent a period of economic and political crisis in 1969, as a massive government program of economic reform widened the gap between the rich north and poor south of the country.

Student demonstrations and riots in Belgrade in June 1968 spread to Kosovo in November, but Yugoslav security forces quelled them. Tito conceded some of the students' demands—in particular, representative powers for Albanians in both the Serbian and Yugoslav state bodies and better recognition of the Albanian language. The University of Pristina was established as an independent institution in 1970, ending a long period when the institution had been run as an outpost of Belgrade University. The lack of Albanian-language educational materials in Yugoslavia hampered Albanian education in Kosovo, so an agreement was struck with Albania itself to supply textbooks.

In 1969 the Serbian Orthodox Church ordered its clergy to compile data on the ongoing problems of Serbs in Kosovo, seeking to pressure the government in Belgrade to do more to protect the interests of Serbs there.[83]

In 1974 Kosovo's political status improved further when a new Yugoslav constitution granted an expanded set of political rights. Along with Vojvodina, Kosovo was declared a province and gained many of the powers of a fully-fledged republic: a seat on the federal presidency and its own assembly, police force and national bank.[84][85][86]

After the death of Tito (1980–86)

Provincial power was still exercised by the Communist Party, but now devolved mainly to ethnic Albanian communists. Tito's death on 4 May 1980 ushered in a long period of political instability, worsened by growing economic crisis and nationalist unrest. The first major outbreak occurred in Kosovo's main city, Pristina, when a protest of University of Pristina students over long queues in their university canteen rapidly escalated and in late March and early April 1981 spread throughout Kosovo, causing mass demonstrations in several towns. The disturbances were quelled by the Presidency of Yugoslavia proclaiming a state of emergency, sending in riot police and the army, which resulted in numerous casualties.

Communist hard-liners instituted a fierce crackdown on nationalism of all kinds. Kosovo endured a heavy secret-police presence throughout most of the 1980s that ruthlessly suppressed any unauthorised nationalist manifestations, both Albanian and Serbian. According to a report quoted by Mark Thompson, as many as 580,000 inhabitants of Kosovo were arrested, interrogated, interned or reprimanded. Thousands of these lost their jobs or were expelled from their educational establishments. During this time tension between the Albanian and Serbian communities continued to escalate.

In February 1982 a group of priests from Serbia proper petitioned their bishops to ask "why the Serbian Church is silent" and why it did not campaign against "the destruction, arson and sacrilege of the holy shrines of Kosovo". Such concerns did attract interest in Belgrade. Stories appeared from time to time in the Belgrade media claiming that Serbs and Montenegrins were being persecuted. There was a perception among Serbian nationalists that Serbs were being driven out of Kosovo.

In addition to all this, the worsening state of Kosovo's economy made the province a poor choice for Serbs seeking work. Albanians, as well as Serbs, tended to favor their compatriots when hiring new employees, but the number of jobs was too few for the population. Kosovo was the poorest entity of Yugoslavia: the average per capita income was $795, compared with the national average of $2,635.

In 1981 it was reported that some 4,000 Serbs moved from Kosovo to central Serbia after the Kosovo Albanian riots in March that resulted in several Serb deaths and the desecration of Serbian Orthodox architecture and graveyards.[87] Serbia reacted with a plan to reduce the power of Albanians in the province and a propaganda campaign that claimed Serbs were being pushed out of the province primarily by the growing Albanian population, rather than the bad state of the economy.[88] 33 nationalist formations were dismantled by Yugoslav police, who sentenced some 280 people (800 fined, 100 under investigation) and seized arms caches and propaganda material.[89]

Kosovo and the rise of Slobodan Milošević (1986–90)

In 1987 David Binder wrote in The New York Times about the growing ethnic tension in Yugoslavia and rising nationalism among Albanians in Kosovo and referred to the Paraćin massacre, where an ethnic Albanian soldier in the JNA killed four fellow soldiers.[90] Binder also—writing of Slobodan Milošević's deposing of Dragiša Pavlović as head of Belgrade's party organisation shortly before—wrote that "Mr. Milosevic accused Mr. Pavlovic of being an appeaser who was soft on Albanian radicals", and that "Mr. Milosevic and his supporters appear to be staking their careers on a strategy of confrontation with the Kosovo ethnic Albanians".[90] The article quotes the Federal Secretary for National Defence, Fleet Adm. Branko Mamula, who claimed that "from 1981 to 1987, 216 illegal Albanian organisations with 1,435 members were discovered in the JNA". Mamula had also said that ethnic Albanian subversives had been preparing for "killing officers and soldiers, poisoning food and water, sabotage, breaking into weapons arsenals and stealing arms and ammunition, desertion and causing flagrant nationalist incidents in army units".[90]

In Kosovo an increasingly poisonous atmosphere between Serbs and Albanians led to wild rumors being spread and otherwise trivial incidents being blown out of proportion. It was against this tense background that the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) conducted a survey of Serbs who had left Kosovo in 1985 and 1986, which concluded that a considerable number had left under pressure from Albanians.[91]

The so-called SANU Memorandum, leaked in September 1986, was a draft document that focused on the political difficulties facing Serbs in Yugoslavia, pointing to Tito's deliberate hobbling of Serbia's power and the difficulties faced by Serbs outside Serbia proper. It paid special attention to Kosovo, arguing that the Kosovo Serbs were being subjected to "physical, political, legal and cultural genocide" in an "open and total war" that had been ongoing since the spring of 1981. It claimed that Kosovo's status in 1986 was a worse historical defeat for the Serbs than any event since liberation from the Ottomans in 1804, thus ranking it above such catastrophes as the World war occupations. The Memorandum's authors claimed that 200,000 Serbs had moved out of the province over the previous 20 years and warned that there would soon be none left "unless things change radically." The remedy, according to the Memorandum, was for "genuine security and unambiguous equality for all peoples living in Kosovo and Metohija [to be] established" and "objective and permanent conditions for the return of the expelled [Serbian] nation [to be] created." It concluded that "Serbia must not be passive and wait and see what the others will say, as it has done so often in the past." The SANU Memorandum provoked split reactions: Albanians saw it as a call for Serbian supremacy at the local level, claiming the Serb emigrants had left Kosovo for economic reasons, while the Slovenes and Croats saw a threat in the call for a more assertive Serbia. Serbs were divided: many welcomed it, while the Communist old guard strongly attacked its message. One of those who denounced it was Serbian Communist Party official Slobodan Milošević.

In November 1988 Kosovo's head of the provincial committee was arrested. In March 1989 Milošević announced an "anti-bureaucratic revolution" in Kosovo and Vojvodina, curtailing their autonomy as well as imposing a curfew and a state of emergency in Kosovo due to violent demonstrations, resulting in 24 deaths (including two policemen). Milošević and his government claimed that the constitutional changes were necessary to protect Kosovo's remaining Serbs against harassment from the Albanian majority.

Constitutional amendments (1989–94)

Events

On 17 November 1988 Kaqusha Jashari and Azem Vllasi were forced to resign from the leadership of the League of Communists of Kosovo (LCK).[92][93][94] In early 1989 the Serbian Assembly proposed amendments to the Constitution of Serbia that would remove the word "Socialist" from the Serbian Republic's title, establish multi-party elections, remove the independence of institutions of the autonomous provinces such as Kosovo and rename Kosovo as the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija.[95][96] In February Kosovar Albanians demonstrated in large numbers against the proposal, emboldened by striking miners.[94][97] Serbs in Belgrade protested against the Kosovo Albanian's separatism.[98] On 3 March 1989 the Presidency of Yugoslavia imposed special measures assigning responsibility for public security to the federal government.[97] On 23 March the Assembly of Kosovo voted to accept the proposed amendments although most Albanian delegates abstained.[97] In early 1990 Kosovar Albanians held mass demonstrations against the special measures, which were lifted on 18 April 1990 and responsibility for public security was again assigned to Serbia.[97][99]

On 8 May 1989 Milošević became President of the Presidency of Serbia, which was confirmed on 6 December.[97] On 22 January 1990 the 14th congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) abolished the party's position as the only legal political party in Yugoslavia.[100] In January 1990 the Yugoslav government announced it would press ahead with the creation of a multi-party system.[100]

On 26 June 1990 Serbian authorities closed the Kosovo Assembly, citing special circumstances.[99] On 1 or 2 July 1990 Serbia approved the new amendments to the Constitution of Serbia in a referendum.[99][101] Also on 2 July, 114 ethnic Albanian delegates of the 180-member Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo an independent republic within Yugoslavia.[99][97] On 5 July the Serbian Assembly dissolved the Kosovo Assembly.[99][97] Serbia also dissolved the provincial executive council and assumed full and direct control of the province.[102] Serbia took over management of Kosovo's principal Albanian-language media, halting Albanian-language broadcasts.[102] On 4 September 1990 Kosovar Albanians observed a 24-hour general strike, virtually shutting down the province.[102]

On 16 or 17 July 1990 the League of Communists of Serbia (LCS) combined with the Socialist Alliance of Working People of Serbia to become the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), and Milošević became its first president.[103][97] On 8 August 1990 several amendments to the federal Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) Constitution were adopted enabling the establishment of a multi-party election system.[101]

On 7 September 1990 the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo was promulgated by the disbanded Assembly of Kosovo.[101] Milošević responded by ordering the arrest of the deputies of the disbanded Assembly of Kosovo.[102] The new controversial Serbian Constitution was promulgated on 28 September 1990.[96] Multi-party elections were held in Serbia on 9 and 26 December 1990 after which Milošević became President of Serbia.[97] In September 1991 Kosovar Albanians held an unofficial referendum in which they voted overwhelmingly for independence.[97] On 24 May 1992 Kosovar Albanians held unofficial elections for an assembly and president of the Republic of Kosovo.[97]

On 5 August 1991 the Serbian Assembly suspended the Priština daily Rilindja,[102][104] following the Law on Public Information of 29 March 1991 and establishment of the Panorama publishing house on 6 November which incorporated Rilindja, which was declared unconstitutional by the federal authorities.[105] United Nations Special Rapporteur Tadeusz Mazowiecki reported on 26 February 1993 that the police had intensified their repression of the Albanian population since 1990, including depriving them of their basic rights, destroying their educations system, and large numbers of political dismissals of civil servants.[105]

Eruption of war

The slide to war (1995–1998)

Ibrahim Rugova, first President of the Republic of Kosova, pursued a policy of passive resistance which succeeded in maintaining peace in Kosovo during the earlier wars in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia during the early 1990s. As evidenced by the emergence of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), this came at the cost of increasing frustration among Kosovo's Albanian population. In the mid-1990s, Rugova pleaded for a United Nations peacekeeping force for Kosovo. In 1997, Milošević was promoted to the presidency of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (comprising Serbia and Montenegro since its inception in April 1992).

Continuing repression[citation needed] convinced many Albanians that only armed resistance would change the situation. On 22 April 1996, four attacks on Serbian security personnel were carried out almost simultaneously in different parts of Kosovo. The KLA, a hitherto-unknown organisation, subsequently claimed responsibility. The nature of the KLA was at first mysterious. It initially seemed that their only goals were to stop repression from Yugoslav authorities.[citation needed]

As stated by Jakup Krasniqi, who was the spokesman of the group, the KLA was formed by some members from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), a political party led by Rugova.[106] The KLA and LDK shared the common goal of ending repression from Belgrade and making Kosovo independent, but the KLA was opposed to 'internal rule' of Kosovo by the LDK.[106]

KLA goals also included the establishment of a Greater Albania, a state stretching into surrounding FYR Macedonia, Montenegro and southern Serbia.[106][107] In July 1998, in an interview for Der Spiegel, Jakup Krasniqi publicly announced that the KLA's goal was the unification of all Albanian-inhabited lands.[107] Sulejman Selimi, a General Commander of KLA in 1998–1999, said: [106]

There is de facto Albanian nation. The tragedy is that European powers after World War I decided to divide that nation between several Balkan states. We are now fighting to unify the nation, to liberate all Albanians, including those in Macedonia, Montenegro, and other parts of Serbia. We are not just a liberation army for Kosovo.

While Rugova promised to uphold the minority rights of Serbs in Kosovo, the KLA was much less tolerant. Selimi stated that "Serbs who have blood on their hands would have to leave the Kosovo".[106]

Serbian victims during insurgency

It is widely believed[by whom?] that the KLA received financial and material support from the Kosovo Albanian diaspora.[108][109] In early 1997, Albania collapsed into chaos following the fall of President Sali Berisha. Military stockpiles were looted with impunity by criminal gangs, with much of the hardware ending up in western Kosovo and boosting the growing KLA arsenal. Bujar Bukoshi, shadow Prime Minister in exile (in Zürich, Switzerland), created a group called FARK (Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosova), which was reported to have been disbanded and absorbed by the KLA in 1998.[citation needed] The Yugoslav government considered the KLA to be "terrorists" and "insurgents" who indiscriminately attacked police and civilians, while most Albanians saw the KLA as "freedom fighters".

In 1998, the US State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organisation,[109] and in 1999 the Republican Policy Committee of the US Senate expressed its troubles with the "effective alliance" of the Democratic Clinton administration with the KLA due to "numerous reports from reputable unofficial sources".[110] In 2004, John Pilger claimed that for six years prior to 1998, the KLA had been regarded by the US as a terrorist group.[111] Early in 1998, US envoy Robert Gelbard referred to the KLA as terrorists;[112] responding to criticism, he later clarified to the House Committee on International Relations that "while it has committed 'terrorist acts,' it has 'not been classified legally by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization.'"[110] In June 1998, he held talks with two men who claimed they were political leaders of the KLA.[112] In 2000, a BBC documentary called Moral Combat – Nato at War showed how the United States now sought a relationship with the group.[113] While the US officially described the KLA as terrorists, author Alastair MacKenzie claims the KLA received training by the Americans' closest NATO-ally, the United Kingdom, since 1998 in a training camp in the mountains above the northern Albanian town of Bajram Curri.[114]

Meanwhile, the US held an "outer wall of sanctions" on Yugoslavia which had been tied to a series of issues, including Kosovo. These were maintained despite the agreement at Dayton to end all sanctions. The Clinton administration claimed that the agreement bound Yugoslavia to hold discussions with Rugova over Kosovo.

The crisis escalated in December 1997 at the Peace Implementation Council meeting in Bonn, where the international community (as defined in the Dayton Agreement) agreed to give the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina sweeping powers, including the right to dismiss elected leaders. At the same time, Western diplomats insisted that Kosovo be discussed, and that Yugoslavia be responsive to Albanian demands there. The delegation from Yugoslavia stormed out of the meetings in protest.[115] This was followed by the return of the Contact Group that oversaw the last phases of the Bosnian conflict and declarations from European powers demanding that Yugoslavia solve the problem in Kosovo.

War begins

KLA attacks intensified, centering on the Drenica valley area with the compound of Adem Jashari being a focal point. Days after Robert Gelbard described the KLA as a terrorist group, Serbian police responded to the KLA attacks in the Likošane area, and pursued some of the KLA to Čirez, resulting in the deaths of 16 Albanian fighters[116] and four Serbian policemen.[117] The KLA's goal was to merge its Drenica stronghold with their stronghold in Albania proper, and this would shape the first few months of the fighting.[citation needed]

Despite some accusations of summary executions and killings of civilians, condemnations from Western capitals were not as voluble as they would become later. Serb police began to pursue Jashari and his followers in the village of Donje Prekaze. On March 5, 1998, a massive firefight at the Jashari compound led to the massacre of 60 Albanians, of which eighteen were women and ten were under the age of sixteen.[118] The event provoked massive condemnation from western capitals. Madeleine Albright said that "this crisis is not an internal affair of the FRY".[119]

On March 24, Yugoslav forces surrounded the village of Glodjane and attacked a rebel compound there.[120] Despite superior firepower, the Yugoslav forces failed to destroy the KLA unit, which had been their objective. Although there were deaths and severe injuries on the Albanian side, the insurgency in was far from stamped out. It was in fact to become one of the strongest centres of resistance in the upcoming war.

A new Yugoslav government was formed at this time, led by the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Serbian Radical Party. Ultra-nationalist Radical Party chairman Vojislav Šešelj became a deputy prime minister. This increased the dissatisfaction with the country's position among Western diplomats and spokespersons.

In early April, Serbia arranged for a referendum on the issue of foreign interference in Kosovo. Serbian voters decisively rejected foreign interference in the crisis.[121] Meanwhile, the KLA claimed much of the area in and around Deçan and ran a territory based in the village of Glodjane, encompassing its surroundings. On May 31, 1998, the Yugoslav army and the Serb Ministry of the Interior police began an operation to clear the border of the KLA. NATO's response to this offensive was mid-June's Operation Determined Falcon, a NATO show of force over the Yugoslav borders.[122]

During this time, Yugoslav President Milošević reached an arrangement with Boris Yeltsin of Russia to stop offensive operations and prepare for talks with the Albanians, who refused to talk to the Serbian side throughout the crisis, but would talk with the Yugoslav government. In fact, the only meeting between Milošević and Ibrahim Rugova happened on 15 May in Belgrade, two days after Richard Holbrooke announced that it would take place. Holbrooke threatened Milošević that if he did not obey, "what's left of your country will implode". A month later, Holbrooke visited the border areas affected by the fighting in early June, where he was famously photographed with the KLA. The publication of these images sent a signal to the KLA, its supporters and sympathisers, and to observers in general, that the US was decisively backing the KLA and the Albanian population in Kosovo.[citation needed]

The Yeltsin agreement required Milošević to allow international representatives to set up a mission in Kosovo to monitor the situation there. The Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) began operations in early July 1998. The US government welcomed this part of the agreement, but denounced the initiative's call for a mutual cease fire. Rather, the US demanded that the Serbian-Yugoslavian side should cease fire "without linkage ... to a cessation in terrorist activities".

All through June and into mid-July, the KLA maintained its advance. The KLA surrounded Peć and Đakovica, and set up an interim capital in the town of Mališevo (north of Orahovac). KLA troops infiltrated Suva Reka and the northwest of Pristina. They moved on to capture the Belacevec coal pits in late June, threatening energy supplies in the region. Their tactics as usual focused mainly on guerrilla and mountain warfare, and harassing and ambushing Yugoslav forces and Serb police patrols.[citation needed]

The tide turned in mid-July when the KLA captured Orahovac. On 17 July 1998, two nearby villages, Retimlije and Opteruša, were also captured, while less systematic events took place in the larger Serb-populated village of Velika Hoča. The Orthodox monastery of Zociste three miles (4.8 km) from Orehovac—famous for the relics of the Saints Kosmas and Damianos and revered also by local Albanians—was robbed, its monks deported to a KLA prison camp, and, while empty, the monastery church and all its buildings were levelled to the ground by mining. This led to a series of Serb and Yugoslav offensives which would continue into the beginning of August.[citation needed]

A new set of KLA attacks in mid-August triggered Yugoslavian operations in south-central Kosovo, south of the Pristina-Peć road. This wound down with the capture of on August 23 and the discovery of a KLA-run crematorium in which some of their victims were found. The KLA began an offensive on September 1 around Prizren, causing Yugoslavian military activity there. In western Kosovo, around Peć, another offensive caused condemnation as international officials expressed fear that a large column of displaced people would be attacked.[citation needed]

In early mid-September, for the first time, KLA activity was reported in northern Kosovo around Podujevo. Finally, in late September, a determined effort was made to clear the KLA out of the northern and central parts of Kosovo and out of the Drenica valley itself. During this time many threats were made from Western capitals but these were tempered somewhat by the elections in Bosnia, as they did not want Serbian Democrats and Radicals to win. Following the elections, the threats intensified once again, but a galvanising event was needed. They got it on September 28, when the mutilated corpses of a family were discovered by KDOM outside the village of Gornje Obrinje. The bloody image of a child's doll and streams of displaced persons rallied the international community to action.[123]

Morale

Morale was a serious problem for Serb forces; intelligence surveys found that many soldiers disagreed with their comrades' actions. One tank commander reported, "for the entire time I was in Kosovo, I never saw an enemy soldier and my unit was never once involved in firing at enemy targets. The tanks which cost $2.5 million each were used to slaughter Albanian children... I am ashamed".[124]

When retreating from Kosovo after NATO intervention, Yugoslav units appeared combat effective with high morale and displaying large holdings of undamaged equipment.[125] Weeks before the end of hostilities, David Fromkin noted that "it seemed possible that NATO unity might crack before Yugoslav morale did."[126] The announcement by President Clinton that the US would not deploy ground troops gave a tremendous boost to Serbian morale.[127]

UN, NATO, and OSCE (1998–1999)

Kosovo Albanian refugees in 1999

On 9 June 1998, US President Bill Clinton declared a "national emergency" (state of emergency) due to the "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States" imposed by Yugoslavia and Serbia over the Kosovo War.[128]

On 23 September 1998, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1199. This expressed 'grave concern' at reports reaching the Secretary General that over 230,000 people had been displaced from their homes by 'the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Serbian security forces and the Yugoslav Army',[129] demanding that all parties in Kosovo and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia cease hostilities and maintain a ceasefire. On 24 September the North Atlantic Council (NAC) of NATO issued an "activation warning" taking NATO to an increased level of military preparedness for both a limited air option and a phased air campaign in Kosovo.[130] The other major issue for those who saw no option but to resort to the use of force was the estimated 250,000 displaced Albanians, 30,000 of whom were out in the woods, without warm clothing or shelter, with winter fast approaching.

Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia, Christopher Hill, was leading shuttle diplomacy between an Albanian delegation, led by Rugova, and the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities. These meetings were shaping the peace plan to be discussed during a period of planned NATO occupation of Kosovo. During a period of two weeks, threats intensified, culminating in NATO's Activation Order being given. NATO was ready to begin airstrikes, and Richard Holbrooke went to Belgrade in the hope of reaching an agreement with Milošević. Officially, the international community demanded an end to fighting. It specifically demanded that Yugoslavia end its offensives against the KLA whilst attempting to convince the KLA to drop its bid for independence. Attempts were made to persuade Milošević to permit NATO peacekeeping troops to enter Kosovo. This, they argued, would allow for the Christopher Hill peace process to proceed and yield a peace agreement.

On 13 October 1998, the North Atlantic Council issued activation orders for the execution of both limited air strikes and a phased air campaign in Yugoslavia which would begin in approximately 96 hours.[131] On 15 October the NATO Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) Agreement for a ceasefire was signed, and the deadline for withdrawal was extended to 27 October.[132][133] Difficulties implementing the agreement were reported, as clashes continued between government troops and the guerrillas.[134] The Serbian withdrawal commenced on or around 25 October 1998, and Operation Eagle Eye commenced on 30 October.[132][133]

The KVM was a large contingent of unarmed Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) peace monitors (officially known as verifiers) that moved into Kosovo. Their inadequacy was evident from the start. They were nicknamed the "clockwork oranges" in reference to their brightly coloured vehicles. Fighting resumed in December 1998 after both sides broke the ceasefire,[135] and this surge in violence culminated in the killing of Zvonko Bojanić, the Serb mayor of the town of Kosovo Polje. Yugoslav authorities responded by launching a crackdown against KLA militants.[136]

The January to March 1999 phase of the war brought increasing insecurity in urban areas, including bombings and murders. Such attacks took place during the Rambouillet talks in February and as the Kosovo Verification Agreement unraveled in March. Killings on the roads continued and increased. There were military confrontations in, among other places, the Vučitrn area in February and the heretofore unaffected Kačanik area in early March.

On 15 January 1999 the Račak massacre occurred when "45 Kosovan Albanian farmers were rounded up, led up a hill and massacred".[137] The bodies had been discovered by OSCE monitors, including Head of Mission William Walker, and foreign news correspondents.[138][139] Yugoslavia denied a massacre took place.[139] The Račak massacre was the culmination of the conflict between the KLA and Yugoslav forces that had continued throughout the winter of 1998–1999. The incident was immediately condemned as a massacre by the Western countries and the United Nations Security Council, and later became the basis of one of the charges of war crimes leveled against Milošević and his top officials. This massacre was the turning point of the war. NATO decided that the conflict could only be settled by introducing a military peacekeeping force under the auspices of NATO, to forcibly restrain the two sides. Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, had been subjected to heavy firefights and segregation according to OSCE reports.[140]

The Rambouillet Conference (January–March 1999)

On 30 January 1999 NATO issued a statement announcing that the North Atlantic Council had agreed that "the NATO Secretary General may authorise air strikes against targets on FRY territory" to "[compel] compliance with the demands of the international community and [to achieve] a political settlement".[141] While this was most obviously a threat to the Milošević government, it also included a coded threat to the Albanians: any decision would depend on the "position and actions of the Kosovo Albanian leadership and all Kosovo Albanian armed elements in and around Kosovo."[141]

Also on 30 January 1999 the Contact Group issued a set of "non-negotiable principles" which made up a package known as "Status Quo Plus"—effectively the restoration of Kosovo's pre-1990 autonomy within Serbia, plus the introduction of democracy and supervision by international organisations. It also called for a peace conference to be held in February 1999 at the Château de Rambouillet, outside Paris.

The Rambouillet talks began on 6 February 1999, with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana negotiating with both sides. They were intended to conclude by 19 February. The FR Yugoslavian delegation was led by then president of Serbia Milan Milutinović, while Milošević himself remained in Belgrade. This was in contrast to the 1995 Dayton conference that ended the war in Bosnia, where Milošević negotiated in person. The absence of Milošević was interpreted as a sign that the real decisions were being made back in Belgrade, a move that aroused criticism in Yugoslavia as well as abroad; Kosovo's Serbian Orthodox bishop traveled all the way to Rambouillet to protest that the delegation was wholly unrepresentative. At this time speculation about an indictment of Milošević for war crimes was rife, so his absence may have been motivated by fear of arrest.

Equipment of 72nd Special Brigade Yugoslav Army in the 1999 Kosovo War

The first phase of negotiations was successful. In particular, a statement was issued by the Contact Group co-chairmen on 23 February 1999 that the negotiations "have led to a consensus on substantial autonomy for Kosovo, including on mechanisms for free and fair elections to democratic institutions, for the governance of Kosovo, for the protection of human rights and the rights of members of national communities; and for the establishment of a fair judicial system". They went on to say that "a political framework is now in place", leaving the further work of finalising "the implementation Chapters of the Agreement, including the modalities of the invited international civilian and military presence in Kosovo".

While the accords did not fully satisfy the Albanians, they were much too radical for the Yugoslavs, who responded by substituting a drastically revised text that even Russia (ally of FR Yugoslavia) found unacceptable. It sought to reopen the painstakingly negotiated political status of Kosovo and deleted all of the proposed implementation measures. Among many other changes in the proposed new version, it eliminated the entire chapter on humanitarian assistance and reconstruction, removed virtually all international oversight and dropped any mention of invoking "the will of the people [of Kosovo]" in determining the final status of the province.

On 18 March 1999, the Albanian, US, and British delegations signed what became known as the Rambouillet Accords, while the Yugoslav and Russian delegations refused. The accords called for NATO administration of Kosovo as an autonomous province within Yugoslavia, a force of 30,000 NATO troops to maintain order in Kosovo; an unhindered right of passage for NATO troops on Yugoslav territory, including Kosovo; and immunity for NATO and its agents to Yugoslav law. They would have also permitted a continuing Yugoslav army presence of 1,500 troops for border monitoring, backed by up to 1,000 troops to perform command and support functions, as well as a small number of border police, 2,500 ordinary MUP for public security purposes (although these were expected to draw down and to be transformed), and 3,000 local police.[142]

Although the Yugoslav Government cited military provisions of Appendix B of the Rambouillet provisions as the reason for its objections, claiming that it was an unacceptable violation of Yugoslavia's sovereignty, these provisions were essentially the same as had been applied to Bosnia for the SFOR (Stabilisation Force) mission there after the Dayton Agreement in 1995. The two sides did not discuss the issue in detail because of their disagreements on more fundamental problems.[143] In particular, the Serb side rejected the idea of any NATO troop presence in Kosovo to replace their security forces, preferring unarmed UN observers. Milošević himself had refused to discuss the annex after informing NATO that it was unacceptable, even after he was asked to propose amendments to the provisions which would have made them acceptable.[144]

After the failure at Rambouillet and the alternative Yugoslav proposal, international monitors from the OSCE withdrew on 22 March, to ensure their safety ahead of the anticipated NATO bombing campaign.[145] On 23 March, the Serbian assembly accepted the principle of autonomy for Kosovo, as well as the non-military aspects of the agreement, but rejected a NATO troop presence.[145][146]

In a 2009 judgement regarding six former Serb leaders charged with war crimes in Kosovo, the ICTY noted that the causes of the breakdown in the negotiations at Rambouillet were complex and stated that "international negotiators did not take an entirely even-handed approach to the respective positions of the parties and tended to favour the Kosovo Albanians." It further recorded that, according to a witness, on 14 April 1999, at a meeting initiated by the White House with representatives of the Serbian-American community, president Clinton had stated that "the provision for allowing a referendum for the Albanians in Kosovo went too far and that, if he were in the shoes of Milošević, he probably would not have signed the draft [Rambouillet] agreement either."[147]

NATO bombing timeline

A US F-117 Nighthawk taxis to the runway before taking off from Aviano Air Base, Italy, on March 24, 1999

On 23 March 1999 at 21:30 UTC, Richard Holbrooke returned to Brussels and announced that peace talks had failed and formally handed the matter to NATO for military action.[148][149] Hours before the announcement, Yugoslavia announced on national television it had declared a state of emergency, citing an imminent threat of war and began a huge mobilisation of troops and resources.[148][150]

On 23 March 1999 at 22:17 UTC, the Secretary General of NATO, Javier Solana, announced he had directed the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), US Army General Wesley Clark, to "initiate air operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."[150][151] On 24 March at 19:00 UTC, NATO started its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.[152][153]

A Tomahawk cruise missile launches from the aft missile deck of USS Gonzalez on March 31, 1999

The NATO bombing campaign lasted from 24 March to 11 June 1999, involving up to 1,000 aircraft operating mainly from bases in Italy and aircraft carriers stationed in the Adriatic. Tomahawk cruise missiles were also extensively used, fired from aircraft, ships, and submarines. With the exception of Greece, all NATO members were involved to some degree. Over the ten weeks of the conflict, NATO aircraft flew over 38,000 combat missions. For the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), it was the second time it had participated in a conflict since World War II, after the Bosnian War.

The proclaimed goal of the NATO operation was summed up by its spokesman as "Serbs out, peacekeepers in, refugees back". That is, Yugoslav troops would have to leave Kosovo and be replaced by international peacekeepers to ensure that the Albanian refugees could return to their homes. The campaign was initially designed to destroy Yugoslav air defences and high-value military targets. It did not go very well at first, with bad weather hindering many sorties early on. NATO had seriously underestimated Milošević's will to resist: few in Brussels thought that the campaign would last more than a few days, and although the initial bombardment was not insignificant, it did not match the intensity of the bombing of Baghdad in 1991.

NATO military operations switched increasingly to attacking Yugoslav units on the ground, hitting targets as small as individual tanks and artillery pieces, as well as continuing with the strategic bombardment. This activity was heavily constrained by politics, as each target needed to be approved by all nineteen member states. Montenegro was bombed on several occasions, but NATO eventually desisted to prop up the precarious position of its anti-Milošević leader, Milo Đukanović.

Post-strike damage assessment of the Sremska Mitrovica ordnance storage depot, Serbia

At the start of May, a NATO aircraft attacked an Albanian refugee convoy, believing it was a Yugoslav military convoy, killing around fifty people. NATO admitted its mistake five days later, and the Yugoslavs accused NATO of deliberately attacking the refugees.[citation needed] A later report conducted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) opined that "civilians were not deliberately attacked in this incident", and that "neither the aircrew nor their commanders displayed the degree of recklessness in failing to take precautionary measures which would sustain criminal charges."[154] On May 7, NATO bombs hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese journalists and outraging Chinese public opinion. The United States and NATO later apologised for the bombing, saying that it occurred because of an outdated map provided by the CIA, although this was challenged by a joint report from The Observer (UK) and Politiken (Denmark) newspapers,[155] which claimed that NATO intentionally bombed the embassy because it was being used as a relay station for Yugoslav army radio signals. The report by the newspaper contradicts findings in the same report by the ICTY which stated that the root of the failures in target location "appears to stem from the land navigation techniques employed by an intelligence officer."[156] In another incident at the Dubrava prison in Kosovo in May 1999, the Yugoslav government attributed as many as 95 civilian deaths to NATO bombing of the facility after NATO cited Serbian and Yugoslav military activity in the area;[157] a Human Rights Watch report later concluded that at least nineteen ethnic Albanian prisoners had been killed by the bombing, but that an uncertain number – probably more than 70 – were killed by Serbian Government forces in the days immediately following the bombing.[157]

Smoke in Novi Sad after NATO bombardment

By the start of April, the conflict appeared little closer to a resolution, and NATO countries began to seriously consider conducting ground operations in Kosovo. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was a strong advocate of ground forces and pressured the United States to agree; his strong stance caused some alarm in Washington as US forces would be making the largest contribution to any offensive.[158] US President Bill Clinton was extremely reluctant to commit US forces for a ground offensive. Instead, Clinton authorised a CIA operation to look into methods to destabilise the Yugoslav government without training KLA troops.[159] At the same time, Finnish and Russian diplomatic negotiators continued to try to persuade Milošević to back down. Tony Blair would order 50,000 British soldiers to be made ready for a ground offensive: most of the available British Army.[158]

Milošević finally recognised that Russia would not intervene to defend Yugoslavia despite Moscow's strong anti-NATO rhetoric. He thus accepted the conditions offered by a Finnish–Russian mediation team and agreed to a military presence within Kosovo headed by the UN, but incorporating NATO troops.

The Norwegian special forces Hærens Jegerkommando and Forsvarets Spesialkommando cooperated with the KLA in gathering intelligence information. Preparing for an invasion on 12 June, Norwegian special forces worked with the KLA on the Ramno mountain on the border between Macedonia and Kosovo and acted as scouts to monitor events in Kosovo. Together with British special forces, Norwegian special forces were the first to cross over the border into Kosovo. According to Keith Graves with the television network Sky News, the Norwegians were in Kosovo two days prior to the entry of other forces and were among the first into Pristina.[160] The Hærens Jegerkommando's and Forsvarets Spesialkommando's job was to clear the way between the contending parties and to make local deals to implement the peace deal between the Serbians and the Kosovo Albanians.[161][162]

Yugoslav army withdrawal and the entry of KFOR

On 3 June 1999, Milošević accepted the terms of an international peace plan to end the fighting, with the national parliament adopting the proposal amid contentious debate with delegates coming close to fistfights at some points.[163][164] On 10 June, the North Atlantic Council ratified the agreement and suspended air operations.[165]

US Marines march with local Albanian children down the main street of Zegra on June 28, 1999

On 12 June, after Milošević accepted the conditions, the NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) of 30,000 soldiers began entering Kosovo. KFOR had been preparing to conduct combat operations, but in the end, its mission was only peacekeeping. The force was based upon the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters commanded by then Lieutenant General Mike Jackson of the British Army. It consisted of British forces (a brigade built from 4th Armored and 5th Airborne Brigades), a French Army Brigade, a German Army brigade, which entered from the west, while other forces advanced from the south, and Italian Army and United States Army brigades.

The first NATO troops to enter Pristina on the 12th of June 1999 were Norwegian special forces from Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK) and soldiers from the British Special Air Service 22 Regiment, although to NATO's diplomatic embarrassment Russian troops arrived at the airport first. Norwegian soldiers were the first to come into contact with Russian troops at the airport. FSK's mission was to level the negotiating field between the belligerent parties, and to fine-tune the detailed, local deals needed to implement the peace deal between the Serbians and the Kosovo Albanians.[166][167][168][169]

The US contribution, known as the Initial Entry Force, was led by the 1st Armored Division, commanded by Brigadier General Peterson, and was spearheaded by a platoon from the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment attached to the British Forces. Other units included 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 10th Special Forces Group(Airborne) from Stuttgart Germany and Fort Carson, Colorado, TF 1–6 Infantry (1-6 infantry with C Co 1-35AR) from Baumholder, Germany, the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment from Schweinfurt, Germany, and Echo Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment, also from Schweinfurt, Germany. Also attached to the US force was the Greek Army's 501st Mechanised Infantry Battalion. The initial US forces established their area of operation around the towns of Uroševac, the future Camp Bondsteel, and Gnjilane, at Camp Monteith, and spent four months—the start of a stay which continues to date—establishing order in the southeast sector of Kosovo.

US soldiers escort a Serbian civilian from his home in Zitinje after finding an automatic weapon, July 26, 1999

During the initial incursion, the US soldiers were greeted by Albanians cheering and throwing flowers as US soldiers and KFOR rolled through their villages. Although no resistance was met, three US soldiers from the Initial Entry Force were killed in accidents.[170]

On 1 October 1999, approximately 150 paratroopers from Alpha Company, 1/508th Airborne Battalion Combat Team from Vicenza, Italy parachuted into Uroševac as part of Operation Rapid Guardian. The purpose of the mission was primarily to warn Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević of NATO resolve and of its rapid military capability. One US soldier, Army Ranger Sgt. Jason Neil Pringle, was killed during operations after his parachute failed to deploy. The paratroopers of the 1/508th then joined paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne and KFOR in patrolling various areas of Kosovo, without incident, through 3 October 1999.

On 15 December 1999, Staff Sergeant Joseph Suponcic of 3rd Battalion/10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was killed, when the HMMWV in which he was a passenger struck an anti-tank mine planted by Albanians and meant for the Russian contingent with which SSG Suponcic's team was patrolling in Kosovska Kamenica.

US soldiers maintain crowd control as Albanian residents of Vitina protest in the streets on January 9, 2000

Following the military campaign, the involvement of Russian peacekeepers proved to be tense and challenging to the NATO Kosovo force. The Russians expected to have an independent sector of Kosovo, only to be unhappily surprised with the prospect of operating under NATO command. Without prior communication or coordination with NATO, Russian peacekeeping forces entered Kosovo from Bosnia and Herzegovina and occupied Pristina International Airport ahead of the arrival of NATO forces. This resulted in an incident during which NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark's wish to forcibly block the runways with NATO vehicles, to prevent any Russian reinforcement, was refused by KFOR commander General Mike Jackson.[171]

In 2010, James Blunt described in an interview how his unit was given the assignment of securing Pristina during the advance of the 30,000-strong peacekeeping force and how the Russian army had moved in and taken control of the city's airport before his unit's arrival. Blunt shared a part in the difficult task of addressing the potentially violent international incident. According to Blunt's account there was a stand-off with the Russians, and NATO Supreme Commander Clark gave provisional orders to over-power them. Whilst these were questioned by Blunt, they were rejected by General Jackson, with the now famous line, "I'm not having my soldiers responsible for starting World War III."[172]

In June 2000, arms trading relations between Russia and Yugoslavia were exposed, which led to retaliation and bombings of Russian checkpoints and area police stations. was established on a high point in the Preševo Valley by Echo Battery 1/161 Field Artillery in an attempt to monitor and assist with peacekeeping efforts in the Russian Sector. Operating under the support of ⅔ Field Artillery, 1st Armored Division, the Battery was able to successfully deploy and continuously operate a Firefinder Radar system, which allowed the NATO forces to keep a closer watch on activities in the Sector and the Preševo Valley. Eventually a deal was struck whereby Russian forces operated as a unit of KFOR but not under the NATO command structure.[173]

Reaction to the war

Because of the country's restrictive media laws, the Yugoslav media carried little coverage of events in Kosovo, and the attitude of other countries to the humanitarian disaster that was occurring there. Thus, few members of the Yugoslav public expected NATO intervention, instead thinking that a diplomatic agreement would be reached.[174]

Support for the war

Support for the Kosovan War and, in particular, the legitimacy of NATO's bombing campaign came from a variety of sources. In a 2009 article, David Clark claimed "Every member of NATO, every EU country, and most of Yugoslavia's neighbours, supported military action."[175] Statements from the leaders of United States, Czech Republic and United Kingdom, respectively, described the war as one "upholding our values, protecting our interests, and advancing the cause of peace",[176] "the first war for values"[175] and one "to avert what would otherwise be a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo."[177] Others included the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who was reported by some sources as acknowledging that the NATO action was legitimate[178] who emphasised that there were times when the use of force was legitimate in the pursuit of peace[179] though Annan stressed that the "[UN Security] Council should have been involved in any decision to use force."[179] The distinction between the legality and legitimacy of the intervention was further highlighted in two separate reports. One was conducted by the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, entitled The Kosovo Report,[180] which found that:

[Yugoslav] forces were engaged in a well-planned campaign of terror and expulsion of the Kosovar Albanians. This campaign is most frequently described as one of "ethnic cleansing