The creator of Spongebob, Stephen Hillenburg has died. The 57-year-old passed away on Monday of Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to a statement from Nickelodeon on Tuesday. Hillenburg was a creative genius, who used his loves for drawing and marine biology to create the fun-loving world of “SpongeBob SquarePants.
Hillenburg announced he had the disease back in March 2017. Hillenburg is the main man behind Spongebob, which began in 1999 and since has turned into hundreds of episodes, multiple hit movies and even a Broadway show.
“The fact that it’s undersea and isolated from our world helps the characters maintain their own culture,” Hillenburg told The Associated Press in 2001. “The essence of the show is that SpongeBob is an innocent in a world of jaded characters. The rest is absurd packaging.”
Born at his father’s army post in Lawton, Oklahoma, Hillenburg graduated from Humboldt State University in California in 1984 with a degree in natural resource planning with an emphasis on marine resources, and went on to teach marine biology at the Orange County Marine Institute.
Hillenburg shifted to drawing and earned a master of fine arts degree in animation from the California Institute of the Arts in 1992. That same year he created an animated short called “Wormholes” that won festival plaudits and helped land him a job on the Nickelodeon show “Rocko’s Modern Life,” where he worked from 1993 to 1996.
He then went on to create Spongebob, a show that was an immediate hit, not only amongst young children, but also with teens and adults too.
Its nearly 250 episodes have won four Emmy Awards and 15 Kids’ Choice Awards, such a success wasn’t expected from Hillenburg, who told the AP back in 2002: “When you set out to do a show about a sponge, you can’t anticipate this kind of craze.”
Hillenburg is survived by his wife Karen Hillenburg of 20 years, his son Clay, his mother Nancy Hillenburg, and his brother, Brian Kelly Hillenburg.