SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg dies at 57

The man behind the hit animated series, which has aired almost 250 episodes, has died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

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

The animator, writer and director revealed he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neurone disease (MND), in March 2017. His best-known work was the Emmy-winning Nickelodeon show. Almost 250 episodes have aired.

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

A former marine biology teacher, Hillenburg moved into television and worked on the show Rocko’s Modern Life. He created SpongeBob SquarePants, which originally aired in 1999, and it became a global hit, dubbed into more than 60 languages. Hillenburg also wrote, produced and directed 2004’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which made $140m worldwide.

“I thought we’d get four seasons, but it’s still going,” he told the Guardian in 2016. I see SpongeBob on ice-cream trucks a lot and I’ve got bootleg SpongeBob merchandise from Mexico. In Egypt, they even wear hijabs with SpongeBob on them.”

Earlier this year, he was honored with a special Emmy “for his contribution and impact made in the animation field and within the broadcast industry”.

He is survived by his wife and son.

Guardian staff

The GuardianTramp

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