STEPHEN HILLENBURG, creator of the long-running children’s TV show SpongeBob SquarePants, has died at the age of 57.
The cause of death was ALS, also known as motor neurone disease, which Hillenburg was diagnosed with last year.
Nickelodeon, which has broadcast the show since 1999, paid tribute to Hillenburg’s ‘unique sense of humor and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere’.
The animator first worked for Nickelodeon on their first ever in-house cartoon production, Rocko’s Modern Life.
However it is for SpongeBob SquarePants, the longest-running Nickelodeon series ever, that he is best remembered.
It follows the adventures of the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom, including the title character, who was inspired by Hillenburg’s love of innocent, child-like figures such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Chaplin.
The show drew inspiration from Hillenburg’s college studies in marine biology, while many of the concepts first appeared in a comic he created to teach children about sea life.
The cartoon premiered in 1999 and is still in production, proving popular with both children and adults.
Stars such as David Bowie, Johnny Depp and Victoria Beckham have provided vocal cameo appearances, while the series spawned a hit movie and Broadway show.
We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants. Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work.
— Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon) November 27, 2018
Goodbye Stephen Hillenburg, thank you for the shared laughs with my kids through the years. We’re all Goofy Goobers thanks to you.
— Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) 27 November 2018
Stephen Hillenberg dying is genuinely like a piece of my childhood has been ripped out of me RIP Spongebob... pic.twitter.com/YBr40BNjQ5
— DYLAN EVANS (@MrDylanEvans) 27 November 2018
Sad to hear that Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, has died aged 57. 9-time Emmy nominee, he also wrote and directed Rocko's Modern Life & Rugrats. pic.twitter.com/2idknTO7Yf
— Sarah O'Connell (@SarahO_Connell) 27 November 2018
The Nickeloden statement added: “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.”
Hillenburg is survived by his wife Karen and son Clay.