Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Spongebob Squarepants, has died at 57

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Good friends, I regret to report that Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, has passed away at age 57. It's been confirmed that Hillenberg died on Monday, following a recent battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (otherwise known as ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, and motor neuron disease).

In a statement, Nickelodeon touched on the magnitude of Hillenburg's career and influence throughout the modern day animation medium by saying the following:

“We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS,” Nickelodeon said in a statement. “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.”

As you can imagine, this news comes as a major shock to the animation community, as well as the hearts and minds of fans who've enjoyed the exploits of the absorbant and yellow fun-loving sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Back in 1984, Hillenberg graduated from Humboldt State University, where he majored in marine sciences and minored in art. Upon activating the Wonder Twin powers of both studies, Hillenburg secured his first job at the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point as a marine biology educator. In 1989, Hilleberg created the unpublished educational comic book titled The Intertidal Zone, which served as the foundation for the creation of Bikini Bottom, the fictional underwater locale where SpngeBob and his friends share in many aquatic adventures.

In July of 1999, Nickelodeon officially launched the animated TV series SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS to much acclaim. Viewed by many as something of a successor to John Kricfalusii's REN & STIMPY, SpongeBob and his pals (Patrick Star, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Sandy Cheeks, Palnkton, and Gary, among others) attached themselves like barnacles to the hearts of millions, resulting in a wide line of toys and video games, as well as a series of feature animated films.

In recent times, a third animated motion picture featuring the beloved characters of SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS titled THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: IT'S A WONDERFUL SPONGE was announced for a theatrical release in 2020. When the upcoming film washes ashore in theaters, the sequel will boast the film franchise's first-ever full-CGI redition of SpongeBob's deep sea kingdom, Bikini Bottom. As is a staple of the SpongeBob filmverse, the movie will also contain hybrid sequences with the characters venturing above sea level for some IRL adventures. Whether or not Hillenberg's passing will affect the film's release has yet to be determined at this time.

We here at would like to extend out sincere condolences to Hillenburg's family, friends, and fans. It goes without saying that Hillenburg's influence will be felt throughout the animation community for years to come, and it warms out hearts to know that his creations will live on in the hearts and minds of SpongeBob fans the world over. Rest welll, Mr. Hillenburg. You will be missed by many. 

Source: Deadline Hollywood

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.