SpongeBob creator, Stephen Hillenburg, dead at 57

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Stephen Hillenburg was a man with a vision.
After graduating from the California Institute of Arts and working with Nickelodeon for four years, Hillenburg became bored. Working on Rocko’s Modern Life was wonderful, but Hillenburg wanted to create something on his own.
After spending over 15 years refining his concept, Hillenburg gave Nickelodeon the pitch.
Originally titled Spongeboy Ahoy, Hillenburg met positive reception and was given the greenlight to continue the pilot episode. Nickelodeon executives, however, weren’t sold entirely.
Hillenburg and his partner, Derek Drymon, spent two weeks slaving on “Help Wanted,” the show’s first episode. At last, it came time får the final pitch.
Hillenburg and Drymon wore Hawaiian shirts and played Tiny Tim’s ukulele music to set the mood and make the executives feel as though they were in Bikini Bottom itself. The pitch went so well the executives left the room to stop laughing.
Hillenburg and Drymon began work immediately afterwards.
After realizing there was already a cleaning product known as Spongeboy, Hillenburg quickly renamed it Spongebob Squarepants in order to resume smooth production.
Beginning in 1999, Hillenburg’s creation enjoyed a lifespan of almost two decades. Multiple generations of children grew up with Spongebob’s influence, creating a positive culture and bridging the generation gap.
The show’s early seasons enjoyed immense critical success, with a 100% rating on rottentomatoes.com for seasons 1 and 2. Following the release of the fourth season, the smash hit Spongebob Squarepants Movie was released.
Following the release of the movie, Hillenburg felt it was time for the show to end. Upon bringing up his reservations with the Nickelodeon team, he was shot down.
Instead of keeping the show alive, Hillenburg opted to leave the team as its primary producer, instead letting Drymon take over. Hillenburg’s departure marked a noticeable dip in the series’ quality.
The show’s fifth season, the first without Hillenburg, only received a 70% on rottentomatoes.com.

The following season dropped to an abysmal 48%.
Hillenburg still had a limited role in the series, producing comic books that came out irregularly from 2011 to the present. However, until 2015, Hillenburg remained off the television team.
After the release of the second Spongebob movie, Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water, Hillenburg rekindled his passion for the series and joined the team once more as its executive producer.
However, Hillenburg’s return would not last long.
In 2017, he was diagnosed with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This deadly disease kills cells in the brain and spinal column, eventually causing victims to be unable to breathe.
In November of 2018, Hillenburg died from complications due to ALS.
Even though Hillenburg has left this world, his influence will be felt in the depths of children’s television. Not a day goes by without an episode of Spongebob Squarepants airing on TV.
Social media today is flooded with memes taken from episodes of the show. Quotes and one-liners from the series fill lunchrooms like water to a porous sponge.
Here’s to you, Stephen. May you have nautical nonsense until the end of time.

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