Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, has died at the age of 57.
The cause of death was ALS, which Hillenburg revealed he had been diagnosed with in March of last year.
“We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS,” Nickelodeon said in a statement. “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.”
A former marine biology teacher, Hillenburg moved into television and worked on the show Rocko’s Modern Life. He created SpongeBob SquarePants, which originally aired in 1999, and it became a global hit, dubbed into more than 60 languages. Hillenburg also wrote, produced and directed 2004’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which made $140m worldwide.
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.