Let’s be honest, If you haven’t heard of the cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants, you probably live under a rock, like Patrick. Unfortunately last Tuesday, Stephen Hillenburg, the creative genius behind the Nickelodeon hit lost his ongoing battle with ALS at the age of 57. Originally aired in 1999, Hillenburg’s famous porous protagonist has become the longest running program in Nickelodeon’s history. Not only did Hillenburg create the show, but he also served as a writer, director, and executive producer.
Hillenburg began his professional career in 1984, as a marine biology instructor at the Orange Country Marine Institute in California. To educate his students on tide-pool animals, he wrote an informative comic book titled The Intertidal Zone. Not only did this comic book lead him to pursue a career in animation, but later influenced his creation of SpongeBob. “Obviously SpongeBob is a comedy but it really was inspired by me liking marine science,” Hillenburg told Nick Animation. “I focused on that and I never thought the two would come together.”
For many 2000’s kids, SpongeBob holds a special place in their hearts. Zach Berger, a sophomore, explained his personal thoughts on Hillenburg’s cartoon, “This television show has shaped my sense of humor and taught me many life lessons about peer pressure, friendships, and responsibility. Steve Hillenburg will be greatly missed but his accomplishments and legacy will live on.” Since 1999, Spongebob has appeared in over 250 episodes, two feature films, and a Broadway musical.
Next year, Spongebob Squarepants is set to enter its 20th year on the air, without the involvement Hillenburg. While the show still goes on, it clearly will never be the same without the man who started it all. Gabe Landau, a senior, shared his thoughts on Hillenburg’s passing, “Stephen made a lot of childhood memories for me. It’s so upsetting to see the creator like him pass, now I can never watch SpongeBob the same.”
Over the past week, fans expressed their love for SpongeBob and paid tribute to Hillenburg. A petition with over 200,000 signatures was even started to get ‘Sweet Victory’ played at the Super Bowl. “Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a unique sense of humor and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere,” Nickelodeon tweeted in a statement last Tuesday.