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its good to see friends do well!


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Lisa Salberg Find out more about Lisa Salberg
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  • its good to see friends do well!

    This article ran today in my local paper. I have known Nancy (Dereks wife) since grammer school. It is nice to see him get some attention for his work - which is of course to make us all laugh and forget our problems!

    Cartoonist an executive producer for animated film

    By Rob Jennings, Daily Record

    JEFFERSON -- The cartoonist who helped bring "SpongeBob SquarePants" to life is a Lake Shawnee native who, prior to striking it big, washed dishes at Picatinny Arsenal and sold candy at Rockaway Townsquare mall.

    Derek Drymon is an executive producer of the highly anticipated SpongeBob movie that opens today, on his 36th birthday.

    But in Jefferson, Drymon is perhaps best remembered as an offensive guard and defensive tackle on the high school's state championship football team in 1986.

    Despite his gridiron success, Drymon said he always identified with the underdogs whose insecurities mirror the loveable personality of SpongeBob, a good-natured but occasionally beleaguered sponge who lives in a pineapple at the bottom of the ocean.

    "Maybe everybody feels like a bit of an outsider," Drymon, visiting his parents' house on Wednesday, said in reflecting on SpongeBob's evolution from a few simple sketches into a worldwide phenomenon generating $1.5 billion in annual licensing revenues.

    Drymon's first and enduring love is illustration, a skill he polished at the Joe Kubert School in Dover and pursued professionally after moving to Los Angeles in the early 1990s.

    "Derek was always funny. He started drawing from the moment he could hold a pencil," his mother, Madeline Drymon, said at the home her family moved to in 1977.

    Drymon's first break came in 1995, when he was hired as a cleanup artist for the "Rocko's Modern Life" cable television show. There, he met Steven Hillenburg, the show's director.

    When Hillenburg proposed another animated Nickelodeon show, he hired Drymon to help him develop the concept. Drymon recalled Hillenburg showing him a sketch of what would become SpongeBob.

    "I remember thinking it was such a simple design, but one I had never seen before. Such a genius use of shape," Drymon said.

    Neither envisioned the extent of SpongeBob SquarePants' appeal or that action figures of him and the show's other characters -- from a starfish and squirrel to the penny-pinching Mr. Krabs -- would pop up in work cubicles everywhere.

    Drymon, a married father of two, flew back to Jefferson this week to escort his mother, father and sister to several local premieres of the SpongeBob movie, which opens in theaters today. The plotline will be familiar to regular viewers of the television show.

    "It's about a kid who wants to do something and everybody dismisses him because he's a kid," Drymon said.

    Drymon's sister, Jennifer, said she saw traces of her brother's influence in the movie, which revolves around SpongeBob's efforts to prove his worth after being passed over for a promotion.

    "His underlying humor, I could get," she said.

    Listed in the movie's credits as one of three executive producers and five writers, Drymon also served as a storyboard artist and sequence director. The movie's theme song, the same catchy ditty used in the TV show, was co-written by Drymon.

    While none of Drymon's childhood experiences made their way into the movie, he occasionally drew on his early life for the show. In an episode titled "Sailor Mouth," SpongeBob nearly got in trouble after saying a "bad word" -- a scene Drymon said he crafted based on an incident when he said something naughty and a friend threatened to tell his mother.

    Though SpongeBob's core audience is ages 2 to 11, an estimated 30 percent of fans are adults, not all of whom are watching with their children.

    "Kids relate to his innocence and it reminds adults of their childhood," Drymon said.

    Drymon's wife, Rockaway Township native Nancy Moscatiello, stayed behind in Los Angeles this week with their 6-year-old daughter, Vera. Their 3-year-old, Hazel, who does not yet attend school, joined her father on the trip to Jefferson.

    All will be reunited in New York City for the Thanksgiving Day Parade, which for the first time will feature a SpongeBob float. They'll be watching from the Nickelodeon building.

    Drymon said he doubted that many old classmates from Jefferson know about his SpongeBob connection.

    Mike Chen, special projects coordinator for the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art Inc. in Dover, where Drymon attended classes from 1987-88, agreed and noted that cartoonists, even those whose work is famous, tend to labor in anonymity.

    "Most of the artists tend to be behind the scenes," Chen said. "People just assume the art magically appears from someplace."

    Drymon said that as a child, he was inspired by 1940s-era comic books featuring Batman, Superman and others.

    "He stayed in his room all the time and he drew. That's all he did," said sister Jennifer Drymon, 32, who is getting married Sunday.

    His father, Dave, a retired treasury agent who also likes to draw, encouraged his interest.

    Over time, Drymon -- a fan of the Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello -- said he increasingly found himself drawn toward "goofier drawings."

    "The drama stuff is drawn a little more toward realism. The comedy stuff is looser," he said.

    At Jefferson High School, when not playing football, Drymon was sketching comic books. Playing football drew glory, but he found drawing more fulfilling.

    After graduating in 1987, Drymon earned a degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, which arranged an internship with Walt Disney Feature Animations in Florida.

    Afterward, he spent a year or two living in Jefferson and New York City, plotting his next move. He took lots of odd jobs before moving to California, including driving a van and washing dishes at Picatinny Arsenal, where his mom still works as a secretary.

    Earlier, a high school job at a Rockaway Townsquare mall candy shop proved especially worthwhile. Moscatiello, then a Morris Knolls High School student, worked nearby at Pretzels Etc., where Drymon's mom was a manager.

    The two teenagers hit it off and were married in 1994 at Picatinny, where Moscatiello's late father, William, had been a mechanical engineer for 37 years.

    They moved to California in the months leading up to their marriage. Moscatiello became a news manager for "Hard Copy" and arranged some high-profile interviews, including one with notorious wife-shooter Amy Fisher.

    Meanwhile, Drymon was dropping off portfolios of his work all over the city, including a comic book he wrote.

    In 1995, he got the job with "Rocko's Modern Life." The SpongeBob show premiered three years later, changing Drymon's life forever.

    "I get paid well enough, that's for sure, but I have to keep working," Drymon said.

    He is in the early stages of developing a pilot of his own for Nickelodeon, an animated series perhaps mixing comedy with adventure.

    Drymon is preparing to say goodbye to the show and character that made his reputation, saying, "I felt like the movie was the zenith."

    He doesn't expect to do additional SpongeBob work but notes, "You can never say never."

    Drymon said there is a chance that SpongeBob's popularity will endure, unlike other cartoons that were once hugely popular but eventually faded from the spotlight.

    "The intent with SpongeBob is we made something that was supposed to be timeless. We don't make cell phone jokes, laptop jokes … I think good comedy will hold up," he said.

    Would SpongeBob have liked living in Jefferson?

    "He's kind of an oddball. He really doesn't fit in anywhere," Drymon said.
    Knowledge is power ... Stay informed!
    YOU can make a difference - all you have to do is try!

    Dx age 12 current age 46 and counting!
    lost: 5 family members to HCM (SCD, Stroke, CHF)
    Others diagnosed living with HCM (or gene +) include - daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, sister and many many friends!
    Therapy - ICD (implanted 97, 01, 04 and 11, medication
    Currently not obstructed
    Complications - unnecessary pacemaker and stroke (unrelated to each other)

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