Fans Mourn the Death of Stephen Hillenburg


By Afi Ibragimov and Milana Shindelman

Stephen Hillenburg’s ashes were scattered off the coast of the Pacific near California. Hillenburg, the creator and animator of the hit show Spongebob Squarepants, died recently at the age of 57 of the disease, ALS.   

Hillenburg’s life was taken away by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, slowly losing control of muscles. He had been suffering from the disease for a year until it finally took his life on November 26, 2018.

The first episode of the show ran in 1999 for an impressive 250 episodes, gaining worldwide fame among children and adults. Spongebob became the fifth longest-running American animated series.

Hillenburg used his degree in marine biology and animation to create the iconic cartoon. He used vivid colors and unusual characters to help create the “Spongebob Squarepants” movies in 2004 and 2015. His show generated the Broadway show that has earned 12 Tony nominations this year.

Brown Johnson, vice president of Nickelodeon, talked with NPR’s Elizabeth Blair about SpongeBob when the show first came out. It faced rejection and criticism from viewers and parents.

It was not until the show’s 10-year anniversary in 1999, that the show started to gain global fame.  The show now runs in over 170 countries, speaking 24 languages. It has a worldwide following among all ages and has become a staple for teens and adults everywhere.

“He was my role model through his work and through his personality, teaching me valuable lessons throughout childhood and setting an example for my future in animation,” said Emily Brown, junior.

Art teacher Rosalie Vallario explained that Spongebob was one of the first cartoons to become mainstream in a long time. She said how “all ages could appreciate the show in some form or another… young kids are attracted to the amazing use of color, and the fun of the unusual characters. Teens and adults can also appreciate the show because of the adult humor and originality,” Vallario said.