Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for Paramount International
Stephen Hillenburg, who created SpongeBob SquarePants, died at 57 years old. Inhabited by a yellow sponge and a band of sea creatures, the Nickelodeon TV program has gained tremendous popularity among children and adults over its twenty years of existence.
Nickelodeon said Tuesday that Hillenburg had died of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.
Steve imbued SpongeBob SquarePants with a sense of humor and unique innocence that has brought joy to generations of children and families all over the world, "said Nickelodeon in a statement. friendship and the unlimited power of the imagination ".
The underwater world of Bikini Bottom, where the action takes place, reflects Hillenburg's deep interest in marine life. SpongeBob is surrounded by a starfish, an octopus, a crab and a puffer fish, to name a few.
Hillenburg, a native of Oklahoma, began his career teaching marine biology at the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point California. The modern life of Rocko for about four years in the mid-1990s.
Nickelodeon's interests in marine biology and animation combined to create SpongeBob SquarePants.
In an interview given to the channel in 2015, Hillenburg told a writer of The modern life of Rocko spotted his comic drawings of creatures from the ocean.
"It started thinking, if I was doing a show, I would do it about those invertebrates and those crazy animals that live in the ocean, and that would be the perfect fusion of what I'm going to do. I did, "he said. . "It's at that point that I said, maybe I should continue down that path, you know, go down that path."
The series was not initially perceived as an inevitable success. On the occasion of his 10th Anniversary in 2009, Brown Johnson, then Vice President of Animation at Nickelodeon, told NPR's Elizabeth Blair some of the first conversations on the channel.
"Some parts of the Nickelodeon business were of the type" Oh no. It will never succeed. It is a sponge. What is it? It is yellow. It's a bad color, "she said.
Now, the show has existed since 1999. It spawned two films – 2004 The SpongeBob SquarePants movie and 2015 The Bob movie sponge: a sponge out of the water – and a Broadway show.
And it has a deep global reach. According to Nickelodeon, it has been translated into more than 60 languages. Images of the smiling yellow sponge are seen worldwide.
In an interview with Fresh Air in 2004, Tom Kenny, SpongeBob's long-time voice, describes Hillenburg's dynamic studio style.
"Hillenburg is definitely the big kahuna and, very often, he just has all the vocal nuances and wink and contractions planned at the nanosecond in his mind." And at other times he will simply take you off and leave, "You know, I do not know where it's going. Take it where you feel funny, "Kenny said.
As he said, some days of work on the show were like maths – other days, jazz.
Earlier this year, Kenny paid homage to Hillenburg while handing him a prize at the Daytime Emmy Awards. He praised the broad and enduring appeal of the series: "I fell in love immediately and it seems like other people have also done it."