Stephen Hillenburg, Creator of ‘SpongeBob’ Dies at 57

On Tuesday afternoon, Nickelodeon broke the sad news that SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg has passed away at the age of 57.

Hillenburg died from ALS, which he revealed he was diagnosed with in March 2017. Nickelodoen paid tribute to him in a tweet on Tuesday, writing,

“We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS,” Nickelodeon said in a statement. “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.”

Hillenburg graduated from Humboldt State University in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Planning and Interpretation, with an emphasis on marine resources.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.  He started working at Nickoleadon in 1993 serving as a director and writer on the show“Rocko’s Modern Life.”

Photo by Dave Allocca/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock 

It is there that he began to work full-time on writing producing, and directing on the animated series that would eventually become “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

The first episode aired on Nickelodeon on May 1, 1999 and the series commenced its full run on July 17 of that year. The series has aired nearly 250 episodes to date..The series has won both U.S. and British Emmy Awards, Annie Awards, and ASACP Awards and has been dubbed or sub-titled in more than 60 languages, including Urdu, Azerbaijani and Maori.

He is survived by his wife of 20 years Karen Hillenburg and their son Clay.