SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg is dead

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Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, an animation show on Nickelodeon, has died following a battle with motor neurone disease (MND).

Nickelodeon, which has broadcast the hugely popular cartoon series since 1999, confirmed the sad news.

“We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants,” Nickelodeon tweeted

The animator, writer and director who revealed last year that he had MND, died  at the age of 57.

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

“Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a unique sense of humor and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere. 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.” said Nickelodeon in a full statement.

Hillenburg, a former marine biology teacher, moved into television and created SpongeBob SquarePants, which originally aired in 1999, and it became a global hit, dubbed into more than 60 languages.

It has seen more than 200 episodes broadcast.

As well as creating the character, Hillenburg also wrote, produced and directed 2004’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. The movie made $140m worldwide.

Earlier this year, he was honored with a special Emmy “for his contribution and impact made in the animation field and within the broadcast industry”.

He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Karen Hillenburg and son Clay.

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