The first season of the American animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants, created by former marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenburg, aired on Nickelodeon from May 1, 1999, to March 3, 2001, and consists of 20 half-hour episodes. The series chronicles the exploits and adventures of the title character and his various friends in the fictional underwater city of Bikini Bottom. The show features the voices of Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown, Mr. Lawrence, Jill Talley, Carolyn Lawrence, Mary Jo Catlett, and Lori Alan. Among the first guest stars to appear on the show were Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway voicing the superhero characters of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, respectively.
Hillenburg initially conceived the show in 1994 and began to work on it shortly after the cancellation of Rocko's Modern Life in 1996. To voice the character of SpongeBob, Hillenburg approached Tom Kenny, who had worked with him on Rocko's Modern Life. The show was originally to be called SpongeBoy Ahoy!, but the name SpongeBoy was already in use for a mop product. Upon finding it out, Hillenburg decided to use the name "SpongeBob". He chose "SquarePants" as a family name as it referred to the character's square shape and it had a "nice ring to it".