Creator of the mega-hit Nickelodeon cartoon series “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Stephen Hillenburg is no longer among us. He died at the age of 57 on 26th November 2018. He was the man behind the hit animated series, which has aired almost 250 episodes. The cause of death was ALS, which Hillenburg revealed he had been diagnosed with in March of last year.
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 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.”
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Stephen Hillenburg was born on August 21, 1961 in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA as Stephen McDannell Hillenburg. He was a writer and producer, known for SpongeBob SquarePants (1999), The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004) and Rocko’s Modern Life (1993).
As a child he loved the films of Jacques Cousteau, so Stephen Hillenburg earned a degree in natural-resource planning and interpretation, with an emphasis in marine resources from Humboldt State University (Arcata, Calif.) in 1984. For three years he taught marine biology at the Orange County Marine Institute (now known as the Orange County Ocean Institute), in Dana Point, California. Stephen Hillenburg had always enjoyed drawing and painting, so he pursued a master’s-degree program in experimental animation at the California Institute of the Arts, in Valencia. All these experiences came together to create SpongeBob SquarePants. He also owned a production company called United Plankton Pictures.
“Our characters act silly, even totally ridiculous at times, and most of our jokes don’t come out of pop cultural references. It seems like we’re aiming at a child audience, everyone can laugh at the basic human traits that are funny. It’s playful, the humor is playful, the world is playful.”
About Stephen Hillenburg’s SpongeBob SquarePants
The first episode was aired on Nickelodeon on May 1, 1999 and the series commenced its full run on July 17 of that year. The series has aired nearly 250 episodes to date. It appealed not only to children but older viewers as well, with college students even organizing viewing parties for the show. The series has won both U.S. and British Emmy Awards, Annie Awards, and ASACP Awards and has been dubbed or subtitled in more than 60 languages, including Urdu, Azerbaijani and Maori.
Earlier this year, Stephen Hillenburg was honored with a special Emmy “for his contribution and impact made in the animation field and within the broadcast industry”. He is survived by his wife of 20 years Karen Hillenburg, son Clay, mother Nancy Hillenburg (nee Dufour) and brother Brian Kelly Hillenburg, his wife Isabel, and nieces Emma and Hazel.