Stephen Hillenburg, Creator Of ‘SpongeBob Squarepants,’ Passed Away At The Age Of 57

| History
Stephen Hillenburg
Penn Live/Nickelodeon

At the end of November, the world lost an incredible man. Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob Squarepants and Rocko’s Modern Life. An innovator and artist, Hillenburg brought joy to millions of audiences worldwide.

“A Reminder Of The Value Of Optimism”

Stephen Hillenburg
Penn Live

On Monday, November 26, Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob Squarepants passed away. Hillenburg was 57, passing after a long battle with ALS. The cartoon genius revealed his diagnosis last March, and people close to him said he fought it bravely, and never stopped creating for a moment.

SpongeBob Squarepants, one of the biggest animated show ever, first aired on Nickelodeon in 1999. Ever since, the show continues to be loved by kids and adults alike. A Nickelodeon spokesman said of Hillenburg’s death, “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. […] 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.”

Stephen Hillenburg – From Teacher To TV Creator

Stephen Hillenburg Spongebob Squarepants

Hillenburg was born in 1961 in Oklahoma. His path to television superstardom was a long one. He first studied Natural Resource Planning, with an emphasis on marine resources, at Humboldt State University. He’d went on to become a marine biology teacher at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California. Hillenburg’s love for the sea and sea creatures, as well as his passion for teaching, led him to draw sea animals. From there, he began creating cartoons to help his students understand sea creatures better. Little did the world know this would be the start and inspiration for Bikini Bottom, where SpongeBob lives.

Stephen Hillenburg Rocko's Modern Life

The teacher/artist decided to follow his passion and studied animation, eventually graduating with an M.A. in Fine Arts in 1992. He’d won several awards for his cartoons and animation, and landed a job in Nickelodeon – and created Rocko’s Modern Life in 1993. This went on until 1996, when he established himself at the network as a producer and a creator, dedicating his career to SpongeBob Squarepants.

The Legacy Of SpongeBob

Stephen Hillenburg Spongebob Squarepants

SpongeBob Squarepants was first aired in 1999, and was immediately beloved by kids, college students, and adults. The show’s stories are hilarious and touching, and the characters are also incredibly relateable. There’s SpongeBob, who loves life, his work, and has faith in everyone; there’s Patrick Starfish, a great friend and a little bit of a dummy; Squidward, who hates everyone but comes through when he’s needed; the mighty strong Sandy, whose a strong female-scuba-diver-squirrel who don’t need no man to help her.

The characters, on the surface, can be seen as stereotypical, like Mr. Krabs, the restaurant owner and SpongeBob’s boss, who loves money. But in every episode, they all turn out to have their own passions and journeys and self conflicts. The series went on to win Emmys – American and British – and airs dubbed in over 60 countries.

In addition to SpongeBob, in 2004 Stephen Hillenburg produced, directed, and wrote The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and its sequel which premiered in 2015. The two movies grossed over $292 million worldwide.

Stephen Hillenburg made a huge impact on children and adults alike; many people reckon there never will be a show quite like it. Hillenburg made sure to spread messages of hope and love, and made everyone laugh. His legacy goes on, and may he rest in peace.