'SpongeBob SquarePants' creator, Stephen Hillenburg, dies at 57
Stephen Hillenburg, the biology teacher who created the wildly successful SpongeBob SquarePants children's animation series has died, Nickelodeon announced on Tuesday.
He was 57.
Hillenburg passed away from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, the network announced.
"He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family," the network said.
"Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a unique sense of humour 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," it added.
Nickelodeon launched the children's hit in 1999.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie from 2004 featured voiceovers from Scarlett Johansson and Alec Baldwin, recounting the latest adventures of the yellow sponge and his friends.
Hillenburg was born in Oklahoma and brought up in Los Angeles. He had been nominated for nine prime-time Emmys, the highest award in American television.
Last year he announced that he had been diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.