Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Nickelodeons landmark animated series SpongeBob SquarePants, has died. He was 57 years old. Hillenburg died of A.L.S., according to The Hollywood Reporter, a disease he was diagnosed with in March 2017. Nickelodeon confirmed his death, sharing a brief statement on Twitter: “Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work.”
SpongeBob Squarepants follows the live and adventures of its titular character and his friends, including a lazy starfish named Patrick, a scientist Texan squirrel named Sandy, and an ornery cephalopod named Squidward. All of them live in the fictional metropolis of Bikini Bottom—a bizarre undersea town where crabs can father whales and sponges can keep snails as pets.
Although it is a childrens show, SpongeBob Squarepants has never lacked for cleverness. Its sunny disposition and refusal to embrace even a whiff of cynicism might evoke a childlike naïveté, but its embrace of the absurd is what grants it resonance, even as its older fans have all grown up. Its no wonder, then, that Hillenburg was a nine-time Emmy nominee for his work on the animated hit, which aired its first episode in 1999 and is currently in its 12th season.
Like so many popular properties, SpongeBobs reach has only expanded over the years across different media. Since its premiere, the series has also spawned movies, video games, and a musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2017. Ethan Slater, who starred as the chipper yellow sponge throughout the musicals run on Broadway, shared his own tribute to Hillenburg on Twitter, writing, “Thank you Stephen, for everything you brought in to the world. So much joy, for so many people.”
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