The undersea life of Bikini Bottom and millions of fans everywhere are mourning the death of a legend today.
According to Variety, the creator of the hit Nickelodeon cartoon show SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg, has died at age 57.
Hillenburg died on Monday after a long battle with ALS, which he revealed he had back in March of last year. Nickelodeon released a statement in honor of the deceased creator:
“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.”
The first episode of SpongeBob SquarePants premiered on May 1, 1999 and the first season continued its full run starting on July 17 of that year.
Hillenburg was no stranger to sea life when the show began. He graduated from Humboldt State University in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Planning and Interpretation with a focus on marine resources. Hillenburg then became a marine biology teacher at the Orange County Marine Institute (now called the Ocean Institute) in Dana Point, California.
His love for the sea and all its inhabitants led him to write and illustrate stories as teaching tools. The characters he imagined would later become the citizens of SpongeBob’s underwater city Bikini Bottom.
Since SpongeBob premiered in 1999, the show has aired nearly 250 episodes to date. Older and younger audiences alike took a loving to the show, to the point that college students would organize viewing parties.
The show has racked up U.S. and British Emmy Awards, Annie Awards, and it’s been dubbed or subtitled in more than 60 languages. A theatrical film for the show called The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie was released in 2004 and eventually grossed over $140 million worldwide. A 2015 sequel called The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water followed. Hillenburg helped create the story for both films and he directed the first movie.
Since news broke of Hillenburg’s passing, people have been flooding social media with tributes, condolences and memories of how the show impacted their life.
Illustrators, animators and artists were some of the first to start drawing tributes to Hillenburg…
Hit the next pages for more heartbreaking and touching tributes to Hillenburg. He is definitely one animator who will be missed.