‘SpongeBob SquarePants' Creator Stephen Hillenburg Dead at 57

If you asked teenagers who grew up in the early 2000s what their favorite show was, a huge chunk of them would probably say SpongeBob SquarePants. And if SpongeBob SquarePants wasn’t their favorite, it was probably a close second.

On Monday, after nearly two decades and over 250 episodes, the show’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg, died at the age of 57 due to complications from ALS, which he was diagnosed with last March.

Hillenburg started his career as a marine biology teacher at what is now the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California. He began writing and illustrating stories for his students which would eventually became the characters we now all know and love on SpongeBob. Hillenburg was able to combine his artistic skills and love for the ocean. He eventually turned both of his passions into an animation career.

He began working at Nickelodeon in 1993 on Rocko’s Modern Life, and soon created the first episode of SpongeBob which aired on May 1, 1999.

For almost two decades, Hillenburg’s work with Nickelodeon has brought laughter and joy onto the televisions screens of young children, adults and even college students.

“Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a unique sense of humor and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere," Nickelodeon said in a statement. "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.”

Many of his fans have taken to Twitter to commemorate Hillenburg, his work and the impact that he left on their lives.

Hillenburg will be missed by not only fans of SpongeBob SquarePants, but also by thousands of comedians, animators, cartoonists, and others who look up to him for the impact that he’s had on the animation industry.