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The season was first announced on January 3, 2011, and premiered on July 21, 2012. A total of 27 episodes were produced for the season bringing the number of episodes up to 205, passing the 200-episode milestone. This season marks the show's transition to 1080i HD by now having every episode produced and aired in widescreen (16:9), the native aspect ratio of high definition.
In a statement, Brown Johnson, president of animation for Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group, 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." Series creator Stephen Hillenburg executive produces the show alongside Paul Tibbitt, who has work on show since after the pilot. Tibbitt served as a director and writer on for its first three seasons and eventually taking over the showrunner position from Hillenburg. Tibbitt said "We never imagined we would be on for that long but we're going to keep going. The trick is to try to keep the episodes funny and simple and press from there."
Animation was handled in South Korea at Rough Draft Studios. Production switched to high-definition in the season; the first episode "Extreme Spots," aired July 21, 2012. Animation directors credited with episodes in the ninth season included Alan Smart and Tom Yasumi. Episodes were written by a team of writers, which consisted of Casey Alexander, Brookshier, Ceccarelli, Zeus Cervas, Andrew Goodman, Iversen, Mr. Lawrence, and Blake Lemons. The season was storyboarded by Alexander, Brookshier, Ceccarelli, Cervas, and Blake Lemons. Animation directors included Alan Smart and Tom Yasumi.[lower-alpha 1]
In addition to the regular cast members, episodes feature guest voices from many ranges of professions, including actors, musicians, and artists. For instance, the season premiere "Extreme Spots" was guest starred by American stunt performer and Jackass actor Johnny Knoxville voicing the character of Johnny Krill. The writing staff wrote the episode specifically for Knoxville. Executive producer Paul Tibbitt said, "[Nickelodeon] wanted to do a show about extreme sports and the first thing that came to mind was Johnny Knoxville, because there are few humans living that are as extreme as him." Knoxville accepted the role because he is a fan of the show.Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway returned, reprising their respective roles as Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy in "Patrick-Man!". The episode was Borgnine's last voice-over work for the series as, on July 8, 2012, he died at the age of 95. In "License to Milkshake", comedian and Spinal Tap band member Michael McKean guest starred as the voice of Captain Frostymug. Rapper Biz Markie guest appeared as Kenny the Cat in the episode of the same name.
In a DVD review for a season release, Paul Mavis of DVD Talk was positive on the episode "Extreme Spots", writing "[It] gets big laughs from some very funny bits, including a motorcycle ripping off SpongeBob's arms, and SpongeBob's pathetic attempts at 'extreme jump roping' and 'extreme pillow fighting.'" However, the episode "Squirrel Record" was described by Mavis as "the weakest entry" on the set.
In 2013, the episode "SpongeBob, You're Fired!" was criticized for its line that is referring to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps benefit). In a scene from the episode, Patrick Star tried to show SpongeBob "the benefits of being unemployed," at which he said in response, "Unemployment may be fun for you, but I need to get a job." The scene was meant to demonstrate the title character's "eternal optimism and willingness to get back to work," and "do it in a way that's still funny and relatable." However, it was reported that political activists claim the "notorious line" as a "slam" to the Food Stamps benefit. In a report byThe Hollywood Reporter, it stated there that the episode may have a political agenda about the social safety net. It added that "It's not the first time SpongeBob has waded into social commentary, though usually when it does, it bugs the right and supports the left." This incident sparked a political debate, after the New York Post and Fox News remarked on the episode. The Media Matters for America, a politically progressive media watchdog group, responded. According to the group, the attacking news media, both owned by News Corporation, are using the episode "to slam poor people who use social services." In response to Fox News, Media Matters immediately posted an item titled "Right-Wing Media Use SpongeBob SquarePants' Firing To Attack Social Safety Net", arguing that the talking heads "are using the firing of fictional cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants to attack the social safety net and those who rely on it." The article said "Right-wing media have a long history of attacking the social safety net. Media Matters was "also particularly bothered by [a] line from The Post story: "Lest he sit around idly, mooching off the social services of Bikini Bottom, a depressed SpongeBob sets out to return to gainful employment wherever he can find it," reporter Andrea Morabito wrote. "No spoilers -- but it's safe to say that our hero doesn't end up on food stamps, as his patty-making skills turn out to be in high demand." Furthermore, the coverage from Fox News prompted civil rights activist, and talk show host Al Sharpton of MSNBC to "stick up for poor Americans." Sharpton remarked in the October 31 episode of PoliticsNation, "The right-wingers found a new hero in its war against the poor [...] SpongeBob SquarePants. That's right. SpongeBob SquarePants [...] So a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea doesn't need government help. That means no one does?"
Nickelodeon declined to comment on the issue caused by the message of the episode. However, Russell Hicks of Nickelodeon said the show is "tapping into the news of the moment, but did not specifically address any political leanings or ideologies within the episode." In a statement, Hicks said "Like all really great cartoons, part of SpongeBob's long-running success has been its ability to tap into the zeitgeist while still being really funny for our audience. As always, despite this momentary setback, SpongeBob's eternal optimism prevails, which is always a great message for everyone."