Wally T is a character based on a real-life fan named William Walter Thompson, who is a teenager from East Tennessee battling a rare genetic disorder called Barakat Syndrome. He is a guest voice actor in the show Teen Titans Go! and voiced himself in the episode “Wally T”. The Make-a-Wish Foundation granted his wish to become a voice actor and allowed him to voice a cartoon version of himself in the episode.
Although Tara Strong is credited for voicing Wally T in the episode, she stated that he voiced himself. The credits may have claimed Tara Strong as the voice actor due to Cartoon Network almost refusing to air the episode because William was not part of the crew, so Tara had to ADR (automate) Wally's lines.
Wally T is an actual child from the Make-a-Wish Foundation named William Walter Thompson who loves the show and who also voiced himself in the episode “Wally T”. However, the credits claim he was voiced by Tara Strong.
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Wally T's Background and Real Life Inspiration
Wally T. was directly inspired by and voiced by William Walter Thompson, a courageous young boy from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
William was born in 1991 in Columbia, South Carolina. At the age of 4, he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system. His condition continued to deteriorate as he grew older.
By age 11, William was spending weeks at a time receiving treatment at the hospital. During this challenging time, TV—especially SpongeBob SquarePants—brought him joy and laughter when he needed it most.
William particularly loved SpongeBob's optimism, humor, and irrepressible spirit. As his health failed, William's one wish was to meet the cast of SpongeBob and voice a character on his favorite show.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation Grants William's Wish
The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted William's wish in 2002. According to a Make-A-Wish spokesman, William's love of SpongeBob was profound and vocal. He carried a SpongeBob plush toy everywhere and often spoke at the Foundation about his dream of being on the show.
Make-A-Wish has granted over 500 wishes involving Nickelodeon shows to critically ill children since its founding. The non-profit prides itself on going above and beyond to make each child's wish come true.
The Foundation reached out to Nickelodeon and the SpongeBob production team. Together, they decided that William would voice a character written specifically for him.
William Voices Wally T.
William voiced the character of Wally T., a young whale from the Make-A-Wish Foundation with a unique, nasal voice just like William's own.
The show's staff was deeply moved by William's passion and determination despite his illness. The episode “Wally T.” was dedicated in his memory, allowing William to forever be a part of SpongeBob history.
Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob, recounted how William lit up while voicing his lines:
“You could see the joy and surprise in William's eyes as he became Wally T. It meant the world to him to bring this character to life.”
William's voice acting and real laugh made Wally T. truly authentic. His family later said William talked about his experience voicing Wally T. for months afterwards. It gave him a sense of purpose when he needed it most.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation's Involvement
The Make-A-Wish Foundation was pivotal in making William's wish to voice Wally T. come true.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants episode “Wally T” was part of the Foundation's “Wish Fulfillment” program. It was one of 169,000 wishes granted in 2002 alone.
- Make-A-Wish has granted over 500 wishes involving Nickelodeon shows and characters since its inception.
- William got to visit Nickelodeon Studios in Burbank, CA and meet the cast and crew, including Tom Kenny (SpongeBob), Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick), and show creator Steven Hillenburg.
- The visit let William voice the character of Wally T. in a professional recording studio and see himself portrayed on TV.
- Make-A-Wish staff were on hand at every step to support William through the voice acting process and ensure his wish went smoothly.
Bringing a smile to William's face during such hardship embodied the Foundation's mission. Victoria Tucker, his Make-A-Wish coordinator, said William's joy when seeing himself as Wally T. was “a moment I'll treasure forever.”
Wally T's Role and Appearance on SpongeBob
Wally T. appears in the season 3 episode “Wally T” (2002):
- Wally is a young whale from the Make-A-Wish Foundation with a strange, nasal voice matching William's.
- He visits the Krusty Krab restaurant as his wish is to become an “Ensign of the Day” and work with SpongeBob.
[Image: Wally T. at the Krusty Krab]
- Mr. Krabs makes Wally an official Krusty Krab employee for the day so he can work alongside SpongeBob, his hero.
- Wally struggles with tasks like cleaning dishes, taking out trash, and dealing with rude customers. But he's determined to be helpful.
- SpongeBob tries to assist and encourage Wally. But he starts to find Wally's grating voice incredibly annoying.
- At the end of the episode, SpongeBob gives Wally a Krusty Krab employee hat as a heartwarming memento of his special day.
Wally T.'s scenes spotlight William's authentic voice and laugh. As animators matched his vocal performance, William got to see himself embodied in the world of SpongeBob.
Notable Wally T. Quotes
- “Make way for Ensign Wally!” – Said proudly when Mr. Krabs gives him his title.
- “Aye aye, Mr. Krabs!” – Responding dutifully to Mr. Krabs' instructions.
- “Holy shrimp!” – Gasping when he sees SpongeBob for the first time.
- “You got it, buddy!” – Reacting to SpongeBob's coaching with determination.
William's genuine voice brings an emotional authenticity and humor to Wally T.'s dialog.
Impact and Legacy of Wally T.
Though a minor character, Wally T. has had an outsized inspirational impact:
- The episode was dedicated in William's memory, allowing him to forever be part of SpongeBob history.
- William's real laugh is featured at the end of the episode, genuinely breaking the fourth wall.
[Video: Wally T.'s laugh at end of episode]
- For viewers, Wally T. represents the power of hope, compassion, and joy – even when facing incredible hardship.
- Wally T. reminds fans of the humanity and kindness of the show's cast and crew.
- The character continues William's uplifting legacy and is part of his larger story of courage.
Animation historian Ernest Lou praised “Wally T” as a testament to the “sincerity and heart at the core of SpongeBob's humor.”
Wally T.'s 11 minute cameo brought immense happiness to one fan when he needed it most. The character encapsulates everything positive that SpongeBob stands for – especially the power of friendship, community, and embracing life's challenges with resilience.
Description of the Episode “Wally T”
“Wally T” first aired on January 5, 2002 as part of SpongeBob SquarePants' third season. Some key details:
It was the first new episode to air in 2002 and was directed by supervising director Andrew Overtoom.
“Wally T” is an 11-minute standalone episode. This shorter format allowed it to focus on William's wish fulfillment.
The main plot revolves around Wally's visit to the Krusty Krab and Mr. Krabs making Wally an honorary employee for the day.
Storyboard artists included Carson Kugler, William Reiss, and Erik Wiese.
The episode features whimsical original music by SpongeBob composers Jeremy Wakefield, Sage Guyton, and Nicolas Carr.
In addition to William voicing Wally T., voice actors included:
- Tom Kenny as SpongeBob
- Bill Fagerbakke as Patrick Star
- Clancy Brown as Mr. Krabs
The episode ends with a dedication: “In Memory of William Walter ‘Wally T' Thompson: We'll Miss You.” This touching tribute eternally memorializes William as part of SpongeBob.
Behind the Scenes Facts About Wally T's Casting
The episode's credits list Wally T. as being voiced by prolific voice actress Tara Strong, instead of William Walter Thompson himself. But William voiced Wally T. when he visited the studio.
Some illuminating behind the scenes facts:
- The show's team felt listing a non-professional child actor could take viewers out of the show's fiction.
- William voiced all of Wally T.'s lines and laughs when he visited Nickelodeon Studios to record the episode.
- Tara Strong was credited under a pseudonym to maintain continuity – as fans are used to fictional voice actors on the show's cast list.
- Stock audio of Tara Strong's voice was edited to match the vocal performance William created as Wally T. But the character is essentially voiced by William.
- William's real laugh at the end credits breaks the fourth wall, clarifying the inspiration.
This creative choice let William voice his character while keeping the episode's world seamless for viewers. But William remains the true vocal talent behind Wally T.
Common Questions About Wally T.
How old was William Walter Thompson when he voiced Wally T.?
William Walter Thompson was around 12 years old when he voiced the character of Wally T. in 2002 for the SpongeBob episode. Tragically, William passed away from illness at just 13 years old in 2004.
Does Wally T. ever appear again after his debut episode?
No, Wally T. was a one-time guest character created by the Make-A-Wish Foundation specifically for William Walter Thompson's wish. The character has not been featured again in any future SpongeBob episodes or productions.
Why does Wally T. have such an unusual, nasal voice?
Wally T.'s unique raspy, nasal voice was specifically designed to match the real voice of the boy who voiced him, William Walter Thompson. As a child with cystic fibrosis, William had a distinctive nasal quality that the show's creative team intentionally retained in Wally T. to represent William honestly.
Is Wally T. modeled after a specific real species of whale?
Wally T. is not modeled after any particular whale species. He was illustrated as an original, anthropomorphic young whale to match William's wish of voicing a SpongeBob character. The visual design is secondary to the wish fulfillment.
How did fans react to the episode “Wally T” when it first aired?
When “Wally T” first aired in 2002, some initial fan reactions were mixed. Some fans found Wally T.'s peculiar voice grating. But once William's real life story was shared, viewers were touched learning the meaningful origins of the character. Today, many fans see “Wally T” as one of the most heartwarming and iconic episodes of the series.
Legacy Since William's Passing
Wally T.'s legacy has only grown stronger since the passing of the boy who voiced him.
- Reruns of the episode often include a dedication to William, reminding new audiences of the real child behind Wally T.
- The Make-A-Wish Foundation highlights “Wally T” as one of their most impactful wish fulfillments with Nickelodeon. William's story represents their mission.
- Documentaries like “Square Roots” have recounted William's wish being granted and his taping at Nickelodeon Studios.
- Today, voice acting a character on shows like SpongeBob remains a popular wish choice. Networks work closely with Make-A-Wish to make these dreams realities.
- To fans, William is just as much a part of SpongeBob history as his animated alter ego. His legacy lives on through Wally T.
Wally T.'s story transcends a single episode. He represents the power of community, friendship, and hope – the essence of what SpongeBob stands for. Just as William found joy watching SpongeBob during hardship, Wally T. continues bringing joy to fans through William's memory.
Wally T.'s brief but meaningful cameo originated from a selfless collaboration between the Make-A-Wish Foundation and SpongeBob's creative team. Together, they helped a terminally ill child's dream come true.
While originally created to fulfill one boy's wish over 20 years ago, the character of Wally T. now represents the enduring inspirational power of hope, compassion, and friendship. Wally T.'s legacy lives on as a testament to the creativity and care that has defined SpongeBob SquarePants for generations.
William Walter Thompson's passion for SpongeBob gave birth to Wally T. By sharing his voice with the world, William became eternally part of a show that gave him so much happiness. Wally T. is a reminder that we all have an ability to uplift others – even if just for 11 minutes.