‘Spongebob’ creator is dead at 57Stephen Hillenburg, who used his dual loves of drawing and marine biology to spawn the absurd undersea world of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” has died, Nickelodeon announced on Tuesday.
Hillenburg died on Monday of Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, the cable network said in a statement. He was 57.
He announced he had the disease in March 2017. His death comes just weeks after the passing of another cartoon hero in Marvel creator Stan Lee.
Hillenburg conceived, wrote, produced and directed the animated series that began in 1999 and bloomed into hundreds of episodes, movies and a Broadway show.
Hillenburg’s undersea world of Bikini Bottom was a realm like no other, real or fictional. SpongeBob can play his nose like a flute and could not possibly be happier to work his fast-seafood job of flipping Krabby Patties.
But he has his troubles, too. He constantly fails his boat-driving test, forcing his frightened blowfish teacher to inflate. In one episode he suffers a broken butt and is afraid to leave his pineapple home for days.
“I don’t want to face my fears,” SpongeBob, voiced by Tom Kenny, says in another episode. “I’m afraid of them!”
“He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon,” the network’s statement said. “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.”