“Spongebob Squarepants” Creator Stephen Hillenburg Dies at age 57


Creator of television show Spongebob Squarepants, Stephen Hillenburg, dies at age 57. Photo credits: Rolling Stone

Jasmeen Rivera, Reporter

Stephen Hillenburg, creator of hit-animated television series “Spongebob Squarepants”, unfortunately, died at the age of 57, after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Hillenburg passed Tuesday afternoon in Southern California. Diagnosed in March 2017, ALS is a nervous system disease that weakens the muscles and also influences the physical function of the body. The show’s network Nickelodeon announced his death on social media, stating, “We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants. Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work.”

Hillenburg was familiar to the public for his greatest achievements in building the industry. Born in Lawton, Oklahoma in 1961, Hillenburg pursued his dreams of the animation industry at the California Institute of Arts, where his love for the creation of imaginary characters “started blooming.” From there, a year later, he went on to become the director and writer of Nickelodeon’s “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “Rugrats.” Hillenburg recalled the experience as “really important for [him] because [he] really wouldn’t have known how to put a show together without that experience.” Joe Murray, the creator for “Rocko’s Modern Life,” admired the short films so immensely, he asked Hillenburg if he could direct an episode of a show that would leave children today still admiring its contents: Spongebob Squarepants. 

After it’s premiere on May 1st, 1999, the show went on to win multiple awards, including the British Emmy’s, the Annies, and ASCAP. Hillenburg, also a former marine biologist teacher, took part in the show’s content by being the early voice actor for character Potty the Pirate and playing the ukulele in some of its episodes. Spongebob has been adapted twice on the big screen. Being released in 2004, “The Spongebob Squarepants Movie” and it’s second movie debuting in 2015, “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.” While airing over 250 episodes since it’s release date, Spongebob has gone on to be a creation of both Hullenburg’s love for marine science and animation.

Hillenburg leaves behind in his death his wife, Karen–an inspiration to the making of the character Karen Plankton–son, brother, and extended family. “Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a unique sense of humor and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere,” Nickelodeon stated, “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.”