According to a story from Buzzfeed News, Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of the smash hit children’s cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants has passed away at age 57. Last year, Hillenburg had revealed to the public that he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which was responsible for his early death. Despite his illness, he continued to work on the show, which has been running since 1999, until shortly before his passing.
About Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rare, degenerative disease that causes the death of nerve cells associated with the voluntary muscles. Little is known about the origins of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, with no definitive cause in about 95 percent of cases. The remaining five percent appear to inherit the disease from their parents. Symptoms initially include loss of coordination, muscle weakness and atrophy, muscle stiffness and cramping, and trouble speaking, breathing, or swallowing. These symptoms worsen steadily over time; most patients die because of respiratory complications. Treatment is mostly symptomatic and the medication riluzole can prolong life. Life expectancy after diagnosis ranges from two to four years, but some patients can survive for substantially longer. To learn more about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, click here.
The Life of Stephen Hillenburg and the Creation of SpongeBob
The unique, silly, and uplifting universe of SpongeBob SquarePants was the product of Hillenburg’s combined passion for art, drawing, and marine biology. In prior interviews, he says that he gained a fascination with marine life after watching documentaries from Jacques Cousteau, a pioneer in marine research and conservation. His first diving experience was also a transformative moment for him.
He studied marine biology at college and later returned to school to study animation and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. He first joined Nickelodeon as a director and creator for Rocko’s Modern Life, a well received cartoon show that ran in the mid 1990s. It was this experience that gave him the confidence to create his own cartoon concept.
SpongeBob SquarePants entered its 12th season in 2018, and its popularity spawned a multi-billion dollar media franchise. It is also the highest rated series to ever air on Nickelodeon. While Hillenburg’s life may have been cut short by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the remarkable television show that he created will continue to touch the lives of millions.