Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons / Nickelodeon Animation Studios

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‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ Creator Passes After Battling ALS

Stephen Hillenburg, gone at age 57, 'had a unique sense of humor and innocence that brought joy to generations'

The man best-known for creating “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Stephen Hillenburg, passed away on Monday at 57 years old, as the official Nickelodeon Twitter account reported on Tuesday afternoon.

Hillenburg was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in March 2017.

This wound up being his cause of death, according to the statement Nickelodeon put out.

“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. 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.”

Hillenburg studied experimental animation at the California Institute of Arts and marine resources at Humboldt State University; his passion for the two combined after he wrote for and directed the Nickelodeon hit “Rocko’s Modern Life” from 1993 to 1996.

Following that tenure, he got started on another project, which would would end up being “Spongebob Squarepants,” a show that hit the airwaves on May 1, 1999, and has been a massive success ever since.

The show has earned four Emmy Awards, 15 Kids Choice Awards and became a multibillion-dollar franchise.

It was a series many people grew up watching and still continue to watch, as it is still on air to this day; its 11th season wrapped up on November 25.

Many celebs expressed their grief after hearing about Hillenburg’s death.

Former pro-skateboarder Tony Hawk said, “Goodbye Stephen Hillenburg, thank you for the shared laughs with my kids through the years. We’re all Goofy Goobers thanks to you.”

Dan Povenmire, the co-creator of “Phineas and Ferb” — a Disney Channel cartoon that ran from 2007 to 2015 — reacted to the news by tweeting, “This is the saddest day.”

Popular YouTuber vlogger FaZe Rug, who has 10.5 million subscribers on the site, was also upset on Twitter, writing, “This hit me really hard. The creator of Spongebob Squarepants, Stephen Hillenburg, passed away today at age 57. Thank you for making our childhoods amazing, may you rest in peace.”

Although Hillenburg has passed away, the “SpongeBob” franchise will live on. It is set to release its third movie, “The SpongeBob Movie: It’s a Wonderful Sponge,” in 2020.

The franchise’s previous two films — 2004’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” and 2015’s “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” — were massive hits, earning a combined $435 million at the domestic box office on a $104 million production budget between the two films.

For more on Stephen Hillenburg, check out the video below:

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.