Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, has died, it has been confirmed.
The animator died on Monday (November 27) from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which he was diagnosed with last year. He was 57 years old.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Nickelodeon said: “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 humour 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.”
? 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. ?
— Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon) November 27, 2018
In a tweet, they added they would be “observing a moment of silence to honour his life and work.”
Hillenburg began working on SpongeBob after directing and writing another Nickelodeon series, Rocko’s Modern Life. The first episode of his own creation aired on the channel on May 1, 1999. Since then, nearly 250 episodes have been broadcast, while Hillenburg also wrote two movies – The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (which he also produced and directed) and its 2015 sequel Sponge Out Of Water.
Over the last 19 years, the TV show has picked up over 70 awards, including prizes from the Emmys, the British Academy’s Children’s Awards, the Kids’ Choice Awards, and more.
Hillenburg is survived by Karen, his wife of 20 years, his son Clay, mother Nancy, and brother Brian.
Tributes have begun to pour in on social media, with many fans sharing their favourite memories of SpongeBob and thanking Hillenburg for brightening their childhoods. See some of those messages below.
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) November 27, 2018
Rest In Peace Stephen Hillenburg! Nobody will ever create a cartoon as legendary as Spongebob Squarepants. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/zwSICYued5
— Sean (@seanwells25) November 27, 2018
The quality of the first three seasons of Spongebob are to blame for it’s decades-long cultural relevance. Stephen Hillenburg created a broad, optimistic universe without sacrificing any of his absurd sensibility, giving us art that could be loved and understood commonly. Tragic.
— Gabriel Gundacker (@gabegundacker) November 27, 2018
Some of my favorite childhood memories were SpongeBob:
– performing at the Bubble Bowl.
– selling chocolate.
– delivering pizza with a less-than-enthusiastic Squidward.
– meeting THE hash-slinging slasher.
Thank you, Stephen Hillenburg.
Bikini Bottom meant the world to me. pic.twitter.com/MCaQWXiwYx
— Brian Gay (@brian2596) November 27, 2018
RIP Stephen Hillenburg, the creation of the best cartoon in the world. These never get old. pic.twitter.com/pXc5aB68RP
— Liam ☁️ (@LiamLMR) November 27, 2018
True legends never die. They just go home.
RIP Stephen Hillenburg. pic.twitter.com/ZcNA0HrzJ3
— Bella Cigno ? (@IsabellaCigno) November 27, 2018
R.I.P Stephen Hillenburg you gave us one of our greatest Icons, more laughs than I can count, and you taught us that it's okay to be a Goofy Goober. pic.twitter.com/DLaUfweB7I
— ERod ? (@ERodBuster1) November 27, 2018
This really hit me hard ?The creator of Spongebob Squarepants, Stephen Hillenburg, passed away today at age 57. Thank you for making our childhoods amazing, may you Rest In Peace ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2GikLj5N8T
— Rug (@FaZeRug) November 27, 2018