The creator of “Spongebob SquarePants,” Stephen Hillenburg died at 57 from ALS. He was truly number one.
Stephen Hillenburg, the visionary creator of “SpongeBob SquarePants” died Monday, Nickelodeon and Jessica Berger, a rep for his family, confirmed to USA TODAY. The cause of death was ALS.
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a rare terminal illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“SpongeBob” is Nickelodeon’s all-time biggest hit, and has aired for nearly two decades since its premiere on May 1, 1999, bringing characters SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Sandy Cheeks, Plankton, Pearl Krabs, Mrs. Puff and Larry the Lobster to life.
“We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants,” the children’s channel tweeted Tuesday. “Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work.”
Hillenberg’s cheery SpongeBob, awash in puns and happily flipping Krabby Patties at the Krusty Krab eatery, became a pop culture sensation. Famous folks filed in to voice characters over the years, including Amy Poehler, Johnny Depp, LeBron James, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Kristin Wiig, Mark Hamill, Betty White and Jon Hamm.
The franchise extended to the silver screen with “The SpongeBob Movie” in 2004 (which grossed $140 million worldwide), which Hillenburg wrote, produced and directed. It was followed by “Sponge Out of Water” in 2015 ($325 million worldwide), which Hillenburg wrote and executive produced. A third “SpongeBob” film will hit theaters in 2020.
David Hasselhoff, who starred as himself in “The SpongeBob Movie,” remembered his time on set.
“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,” the “Baywatch” alum tweeted. “To this day I am stopped and flattered by people and kids who have seen me in the film.”
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