Skip to Content

Sad news today out of the world of children’s television:

Stephen Hillenburg, the creator and executive producers of SpongeBob SquarePants, has confirmed to Variety that he’s been diagnosed with ALS.

Stephen Hillenburg Picture
Photo via Getty

In his statement, Hillenburg said he plans to continue working on the wildly popular program, which debuted in 1999.

“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,” Hillenburg said, adding:

“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.”

ALS is a a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

In response to this sad piece of news, Nickelodeon issued a statement of its own in support of Hillenburg.

It reads:

“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.”

Stephen Hillenburg
Photo via Getty

SpongeBob SquarePants tracks the adventures and endeavors of the title character, along with his numerous friends in the fictional underwater city of Bikini Bottom.

The show’s popularity has made it a media franchise, as well as the highest-rated series to ever air on Nickelodeon; it is also the most distributed property of MTV Networks.

As of 2015, the media franchise had generated $12 billion in merchandising revenue for Nickelodeon.

Yes, $12 BILLION.

The series airs in over 170 countries and has been translated into over a dozen languages.

Sponge Pic

“I think SpongeBob was born out of my love of Laurel and Hardy shorts," Hillenburg said in 2009. “SpongeBob was inspired by that kind of character: the Innocent – a la Stan Laurel.”

What has led to its ongoing popularity?

Why does it remain so successful after all these years?

“Everybody recognizes the childlike character,” Hillenburg said of the blend of traits and physical comedy. “It’s universally understood.” 

ALS can be a debilitating, truly awful illness.

We send Hillenburg and his loved ones our very best wishes.

ALS can be a debilitating illness. May