SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg dies aged 57

Tributes are pouring out for the animator online

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31:  Executive producer Stephen Hillenburg attends "The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water" World Premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on January 31, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Monica Schipper/FilmMagic)

Stephen Hillenburg, the man behind beloved cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants, has passed away aged 57.

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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.”

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.

Celebrities and fans have been paying tribute to the cartoonist on Twitter.

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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.