"SpongeBob SquarePants" creator Stephen Hillenburg was remembered by his colleagues as a creator with an incredible impact and vision on cartoons and pop culture.
The animator and former marine biology instructor revealed in March 2017 that he was battling the neurodegenerative disease ALS, a rare terminal illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
His death was announced on Tuesday in a Nickelodeon statement:
“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,” the network said in a statement. “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.”
Fellow animators and actors reacted to the sad news with stories about the powerful cultural relevance of “SpongeBob SquarePants”