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The Real Reason SpongeBob Lives In A Pineapple

The iconography of SpongeBob SquarePants is so established and culturally ubiquitous at this point that it's hard to think of someone sitting down and actually coming up with it. But that's just what the late, great Stephen Hillenburg did throughout the '80s and '90s, as he made the unlikely transition from a career as a marine biology teacher to studying experimental animation at CalArts (via Variety). As Hillenburg explained to MovieWeb.com at the time of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, everything in the show's universe has a reason for being: "It is not as random as it appears, at least not to me. The world he lives in is inspired by nautical things, like from a marine gift shop. [There is] Polynesian and Hawaiian both in the music and in some of the imagery and in the sky."

Naturally, this thoroughness of vision also applies to the design of SpongeBob's house, the iconic "pineapple under the sea" that has inspired everything from LEGO sets to Nike sneakers to a real-life villa in Punta Cana (via Travel and Leisure). Hillenburg's reason for having SpongeBob live in a pineapple was both totally understandable and completely unexpected, just as you might expect from the mad genius behind Nickelodeon's longest-running show.

The pineapple design in SpongeBob SquarePants is an homage to Polynesian culture

The pineapple house wasn't created specifically as SpongeBob's residence. Per the MovieWeb.com interview, Hillenburg actually started out by drawing multiple possible sea-themed houses for the characters to live in, and the pineapple image came to him because of its recurrence in Polynesian culture, one of the show's main sources of inspiration. "[The pineapple] is a common image in Polynesian fabric," the animator said. "When I was drawing things for the characters to live in I was working freely with what was there and I drew a pineapple to see what would happen."

Indeed, it's undeniable that the pineapple blends in perfectly with the Hawaiian flower clouds, the tank-shaped Bikini Bottom buildings, and all the rest of SpongeBob SquarePants' visuals. Still, the question remains — why did it wind up being SpongeBob's home specifically? Hillenburg's explanation might surprise you. "I thought, 'If I laid out a rock, a pineapple, an Easter Island head, and an old rubber boot, what would he pick?' and it was the pineapple. He is an optimist. He would like the smell."

So there you have it: SpongeBob lives in a pineapple under the sea because he likes its smell. Of course, sponges in real life have no brains, and therefore no sense of smell to speak of. But that scarcely matters. After all, we love SpongeBob because it doesn't make sense in all the right ways.