I just want to start off by saying if you want an answer at the end, prepare to be disappointed. Very dissapoint. There just isn't one. Its too damn stupid.
I was an intern at Nickelodeon Studios for a year in 2005 for my degree in animation. It was paid of course, becuase I wasn't just an intern, I was... Super Intern. Anyhoo, to adults it might not seem like a big one, but most kids at the time would go crazy over it. I mean they'll seriously hire five year olds for this shit.
Now, since I worked directly on the editors and animators, I got to view the new episodes days before they aired. I'll get right to it without giving too many unnecessary details, tl;dr. They had very recently made the SpongeBob movie and the entire staff was somewhat sapped of creativity so it took them longer to start up the season. But the delay lasted longer for more... upsetting... reasons. There was a... problem... with the series 4 premiere that set everyone and everything back for... several... months.
Me and two other (not super) interns were in the editing room along with the unleaded animators and sound editors for the final cut. We received the copy that was supposed to be "Quear of a Krabby Patty" and gathered around the screen to watch. Now, given that it isn't final yet animators often put up a mock title card, sort of an inside joke for us, with phony, often times lewd titles, such as "How whoopie doesn't work" instead of "Cock-a-bye-Bivalve" when SpoongeBob and Patdick adopt a sea scallop. Nothing funny but work related chuckles. So when we saw the title card "Squidward's Papercut" we didn't think it more than a morbid joke.
One of the interns did a small throat laugh at it. The happy-go-lucky music plays as is normal. The story began with Squidward practicing his clarinet, hitting a few sour notes like normal. We hear SpongeBob laughing outside and Squidward stops, yelling at him to keep it down as he has a concert that night and needs to practice. SpongeBob says "urinate off, my African American Associate!" and goes to see Sandy with Patrick *wink wink nudge nudge*. The bubbles splash screen comes up and we see the ending of Squidward's concert. This is when things began to seem off.
While playing, a few frames repeat themselves, but the sound doesn't (at this point sound is synced up with animation, so, yes, that's not common) but when he stops playing, the sound finishes as if the skip never happened. There is slight murmuring in the crowd before they begin to boo him. Normal cartoon booing that is common in the show, but you could very clearly hear Alice in it. Squidward's in full frame and looks visibly afraid. The shot goes to the crowd, with SpongeBob in center frame, and he too is booing, very much unlike him. That isn't the oddest thing, though. What is odd is everyone had hyper realistic eyes. Very hyper-realistically detailed. Clearly not shots of real hyper-realistic people's eyes, but something a bit more real than hyper realistic CGI. The pupils were hyper realistic red. Some of us looked at each other, hyper-realistically confused, but since we weren't the children, we didn't question its appeal to writers yet.
The shot goes to Squidward sitting on the edge of his bed, looking very forlorn. The view out of his porthole window is of a night sky so it isn't very long after the concert. The unsettling part is at this point there is no sound. Literally no sound. Not even the feedback from the speakers in the room. It's as if the speakers were turned off, though their status showed them working perfectly. It occured to me that I was deaf from birth, so I guess it worked out ok. He just sat there, blinking, in this silence for about 30 seconds, then he started to sob softly, even though the speakers were blah blah blah. He put his handacles (tents) over his eyes and cried quietly (the kind of sound that is there but isnt but trust me it is) for a full minute more, all the while a sound in the background very slowly growing from nothing to barely audible. I'm just very weird with hearing shit, mmmmkay? It sounded like a slight breeze through a forest. It was kinda relaxing, actually.
The screen slowly begins to zoom in on his face. By slow I mean it's only noticeable if you look at shots 10 seconds apart side by side. I checked. Pinky swear. His sobbing gets louder, more full of hurt and anger and angst and why is the who world filled with pain? The screen then twitches a bit, as if it twists in on itself, for a split second then back to normal. The wind-through-the-trees sound gets slowly louder and more severe, as if a storm is brewing somewhere, not at all relaxing. Not one bit. The eerie part is this sound, and Squidward's sobbing, sounded real, as if the sound wasn't coming from the speakers but as if the speakers were holes the sound was coming through from the other side. Wow. You can write this shit, but you sure as hell cant say it! Back to the story... As good as sound as the studio likes to have, they don't purchase the equipment to be that good to produce sound of that quality. Cuz sound engineers just love shit-quality sound in their professional productions. They are a strange bunch.
Below the sound of the wind and sobbing, very faint, something sounded like laughing. It came at odd intervals and never lasted more than a second so you had a hard time pinning it (we watched this show twice, so pardon me if things sound too specific but I've had time to think about them). After 30 seconds of this shit, the screen blurred and twitched violently and something flashed over the screen, as if a single frame was replaced.
The lead animation editor paused and rewound frame by frame. What we saw was horrible. It was a still photo of a child. He couldn't have been more than 6. His knee was scraped and bloody. One eye full of tears dripping over his upturned face. He was wearing a cute fire truck shirt, making the scene so sad that this little boy got hurt. He was sitting on some pavement that was probably a road, his overturned scooter next to him.
The most upsetting part was that there was a shadow of the photographer. Who on Earth would be responsible for taking a picture of a crying child like this? We were of course mortified, but pressed on, hoping that it was just a sick joke.
The screen flipped back to Squidward, still sobbing, louder than before, and half body in frame. There was now what appeared to be tarter sauce running down his face from his eyes. The sauce was also done in a hyper realistic style, looking as if you touched it you'd get hyper realistic blood on your hyper realistic fingers. The wind sounded now as if it were that of a gale blowing through the forest; there were even snapping sounds of branches. The branches will be relevant, so take notes, for there will be a test later. The laughing, a deep baritone, a very smooth low timber, sort of like James Earl Jones as Mufasa, lasting at longer intervals and coming more frequently. After about 20 seconds, the screen again twisted and showed a single frame photo.
The editor was reluctant to go back, we all were, but he knew he had to. This time the photo was that of what appeared to be a little girl, no older than the first child. She was sitting on her back side, her cute pink barrettes in her hair. Her left eye was full of tears, wearing a pink heart shirt. Her foot was in her hand as if she stubbed it in some horrific play accident. Again she was on the street and the photographer's shadow was visible, very similar in size and shape to the first. I'm pretty sure that the two kid's incidents are eerily related. I had to choke back vomit and one intern, the only female in the room, walked out to get some coffee. The show resumed.
About 5 seconds after this second photo played, Squidward went silent, as did all sound, like it was when this scene started. Yeah, this, again. He put his tentacles down and his eyes were now done in hyper realism like the others were in the beginning of this hyper realistic episode. They were bleeding, bloodshot, and pulsating. Yeah, he's baked. He just stared at the screen, as if watching the viewer. After about 10 seconds, he started sobbing, this time not covering his eyes. The sound was piercing and loud, and most fear inducing of all is his sobbing was mixed with screams. Yeah. Baked.
Tears and blood and tarter sauce were dripping down his face at a heavy rate. The wind sound came back, and so did the deep voiced laughing, and this time the still photo lasted for a good 5 frames.
The animator was able to stop it on the 4th and backed up. This time the photo was of the boy, but this time the scene was different. His stomach was being rubbed by a large hand, the right eye still having tears trickling down it. The animator proceeded. It was hard to believe, but the next one was different but we couldn't tell what. It was too blurry. I think it was a cat or something. He went on to the next, same Cat. He want back to the first and played them quicker and I lost it. My phone. I found it on the floor. Whew. The animating and sound editors gasping at the screen. The 5 frames were not as if they were 5 different photos, they were played out as if they were frames from a video. We saw the hand slowly rub the belly, we saw the kid's eyes focus on it, we even saw two frames of the kid blinking. Oops.
The lead sound editor told us to stop, he had to call in the creator to see this. Mr. Hillenburg arrived within about 15 minutes. He was confused as to why he was called down there, so the editor just continued the episode. Once the few frames were shown, all screaming, all sound again stopped. Squidward was just staring at the viewer, full frame of the face, for about 3 seconds. The shot quickly panned out and that deep voice said "DO IT" and we see in Squidward's hands a stereo. He immediately puts the stereo on play. It was Skrillex. Realistic blood and brain matter splatters the wall behind him, and his bed, and he flies back with the force. The last 5 seconds of this episode show his body on the bed, on his side, one eye dangling on what's left of his head above the floor, staring blankly at it. Then the episode ends.
Mr. Hillenburg is obviously confused at this. He demanded to know what the heck was going on. Most people left the room at this point, not wanting to explain this, whatever it is. So it was just a handful of us to watch it again. Viewing the episode twice only served to imprint the entirety of it in my mind and cause me some wacky dreams for about a week. I'm sorry I stayed. Seriously, they are weird dreams, man!
The only theory we could think of was the file was edited by someone in the chain from the drawing studio to here. The CTO was called in to analyze when it happened. The analysis of the file did show it was edited over by new material. However, the timestamp of it was a mere 24 seconds before we began viewing it. All equipment involved was examined for foreign software and hardware as well as glitches, as if the time stamp may have glitched and showed the wrong time, but everything checked out fine. We don't know what happened and to this day nobody does. If you understood any of that, then come up here and claim your prize.
There was an investigation due to the nature of the photos, but nothing came of it, mostly due to it's benign nature. Seriously, the detective said we would be arrested if we brought them here for no reason again. No child seen was identified and no clues were gathered from the data involved nor physical clues in the photos. I never believed in unexplainable phenomena before, but now that I have something happen and can't prove anything about it beyond anecdotal evidence, I think twice about things. Unless I forget to.
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