Stephen Hillenburg, a trailblazing animator and director perhaps most famous for bringing Spongebob Squarepants to the world, has passed away at the age of 57. Hillenburg had been suffering from ALS, having publicly advised of his diagnosis last year. By mark of respect, Nickelodeon – where Hillenburg directed and animated much of his work – advised that they would be holding a moment of silence to remember the creator.
Spongebob Squarepants has become nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, with the show due to celebrate its 20th anniversary since its debut on Nickelodeon in 2019. Hillenburg had previously worked with the network and in the industry as a director for cult animated series Rocko’s Modern Life, before turning his attention to creating an undersea world and characters who have been gracing our screens for almost two decades.
Steven Hillenburg, "SpongeBob SquarePants" creator, dead at 57 [video]
Hillenburg’s knowledge of the ocean clearly helped to inspire his efforts to bring Spongebob, Squidward, Patrick et al to life. “I studied natural resources planning and thought I could get a job at some marine park,” the animator had previously confirmed in conversation. “But I was great at art and so-so at marine biology. It’s funny how the two eventually came together.”
Hillenburg’s unique characters and constantly entertaining output has been charming viewers across two generations – with Spongebob and his friends having become meme mainstays on the internet in recent years, showing the sheer breadth of the humor injected into each and every show. It has become Nickelodeon’s signature show, and as a result, the network owes Hillenburg a tremendous debt for the years of laughs.
“We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS,” the network advised in a statement, according to The Independent. “He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family.”
Hillenburg is survived by his wife and son – and leaves an incredible legacy behind him. The director had vowed to continue working despite his diagnosis and it’s clear he was true to his pledge until the end. Where would the animation world be without Spongebob? With its creator having sadly passed away, it will remain to be seen what happens to the character moving forward – but for now, at least, we take time to remember a true visionary in the field. He will be greatly missed.
'Spongebob Squarepants' Creator Stephen Hillenburg Passes [video]