SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg has passed away at the age of 57. Hillenburg is mostly known for being the writer and creator of Spongebob, but the cartoonist also worked as a writer for the popular shows Rocko's Modern Life and Rugrats in the '90s. Hillenburg began his long career in animation in 1992 when he directed the animated shorts Wormholes and The Green Beret. Even though the cartoonist had jobs in between his work on Spongebob, the silly yellow Sponge mostly dominated his career once he was created by Hillenburg in 1999.
Before Hillenburg started his career, he graduated from Humboldt State University in 1984, earning a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Planning and Interpretation and studying marine resources. Hillenburg then began teaching others about his passion when he started teaching marine biology at Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point, California. Using his artistic ability and knowledge of marine biology, Hillenburg created characters that were used to help teach his students, that would later be the basis of SpongeBob SquarePants. Wanting to focus more on animation, Hillenburg attended California Institute of Arts in Valencia starting in 1987, and earned a Master of Fine Arts in 1992, the same year he directed the aforementioned animated shorts.
As reported by Variety, Hillenburg passed away on Monday at the age of 57. Hillenburg's life was cut short due to ALS, short for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Hillenburg made it public in March 2017 that he had been diagnosed with the disease, which ultimately took his life yesterday. His long-time employer Nickelodeon has already released a statement regarding his death, which can be read below.
We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS. 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.
SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends Patrick, Squidward, Sandy, Mr. Krabs, and Gary have been a massive hit for Nickelodeon and continue to bring smiles to this day. The series is currently in its 12th season, despite rumors in the past year that the show was being canceled. SpongeBob has also made his way to the big screen starting with The Spongebob SquarePants Movie in 2004, which was directed by Hillenburg and Mark Osborne. The film got a sequel in 2015, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, and will also be getting another sequel in 2020 with the film The SpongeBob Movie: It's a Wonderful Sponge.
Despite Hillenburg's death, his legacy will continue to live on due to the characters and stories he created. The comedy and stories within SpongeBob SquarePants have struck the funny bones of both young and old viewers ever since the show aired its first episode back on May 1, 1999. Even though Hillenburg was the creator of SpongeBob, he will be remembered for so much more than just the yellow sponge who lived in a pineapple under the sea.
RIP STEPHEN HILLENBURG: AUGUST 21, 1961 - NOVEMBER 26, 2018