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“SpongeBob SquarePants” Creator – Stephen Hillenburg (1961-2018)

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stephen hillenburg holding a spongebob squarepants comic

Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of the beloved children’s television show “SpongeBob SquarePants” has died at the age of 61 according to multiple reports. Reports indicated that Hillenburg passed away as a result of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).


Hillenburg grew up in Anaheim California and had a fascination with art and the ocean as a child. In 1984, he began his career as a marine biologist and instructor. In 1989, he enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts to study animation. This experience led to Hillenburg landing a job at Nickelodeon as an animator.


In 1994, Hillenburg started to design and develop the characters and show concept that would eventually become “SpongeBob SquarePants”. In 1999, the show premiered on Nickelodeon as the networks first original Saturday morning cartoon. Between 1999 and 2004, Hillenburg served as a director, writer, producer, and showrunner for the cartoon. The 2004 film, “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” was intended to be a series finale, however, Nickelodeon wanted to keep the series running. Hillenburg resigned as showrunner after the film’s release.


In 2015, Hillenburg returned to the franchise to co-write and produce the film “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”. The show continues today and has released nearly 250 episodes to date. 


According to commentary on the first season DVD, Hillenburg devised a clever way to pitch the show to Nickelodeon executives. When he showed up to pitch the show, Hillenburg wanted to show the feel of the show and brought props to assist him. In addition to wearing a Hawaiian shirt and playing Hawaiian music, he also created an underwater terrarium with miniature models of the characters on the show.


Hillenburg was diagnosed with ALS in 2017. Despite his illness, he pledged to continue working on his show until he was no longer able to. Outside of SpongeBob, Hillenburg worked on several different cartoons and animated projects. He also founded the production company United Plankton Pictures in 1998.


Hillenburg’s work on the show received several nominations and awards during his lifetime including 16 Emmy nominations.


Hillenburg leaves behind his wife Karen who he has said is the funniest person he ever met. The couple had one son, Clay, who preceded Hillenburg in death.


We invite you to share condolences for Hillenburg in the comments section below.

This entry was posted in Celebrity Deaths on November 27th, 2018 by ObitTree .

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