A generation is mourning following the death of Spongebob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg last week. He was 57.

Hillenburg, who was a marine biologist prior to creating the iconic Nickelodeon cartoon, passed away after a decade long battle with ALS.

In a statement, Nickelodeon said: “We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS.

“He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family.

Steve imbued Spongebob Squarepants with a unique sense of humour and innocence that has brought joy to generations of kids and families everywhere.

His utterly original characters and the world of Bikini Bottom will long stand as a reminder of the value of optimism, friendship, and the limitless power of imagination.”

Hillenburg began working in animation in 1987, and began working as a director and writer on Nickelodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life from 1993 to 1996.

Following his time working on ‘Modern Life’, he began to work full time on writing, producing and directing Spongebob Squarepants.

First airing in 1999, in the 19 years since it first aired, Spongebob has run nearly 250 episodes to date and become a firm favourite of children and adults alike.

Fans of Spongebob – and Hillenburg alike – took to social media following news of his passing.

“Hillenburg’s creations inspired me to pursue art, and still inspire me every day. I know Spongebob is a huge part of people’s lives, and a huge tribute to comedy, imagination and heartfelt animation,” wrote one Twitter user.

Another tribute posted said: “I remember the days when I watched Spongebob when I came home from school. I grew up with Spongebob, and still watch the show to this day.
The fact that Stephen Hillenburg passed away is really sad – we just lost one of the greatest childhood icons of the early-to-mid 2000s.”