It's a rare thing, to find a kids TV show that's as deeply beloved by both adults and children alike - but that's SpongeBob SquarePants. Believe it or not, it was 1999 - nineteen years ago - that animator and marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg first showed us the magical world of Bikini Bottom, and today marks the very sad end of an era. It was announced overnight that Hillenburg had passed away from ALS (otherwise known as Motor Neuron Disease), aged just 57.
💛 We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants. Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work. 💛— Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon) November 27, 2018
The absolute poster boy for following and combining your passions, Hillenburg started out as a biology teacher at California’s Orange County Marine Institute. Even then he was using cartoons to bring his lessons to life. In 1993 he left teaching and became a writer/director on Rocko's Modern Life before getting the chance to combine his animation and nautical passions on SpongeBob. Over those past 19 years, the show has aired in over 200 countries and been translated into 55 languages and warmed the hearts of millions of kids the world over.
The legacy Hillenburg has left is incredible, and tributes have been flowing in all morning from showbiz greats and fans alike. Here's Fairly Odd Parents creator Butch Hartman:
No words. Steve Hillenburg was a friend and immensely talented creator. We grew up together at Nickelodeon. Prayers for his family and legions of fans. You will be sorely missed, Steve. pic.twitter.com/iwaAggGb31— Butch Hartman (@realhartman) November 27, 2018
Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles, The Iron Giant and some of the very best Simpsons eps:
I first discovered SPONGEBOB through my sons, who were loudly singing along with the dopey & memorable theme song downstairs. I came down to see what the ruckus was about and ended up watching my first episode. Many laughs.— Brad Bird (@BradBirdA113) November 27, 2018
Many thanks, Steve Hillenburg. May you Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/3VNsxYJVXq
Dan Povenmire, co-creator of Phineas and Ferb and a writer on SpongeBob back in its absolute glory days:
This is the saddest day. https://t.co/pnJ9VJRAta— Dan Povenmire (@DanPovenmire) November 27, 2018
And the man whose back hair starred in the very first SpongeBob movie, David Hasselhoff:
Wow what a unique and fantastic character Steve created! It was my pleasure and honor to be in SpongeBob The Movie and to share some great laughs with this gentleman, Shocking Loss! To this day I am stopped and flattered by people and kids who have seen me in the film.#SpongeBob pic.twitter.com/gNF1CkJk69— David Hasselhoff (@DavidHasselhoff) November 27, 2018
But one of the greatest tributes came a few months ago from a bloke who has Twitter purely not to Tweet.
In April this year, the voice of SpongeBob, Tom Kenny, made this speech at the Daytime Emmy Awards.
Farewell to a television legend.