SpongBob SquarePants Creator Stephen Hillenburg Dies

Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, died Monday at the age of 57.

Hillenburg died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which he was diagnosed with last year.

"We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS," Nickelodeon said. "He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family."

Nickelodeon held a moment of silence for Hillenburg Tuesday.

The first episode of SpongeBob SquarePants aired on May 1, 1999.

SpongeBob SquarePants follows a square yellow sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea in the city of Bikini Bottom with his pet snail, Gary. SpongeBob works as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab and in his free time goofs off with his best friend, Patrick Star; catches jellyfish; and can even be found practicing karate with a squirrel, Sandy Cheeks. SpongeBob has a knack for stirring up trouble and annoying his neighbor, Squidward Tentacles.

"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. "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."

SpongeBob was a mix of Hillenburg's love for animation and the ocean. Growing up in Oklahoma, Hillenburg started a career as a marine biology teacher in the mid-1980s. 

"Obviously, SpongeBob is a comedy, but it really was inspired by me liking marine science," Hillenburg once said.

After earning a Master of Fine Arts from the California Institute of Arts, Hillenburg worked at Nickelodeon on the series "Rocko's Modern Life."

Hillenburg took his knowledge from that show plus a comic he made while a marine biology teacher of "Bob the Sponge" and created the beloved SpongeBob SquarePants.

Hillenburg also wrote, produced, and directed The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which came out in 2004. He was the writer and executive producer from The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, which came out in 2015.

Hillenburg is survived by his wife Karen, son Clay, mother Nancy, and brother Brian.