SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenberg dies at 57

Next year would have been the show's 20th anniversary.

Guan Zhen Tan | November 28, 2018, 12:34 PM

First Stan, now Stephen.

The creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg, has passed away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neuro-degenerative disease.

ALS results in weakness and ultimately failure of one's cognitive and motor ability, including that of being able to chew, eat and breathe.

The news was announced by Nickelodeon on their official Twitter account.

A screenshot of the tweet reposted on the SpongeBob SquarePants official Facebook page has since garnered over 100,000 shares.

Hillenberg had worked with Nickelodeon for nearly three decades.

This year marks his 25th year with the animation company.

Hillenberg was diagnosed in 2017 and died Nov. 26, 2018.

He was 57 and leaves behind his wife of 20 years and a son.

A love for all things marine

Hillenberg, previously a marine biology teacher at the Orange County Marine Institute (which is now called the Ocean Institute) said in an 2016 interview with The Guardian that French ocean explorer Jacques Costeau and his own scuba-diving trips had inspired his ambition to become a marine biologist.

In his own words, however, he was good at art, but only so-so in the topic that he so loved.

But that was a blessing in disguise, for it was the magic formula for SpongeBob.

While working on his first animation job at Nickelodeon on Rocko's Modern Life in 1993, someone had seen a talking sponge on The Intertidal Zone, an educational comic Hillenberg had created, and suggested for him to make his own show out of it.

In 1999, SpongeBob SquarePants was created.

Hillenburg believed that the show would only last for four seasons, but it has since become a global hit, and possibly one of the most well-known cartoons of all time.

So far, the series has spawned over 200 episodes, two movies and even a Broadway play.

Spongebob's appeal has transcended the TV medium, as scenes from the show have regularly made themselves home in pop culture -- particularly memes, where certain scenes involving SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward and Mr. Krabs get taken out of the context of the show but evolved to mirror relatable experiences in real life.

So long, Hillenburg.

Thank you for bringing us to Bikini Bottom, and may you be where jellyfishes -- and a few friends, such as a squirrel, who do stuff together -- dance to a happy ukulele tune.

And live in a pineapple under the sea.

Up there.

Top image via Nick Animation and Nickolodeon's YouTube channel