SpongeBob SquarePants will not come to an end after the death of the show’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg, Newsweek is reporting. Hillenburg died on Tuesday, November 27, from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, this illness results in muscle weakness and loss of motor functions. According to Variety, Hillenburg revealed his diagnosis in March 2017.
“I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS,” he said in a statement. “Anyone who knows me knows that I will continue to work on SpongeBob SquarePants and my other passions for as long as I am able.”
After Hillenburg’s passing, many fans were left questioning whether the beloved cartoon would continue in his absence. After all, Hillenburg was not just the creator — he was also a writer, executive producer, and director for many episodes of the series. The animator and cartoonist was also a marine biologist, and therefore was able to add real-life oceanic facts to the silly show. Despite Hillenburg being heavily involved with the show’s production, Nickelodeon commented on an Instagram post dedicated to him that the show would go on.
“The show isn’t cancelled,” the network wrote. “Steve Hillenburg’s creations will continue to bring joy to kids and families everywhere.”
???? 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
SpongeBob SquarePants has already had a long run, having first premiered on Nickelodeon in 1999. Prior to his passing, Hillenburg was assisting with Season 12, which debuted on November 11 and is set to run for at least 26 episodes. While Nickelodeon has denied the cancellation of the show, it has still yet to have been renewed for a 13th season. Hillenburg was also working on a new SpongeBob SquarePants movie set to premiere in 2020, making it the third film for the franchise. Hillenburg is credited as a writer and executive producer for The Spongebob Movie: It’s a Wonderful Sponge on the film’s official IMDb page.
Another article from Newsweek reported that voice actor Tom Kenny, who originated the iconic Spongebob voice, gave a moving speech at the 45th Daytime Emmy Award in April dedicated to Hillenburg.
“Sometime in 1997ish, Stephen Hillenburg showed me some drawings he had done for a show that he was thinking about pitching to Nickelodeon about a good-hearted sponge, his dumb sea star friend, a greedy crab boss, a cranky squid neighbor, a teeny tiny enemy and a Texas squirrel that’s gone subaquatic,” Kenny said.
“SpongeBob SquarePants, now, is seen in 208 countries, translated into 55 languages and is the most widely distributed property in Viacom Media Network history… SpongeBob’s vocal cords might be mine but SpongeBob’s playful spirit of gentle energy, his humor and the joy he takes in his vibrant, colorful, music-filled world come directly — directly — 100 percent from my good buddy, Mr. Stephen Hillenburg.”