Stephen Hillenburg, the man behind beloved cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants, has passed away aged 57.
SpongeBob broadcaster Nickelodeon confirmed that the creator had died following a battle with motor neuron disease, a condition he had been diagnosed with in March 2017.
“We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants,” Nickelodeon tweeted from its official account. “Today we are observing a moment of silence to honour his life and work.”
? We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants. Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work. ?
— Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon) November 27, 2018
Hillenburg, a former marine biology teacher, created the show back in 1999 and served as show-runner until 2004, taking a break from the series after directing The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
He returned to the franchise in 2015, co-writing second film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge of out Water.
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Celebrities and fans have been paying tribute to the cartoonist on Twitter.
Goodbye Stephen Hillenburg,” skateboarder Tony Hawk wrote, “thank you for the shared laughs with my kids through the years. We’re all Goofy Goobers thanks to you.” Check out more tributes below.
Goodbye Stephen Hillenburg, thank you for the shared laughs with my kids through the years. We’re all Goofy Goobers thanks to you.
— Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) November 27, 2018
My first writing job was for Spongebob. Stephen Hillenburg is a legend and I was so fortunate to get to learn from such a creative genius. He was beyond humble and sweet. I’m forever grateful. RIP. pic.twitter.com/7Gt5Loh1Gn
— Solomon Georgio (@solomongeorgio) November 27, 2018
RIP to a wonderful and kind friend. You will be greatly missed, Stephen Hillenburg. https://t.co/nFY4bXaZgz
— Carlos Alazraqui (@carlosalazraqui) November 27, 2018
RIP Stephen Hillenburg who brought tremendous joy and wonderful insanity into this world. SpongeBob SquarePants is one of my favorite things to ever exist and I wish I could have been friends with Steve. #Stephenhillenburg pic.twitter.com/qjEZzOwMDO
— Jorma Taccone (@jormataccone) November 27, 2018
Wow what a unique and fantastic character Steve created! It was my pleasure and honor to be in SpongeBob The Movie and to share some great laughs with this gentleman, Shocking Loss! To this day I am stopped and flattered by people and kids who have seen me in the film.#SpongeBob pic.twitter.com/gNF1CkJk69
— David Hasselhoff (@DavidHasselhoff) November 27, 2018
Oh man, R.I.P. Stephen Hillenburg. Thanks for giving us two decades of pure fun. These characters and memes will live on forever. pic.twitter.com/Lgq5gdmua3
— Jill Gutowitz (@jillboard) November 27, 2018