Stephen Hillenburg, the visionary creator of “SpongeBob Square Pants” has died at the age of 57.
The cause of death was Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a rare terminal illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, which Hillenburg revealed he had been diagnosed with in March of last year.
“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 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, who created SpongeBob SquarePants, also directed 2004’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Karen Hillenburg and son Clay.