LOS ANGELES (AP) – Stephen Hillenburg, who used his dual loves of drawing and marine biology to spawn the absurd undersea world of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” has died, Nickelodeon announced Tuesday.
Hillenburg died Monday of Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, the cable network said in a statement. He was 57.
The eternally, obliviously jolly SpongeBob and his yell-along theme song that opened “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?!” quickly appealed to college kids and parents as much as it did kids.
“The essence of the show is that SpongeBob is an innocent in a world of jaded characters,” Hillenburg told The Associated Press in 2001. “The rest is absurd packaging.”
Its vast cast of oceanic creatures included SpongeBob’s starfish sidekick Patrick, his tightwad boss Mr. Krabs, and his always-exasperated neighbor Squidward Tentacles.
Its nearly 250 episodes have won four Emmy Awards and led to an endless line of merchandise to rival any other pop cultural phenomenon of the 2000s.
“When you set out to do a show about a sponge, you can’t anticipate this kind of craze,” Hillenburg told the AP in 2002.
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