Stephen Hillenburg, creator of ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ has died

Nick Animation/YouTube

Last year, he revealed he had been diagnosed ALS. 

Stephen Hillenburg, best known as the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, has died at 57, Nickelodeon confirmed in a tweet.

“We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants,” Nickelodeon wrote. “Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work.”

Last year, he revealed he had been diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease ALS.

“I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS,” he said at the time. “Anyone who knows me knows that I will continue to work on SpongeBob SquarePants and my other passions for as long as I am able. My family and I are grateful for the outpouring of love and support.”

Before Spongebob aired in 1999, Hillenburg was a marine biology teacher at the Orange County Marine Institute.

“Obviously, SpongeBob is a comedy, but it really was inspired by me liking marine science,” he said during an interview in 2015 about how he came up with the hit show. “I focused on that, and I never thought the two would come together.”

He was a nine-time Emmy nominee for the show and even earned a special Emmy Award earlier this year for his work in animation.

While most people know him as the creator of SpongeBob, he actually got his start directing another popular Nickelodeon show, Rocko’s Modern Life, which Hillenburg said was a really important experience. He also wrote and directed for Rugrats.

“We have him to thank for the production of this staple of 90s Nickelodeon as well,” someone said on Twitter.

Other expressed their condolences and shared the ways SpongeBob shaped their childhood and animation as a whole.

“A giant of cartoons has left us. A kind, brilliant and hilarious genius who will forever be remembered for his creations. Animation was changed for the better thanks to him,” director Jorge R. Gutierrez wrote. “And millions of kids grew up with a character that championed innocence. Gracias for everything, Steve.”

“This year has just absolutely shattered my heart. Lost two creative, imaginative individuals in both Stan Lee and Stephen Hillenburg, who both shaped so much of my own childhood and my childhood wonder,” one person said.

“R.I.P. Stephen Hillenburg. He made one of the greatest shows of the 2000’s something I didn’t think we can even think of pop culture in this era without Spongebob. Also, don’t forget his time on Rocko. One of the great creators in entertainment. This is a sad day,” another person wrote.

And let us not forget the countless memes SpongeBob has inspired.

Gabrielle Sorto

Gabrielle Sorto

Gabrielle Sorto is an Atlanta-based freelance writer covering culture, lifestyle, and news. Her work has appeared in CNN, Teen Vogue, INSIDER, and Vice. She can usually be found writing with an overpriced coffee in hand or hanging out with her dog, Rihanna, who is named after exactly who you think.