SpongeBob Squarepants Creator Stephen Hillenburg Dies At 57

Fans of the Nickelodeon cartoon series are paying their respects to the show's creator after hearing news of his death.

Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob Squarepants died on Monday, with Nickelodeon revealing the cause of death to be ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and also the spinal cord.

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

Hillenburg revealed his ALS diagnosis in March last year but told Variety at the time that he planned to continue working on the series for as long as he was able.

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"Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a unique sense of humour and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere," Nickelodeon's statement continued, "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 a marine biology teacher who translated his love for all things oceanic by creating the now iconic underwater animation. Majoring in science and minoring in art from Humboldt State University, Hillenburg first created a comic book to keep his students entertained which would eventually become the foundation for SpongeBob.

The series premiered in 1999 and spawned two feature films and a Broadway musical.

Hillenburg is survived by his wife Karen, son Clay, Mother Nancy and brother Brian.

After news broke, many fans of Hillenburg's work shared tributes to the Spongebob showrunner on social media.

Featured Image: Getty Images.