SpongeBob SquarePants Creator Stephen Hillenburg Dead At 57

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The creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg, has passed away at the age of 57.

Nickelodeon broke the news this afternoon (Tuesday, November 27) on their social media accounts.

They posted to Twitter to update their followers:

They wrote:

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

As reported by Variety, his cause of death was ALS, which Hillenburg revealed he had been diagnosed with in March of last year.

He announced he had been diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease in a statement shared with Variety.

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In the statement, he said:

I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS. Anyone who knows me knows that I will continue to work on โ€˜SpongeBob SquarePantsโ€™ and my other passions for as long as I am able.

My family and I are grateful for the outpouring of love and support. We ask that our sincere request for privacy be honored during this time.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a rare terminal illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

Hillenburg began his animation career in 1987, studying Experimental Animation at the California Institute of Arts in Valencia before he earned his Master of Fine Arts in 1992.

From there, he began winning awards and became a director and writer on Nickelodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life, before he began working full-time on writing, producing and directing the animated series that would eventually become SpongeBob SquarePants.

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The first episode aired on Nickelodeon in 1999, on May 1, and the series has aired nearly 250 episodes to date since then.

The series has won Emmy Awards, Annie Awards, and ASACP Awards; it has also been dubbed or sub-titled in more than 60 languages, proving its success and appeal to a wide range of audiences.

Hillenburg also wrote, produced, and directed The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which was released in 2004 and went on to gross over $140 million worldwide.

He is survived by his wife of 20 years Karen, his son Clay, mum Nancy, and brother Brian Kelly Hillenburg, as well as sister-in-law Isabel, and nieces Emma and Hazel.

Our thoughts are with Stephen’s family at this difficult time.

Rest in peace.

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.