Emmy winner Stephen Hillenburg, creator, writer, producer and director of the long-running animated comedy SpongeBob SquarePants, has died at the age of 57 as the result of ALS.
SpongeBob follows the adventures of a sea sponge who lives in an underwater pineapple. “You can’t start making a show about a sponge and think it will be a huge hit,” Hillenburg told TV Kids in a 2004 interview. “I thought it would have a cult audience but no broad appeal.” The popular series, which premiered on Nickelodeon in 1999, is still on the air today. It has spawned multiple feature films as well as a Broadway musical.
“We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS,” Nickelodeon said in a statement yesterday. “He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family. Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a unique sense of humor and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere. His utterly original characters and the world of Bikini Bottom will long stand as a reminder of the value of optimism, friendship and the limitless power of imagination.”
Before pursing a career in animation, Hillenburg was a marine biology teacher. He is survived by his wife (Karen), son (Clay), mother (Nancy) and brother (Brian).