'SpongeBob SquarePants' creator, Stephen Hillenburg passed away Monday. The 57-year-old animator lost his battle with ALS, which he was diagnosed with back in March of 2017.
Hillenburg left behind a cartoon legacy. 'SpongeBob SquarePants' first debuted on Nickelodeon May 1, 1999 and soon became a huge hit! The creative mind of Hillenburg created characters with unique humor in the world of Bikini Bottom, that's brought laughter and joy to kids and their families. Airing up to 250 episodes to date, memories of the quirky sponge have been passed on to generations.
In a statement Nickelodeon said, "We are incredibly saddened by the news...he was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family. 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.”
Stephen Hillenburg was originally a marine biologist, and created "SpongeBob" to help teach his students at the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point, California. (Now the Ocean Institute)
Hillenburg started his career in animation in 1987 and earned his degree in 1992. He went into television, directing and writing for the Nickelodeon series "Rocko's Modern Life." Hillenburg then went on to work full-time producing, writing and directing the soon-to-be hit "SpongeBob SquarePants."
Once the show aired, it took off and the "SpongeBob SquarePants" franchise was on it's way. Hillenburg also was heavily involved in "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" in 2004 and the sequel in 2015, "The SpongBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water."
Hillenburg leaves behind his wife, Karen of 20 years and son Clay.
What's your favorite "SpongeBob SquarePants" memory?