LOS ANGELES — Stephen Hillenburg, who offered his double loves of drawing and marine biology to generate the absurd undersea people of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” has died, Nickelodeon announced Tuesday.

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Hillenburg passed away Monday that Lou Gehrig’s disease, additionally known as ALS, the cable network claimed in a statement. He was 57.

He had announced he had actually the condition in march 2017. His fatality comes just weeks after ~ the passing of another cartoon hero in Marvel creator Stan Lee.

Hillenburg conceived, wrote, produced and also directed the animated series that started in 1999 and bloomed into hundreds of episodes, movies and also a Broadway show.


“His utterly original characters and the people of Bikini Bottom will long stand together a reminder the the worth of optimism, friendship and the countless power that imagination.”

The absurdly jolly SpongeBob and also his yell-along theme song that opened up “Who resides in a pineapple under the sea?!” easily appealed to college kids and also parents as lot as that did kids.

“The truth that it’s undersea and also isolated from our civilization helps the personalities maintain their very own culture,” Hillenburg said The associated Press in 2001. “The essence of the present is that SpongeBob is an chaste in a human being of jaded characters. The rest is absurd packaging.”

Its huge cast the oceanic creatures consisted of SpongeBob’s starfish sidekick Patrick, his tightwad boss Mr. Krabs, squirrel pal Sandy Cheeks and always-exasperated neighbor Squidward Tentacles.

While Hillenburg introduced and popularized exotic creatures choose the sea sponge (which in the real world is no square,) Bikini Bottom to be a realm favor no other, genuine or fictional. SpongeBob deserve to play his nose favor a flute and also could not perhaps be more joy to work his fast-seafood job of flipping Krabby Patties.

But he has actually his troubles, too. He constantly falls short his boat-driving test, forcing his frightened blowfish teacher come inflate. In one episode he sick a damaged butt and also is afraid to leave his pineapple residence for days.

“I don’t desire to challenge my fears,” SpongeBob, voiced through Tom Kenny, says in an additional episode. “I’m afraid of them!”


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The SpongeBob Squarepants balloon is held throughout the 91st Macy’s Thanksgiving job Parade in new York, brand-new York, Nov. 23, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri


Born at his father’s army post in Lawton, Oklahoma, Hillenburg graduated from Humboldt State university in California in 1984 v a degree in natural resource planning with focus on naval resources, and also went on to teach maritime biology at the Orange County marine Institute.

While there he drew a comic, “The Intertidal Zone,” that he used as a teaching tool. That featured humanlike ocean creatures the were precursors to the characters on “SpongeBob.”

Hillenburg shifted to drawing and earned a grasp of well arts degree in computer animation from the California institute of the arts in 1992.

That same year he produced an animated quick called “Wormholes” the won festival plaudits and helped land the a job on the Nickelodeon present “Rocko’s modern-day Life,” whereby he operated from 1993 come 1996 before he began to build SpongeBob’s undersea world of Bikini Bottom, which proved off his knowledge of naval life and also willingness to throw all the details the end the window.

“We recognize that fish don’t walk,” that told the AP, “and the there is no organized ar with roads, where cars are really boats. And if you recognize much about sponges, you know that life sponges aren’t square.”

The show was an immediate hit that has actually lost no inert in the nearly twenty years since that creation and also helped specify the society of Nickelodeon.


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This photo released through Boneau/Bryan-Brown shows a power of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” in brand-new York. The Tony Awards race is overcame by huge established brands, including Disney’s “Frozen,” J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” franchise, Tina Fey’s “Mean Girls” and Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants.” The nominations for the 72nd Tony Awards will certainly be announced top top Tuesday, might 1. (Joan Marcus/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via AP)


“He was a lovely friend and also long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and also our hearts go out to his entire family,” Nickelodeon’s explain said. “His utterly initial characters and the people of Bikini Bottom will lengthy stand as a reminder of the value of optimism, friendship and also the endless power the imagination.”

Its nearly 250 episodes have won 4 Emmy Awards and 15 Kids’ choice Awards, and also led to an limitless line the merchandise to rival any other pop social phenomenon the the 2000s.

“When you set out to carry out a show about a sponge, girlfriend can’t suspect this type of craze,” Hillenburg called the AP in 2002.

In 2004, the display shifted to the large screen through “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” and also a 2015 sequel, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge the end of Water.”


“The significance of the display is that SpongeBob is an chaste in a world of jaded characters. The remainder is absurd packaging.” — Stephen Hillenburg

Intensely involved in every aspect of the show initially, Hillenburg after ~ the 2004 film stepped earlier into an executive producer function on the show, wherein he continued to be for the remainder of his life.

A musical stage adaptation bowed ~ above Broadway in 2017, through music from such stars together Steven Tyler, Sara Bareilles and also John Legend. It earned 12 Tony award nominations, including one for finest performance by a leading actor for Ethan Slater.

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“I am upper heart to hear of the pass of Stephen Hillenburg,” Slater said in an email Tuesday. “Through functioning on ‘SpongeBob,’ I obtained to recognize him not only as a creative genius, yet as a truly generous and also kind person. That warmly embraced us ~ above Broadway together the newest members that his exorbitant ‘SpongeBob’ family, and also made it so clear from the get-go why that is therefore beloved: real kindness.”

Hillenburg is made it through by his mam of twenty years Karen Hillenburg, son Clay, mom Nancy Hillenburg, and a brother, Brian Kelly Hillenburg.


Left: Stephen Hillenburg, creator that the well-known animated series Spongebob Squarepants, is interviewed by Reuters in Singapore, Jan. 28, 2005. REUTERS/Luis Enrique Ascui


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