The creator of the popular Nickelodeon show "SpongeBob SquarePants" Stephen Hillenburg, passed away at the age of 57. Variety reports that the cause of death was ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Stephen Hillenburg was first diagnosed with ALS in March 2017. Hillenburg spent nearly 20 years in animation. His best-known creation was the mix of his two favorites, marine biology, and animation. Hillenburg was born in 1961. He first got involved with experimental animation at the California Institute of Arts.

In 1993, he began working for Nickelodeon and became a writer and director on several shows including "Rocko's Modern Life," "Rugrats." In 1999, he created the world of "SpongeBob SquarePants."

Nickelodeon paid tribute to Stephen Hillenburg

Nickelodeon released a statement saying that Stephen was a beloved friend and a dedicated creative partner. Stephen created SpongeBob and the rest of the characters with a bit of humor and innocence. His work brought joy to generations upon generations of kids and families. Hillenburg earned his first award in 1992 for his animated short "Wormholes," which ended up being shown at multiple international animation festivals.

The first episode of "SpongeBob SquarePants," debuted on May 1, 1999.

The show has drawn in fans of all ages, from children to adults, and even college students. College students have even hosted viewing parties for the popular show. The popular series has earned multiple US and British Emmy Awards, Annie Awards, and ASCAP Awards. The show has ended up being dubbed and subtitled in over 60 languages, including Azerbaijani.

'SpongeBob SquarePants' popularity continues to rise

Stephen Hillenburg wrote, directed and produced the 2004 film "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie." The film ended up earning more than $140 million globally. Hillenburg ended up writing the script for the sequel "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water," which was released in 2015.

Hillenburg told Nickelodeon Animation that his comedy was inspired by his enjoyment of marine science.

The hit comedy show highlighted original music from any notable artists including the Flaming Lips. "SpongeBob SquarePants," once featured David Bowie voicing Lord Royal Highness in an episode. A Broadway musical premiered in 2016 and featured music from David Bowie and Brian Eno, as well as several other hit performers.