The creator of Nickelodeon’s long-running animated hit “SpongeBob SquarePants” died Monday at age 57. The New York Post’s Page Six reports that Stephen Hillenburg died of ALS.
Hillenburg revealed in March of last year that he had been diagnosed with the disease.
Nickelodeon released a statement saying: “We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS. He was a beloved friend and longtime 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.”
“SpongeBob” first aired on Nickelodeon back in 1999 and has produced almost 250 episodes and counting.
The Post notes that Hillenburg was a marine biology teacher at the Orange County Marine Institute (now the Ocean Institute) in Dana Point, Calif., back in the 1980s.
“This interest, combined with his artistic talent and love of the sea and its creatures, led him to write and illustrate stories as teaching tools with characters that would later become the denizens of SpongeBob’s home, Bikini Bottom,” the story reports. “He began his animation career in 1987, pursuing a degree in experimental animation at the California Institute of Arts in Valencia and earning his master of fine arts in 1992.”
That same year, Hillenburg’s animated short “Wormholes” won Best Animated Concept at the Ottawa International Animation Festival.
“From 1993 to 1996, he would pursue work in television as a director and writer on Nickelodeon’s series ‘Rocko’s Modern Life,'” The Post reports. “From there, he began to work full time on writing, producing and directing the animated series that would eventually become ‘SpongeBob SquarePants.’”
Here’s a short interview with Hillenburg, talking about the creation of “SpongeBob SquarePants” …