Kim Kizyma
Graphic Designer + Creative Technologist

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R.I.P. Stephen Hillenburg

Besides watching Arthur on TV at my grandparents as a kid, the other main cartoon I watched was Spongebob. It was just so funny, and I loved that you could pick up at any episode and be totally in tune with character dynamics and plot right away, all while laughing out loud.

The other day, sadly the creator of Spongebob Squarepants passed away at age 57 from ALS. His name was Stephen Hillenburg.

"We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS. He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family," the network said in a statement.

"Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a unique sense of humor and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere," the statement said. "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 was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1961. He graduated from Humboldt State University in 1984 with a degree in natural resource planning and became a marine biology teacher in Dana Point, California. In 1987, he pursued a career in animation and graduated with an experimental animation degree from the California Institute of Arts in Valencia in 1992.

The following year, he began working as a writer and director on Nickelodeon's "Rocko's Modern Life." He went on to work for the network full-time, producing his animated series that eventually became "SpongeBob SquarePants," which debuted on May 1, 1999.

Joe Murray, the creator of "Rocko's Modern Life," saw one of Hillenburg's short films and asked him to direct episodes of the show. "That was really important for me because I really wouldn't have known how to put a show together without that experience," Hillenburg said in a 2005 interview with Nick Animation.

The show went on to multiple awards, including four Emmys and six Annie Awards. Hillenburg adapted his show for the big screen twice. "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" released in 2004 and "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" debuted in 2015.

"Obviously SpongeBob is comedy but it really was inspired by me liking marine science," he told Nick Animation. "I focused on that and I never thought the two would come together."

The goofy TV show underwater will continue. I can’t see Nickelodeon getting rid of it. It’s nostalgic and still funny to this day. I’m sad the creator has passed away, but happy for the content he’s gifted us all with.

kk