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Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of one of Nickelodeon’s most popular animated shows SpongeBob SquarePants, died on Monday following a battle with ALS, according to Variety. He was 57 years old.

“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 SquarePantswith 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.”

Hillenburg, who instructed marine biology at Orange County Marine Institute in the mid-1980s, was hired as a director on Nickelodeon’s first in-house (and still one of its best) animated series, Rocko’s Modern Life. He was inspired by one of the show’s writers to turn his comic book The Intertidal Zone, about tide pool animals, into a television series. That led to SpongeBob. The program debuted in 1999, and 240-plus episodes later, it’s still going strong; there’s also two, soon-to-be-three SpongeBob movies, albums, theme park rides, video games, $17 billion in merchandise, and one extremely infectious theme song.

Hillenburg is survived by his wife of 20 years and son.



Article Courtesy of Uproxx

First Picture Courtesy of Noam Galai and Getty Images

Second Picture Courtesy of Bryan Bedder and Getty Images

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