On Tuesday afternoon, Nickelodeon broke the sad news that SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg has passed away at the age of 57.
"We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants," Nickelodeon wrote in a tweet. "Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work."
? 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
According to Variety, Hillenburg's cause of death was ALS, which the creator revealed he had been diagnosed with back in March 2017.
“We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS,” Nickelodeon said in a statement. “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.”
Hillenburg gained notoriety while working as a director on Rocko's Modern Life. By the time the show's final season came around, in 1995, Hillenburg was promoted to creative director.
From there, Hillenburg went on to create SpongeBob SquarePants for Nickelodeon, one of the most popular series in the history of the network. On the air for nearly a decade, SpongeBob just concluded its eleventh season earlier this month, with Season 12 set for 2019.