For nearly 20 years, a happy-go-lucky sea sponge, a dopey starfish, an easily annoyed squid, and countless other maritime miscreants have delighted children and adults alike, and it is all thanks to Stephen Hillenburg. But sadly, Nickelodeon confirmed that Hillenburg had died at age 57 on Monday following his diagnosis of ALS last year. Of course, the devastating news was met with tons of fans saying how much Hillenburg's work has meant to them. These tweets about Spongebob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg's death prove that his legacy will live on.
Stephen Hillenburg was an animator and former marine biologist who was best known for creating, writing, and producing Spongebob Squarepants. The series, which focuses on the adventures of animated aquatic life in the fictional underwater town called Bikini Bottom, was the perfect combination of Hillenburg's passion for marine biology and his talent as a cartoonist. The show premiered in 1999 and is still airing new episodes to this day, making it one of the longest-running shows on television and Nickelodeon's most popular series ever. Prior to Spongebob Squarepants, Hillenburg first worked at Nickelodeon as a director and story editor for Rocko's Modern Life.
In March of 2017, Stephen Hillenburg was diagnosed with ALS, which was revealed to be the cause of his death on Monday. Nickelodeon confirmed the news of Hillenburg's death on the network's Twitter account, writing that the studio observed a moment of silence to honor his life and work:
Fans of Stephen Hillenburg's work also shared their tributes to him on Twitter:
Among all of the heartwarming tributes to Stephen Hillenburg, Twitter users also resurrected a video from earlier this year of one of Hillenburg's final public appearances before his death. Hillenburg was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmys earlier this year, and it was presented to him by his close friend and the voice of Spongebob Squarepants himself, Tom Kenny. As he was finishing his speech, Kenny said he would take the award over to Hillenburg's seat, but despite Hillenburg's failing health at the time, he walked up to the stage to receive the award. You can watch that video below:
Spongebob Squarepants will mark its twentieth anniversary on May 1 of next year, and has just kicked off its twelfth season on Nickelodeon. The third motion picture based on the series, entitled The SpongeBob Movie: It's a Wonderful Sponge, is also currently in development and set to be released on July 17, 2020. Last year, an musical stage adaptation based on the series debuted on Broadway and was met with critical acclaim. It tied for the most nominated musical at the 2018 Tony Awards, taking home the Best Scenic Design in a Musical trophy.
Although Spongebob Squarepants is a show designed for younger children, the off-kilter, absurdist humor that Stephen Hillenburg brought to the series have kept it a beloved masterpiece for fans of all ages.