SpongeBob SquarePants Creator Stephen Hillenburg Diagnosed With ALS
Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, has revealed that he has been diagnosed with ALS. The 55-year-old animator told Variety that he has the neurodegenerative disease, but he plans to continue working on the highly successful Nickelodeon series.
“I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS.,” the statement reads. “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. My family and I are grateful for the outpouring of love and support. We ask that our sincere request for privacy be honored during this time.”
Nickelodeon issued a statement:
“Steve Hillenburg is a brilliant creator who brings joy to millions of fans. Our thoughts and support are with Steve and his family during this difficult time. Out of respect for their wishes for privacy, we will have no further comment.”
Early in his life, Hillenburg was a marine biology teacher. He channeled his love of the ocean into the multibillion-dollar franchise that includes two feature-length movies about the iconic sponge living under the sea in a pineapple. Hillenburg directed 2004’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and was a co-writer and executive producer on the 2015 sequel.
With 209 episodes since 1999, SpongeBob is one of the longest-running shows in television history. Last March, Nickelodeon renewed SpongeBob SquarePants for a 10th and 11th season. Hillenburg has received 17 Emmy nominations and won two times in the categories of Outstanding Special Class Animated Program and Outstanding Sound Editing – Animation.
His first big break in animation came in 1993, when he worked on Rocko’s Modern Life.
ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a rare terminal illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, which eventually leads to paralyzation. The average life expectancy for those afflicted with ALS is between two and five years, and there is currently no cure. The degenerative disease affects more than 30,000 Americans, and more than 5,000 new cases of ALS are diagnosed each year.
If you would like to donate to help fight ALS, you can do so at the ALS Association.
Godspeed Stephen Hillenburg.