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.

gettyimages 885702278 SpongeBob SquarePants And Friends Lose Creator Hillenburg

(Photo by Jenny Anderson/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

Hillenburg died Monday of Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, the cable network said in a statement. He was 57.

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(Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

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.

gettyimages 943432264 SpongeBob SquarePants And Friends Lose Creator Hillenburg

(Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for T.J. Martell Foundation)

“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.”

gettyimages 482831971 SpongeBob SquarePants And Friends Lose Creator Hillenburg

(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

Its vast cast of oceanic creatures included SpongeBob’s starfish sidekick Patrick, his tightwad boss Mr. Krabs, and his always-exasperated neighbor Squidward Tentacles.

gettyimages 482832359 SpongeBob SquarePants And Friends Lose Creator Hillenburg

(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

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.

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(Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Variety)

“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.

© 2018 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS62 Detroit

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