Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for Paramount International
Stephen Hillenburg, who created Spongebob Square Pants, died at age 57. Living with a good pineapple and a team full of marine creatures, the Nickelodeon TV program has gained tremendous popularity with both children and adults for nearly 20 years.
Nickelodeon said on Tuesday that Hillenburg died of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.
Steve imbold Spongebob Square Pants with a unique sense of humor and innocence that brought joy to generations of children and families everywhere, "Nickelodeon said in a statement. His original original characters and the Bikini Bottom world will last long as a reminder of the value of optimism, friendship and unlimited imagination. "
The underwater world of the bikini bottom, where action takes place, reflects Hillenburg's profound interest in marine life. SpongeBob is surrounded by a sea star, an octopus, a crab and a pufferfish to name a few.
Hillenburg, originally from Oklahoma, began his marine biology career at the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point, California, then changed gear to focus on animation by winning a degree at the California Institute of Art and working to the Nickelodeon series Rocko's modern life for about four years in the mid-1990s.
It was at Nickelodeon that his interests in marine biology and animation combined to create Spongebob Square Pants.
In a 2015 interview with the channel, Hillenburg told a writer from Rocko's modern life has seen his comic drawings of ocean creatures.
"I began to think that if I did a show, I would do it about these invertebrates and these crazy animals that exist in the ocean and it would be a perfect fusion of the things we did," he said . "It was the time I said, maybe I should follow this, you know, let's get down this path."
The show was not initially seen as an inevitable blow. On the 10th anniversary of 2009, Brown Johnson, then Nickelodeon's vice president of animation, told NPR's Elizabeth Blair about some early conversations at the channel.
"Certain parts of the Nickelodeon business were:" Oh no, it will never be successful, it's a sponge that's yellow, it's a bad color, "she said.
Now, the show has taken place since 1999. Two films have appeared – 2004 SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and 2015 SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – and a show on Broadway.
And it has deep global coverage. According to Nickelodeon, it has been translated into more than 60 languages. Pictures of smiling yellow sponge are seen all over the world.
In a 2004 Fresh Air interview, Tom Kenny, SpongeBob's previous voice, describes Hillenburg's dynamic style in the studio.
"Hillenburg is definitely the great kahuna, and often has only every vocal shade and blinkers and glasses made in nanoseconds in his mind, and then at other times he'll take you out of the leash and you'll go," You know, no I know where this happens. Take her where he feels funny, "said Kenny.
As he said, a few working days at the show was like math – other days, jazz.
Earlier this year, Kenny paid homage to Hillenburg, presenting him a prize at The Emmy Awards at Night. He appreciated the wide and durable attraction of the show: "I fell in love immediately and it seems that other people also did."