Stephen Hillenberg, the creator of Nickelodeon's hugely popular SpongeBob Square Pants passed away today at the age of 57. He was diagnosed with ALS, a neuro-degenerative disease that effects the spinal chord and brain in March of 2017, which was the cause of Hillenburg's death.
"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 was inspired to create SpongeBob due to his experience in Marine Biology; he was a marine biology teacher at the Orange Country Marine Institute in the mid 1980's, and would often combine cartoons and drawings with lesson plans to help his students.
In 1987, Hillenburg enrolled at the prestigious California Institute of the Arts, from which he earned his Master of Fine Arts in 1992.
The Emmy-award winning SpongeBob Square Pants ran close to 250 episodes, and has been translated into dozens of languages. Hillenburg also wrote, produced, and directed the 2004 "SpongeBob Square Pants Movie," as well as writing and producing the 2015 sequel, "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water."
Stephen Hillenburg is survived by his wife, Karen Hillenburg, their son Clay, his mother, Nancy, and his brother, Brian.
Hillenburg brought a lot of joy and laughter to a lot of us here at Bleeding Cool, and he will be greatly missed.
Please enjoy this featurette from Nick Animation from 2015, where Hillenburg talks about the creation of the show: