Stephen Hillenburg: He was No. 1

Quinn Dekker, Staff writer

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On Nov. 26, kids and kids of heart everywhere were distraught to hear about the devastating loss of cartoon legend Stephen Hillenburg.

Hillenburg died in his south Californian home after a lengthy battle with ALS, with which he was diagnosed in March of this year.

Hillenburg worked on several Nickelodeon shows and projects, but what he is most famous for by far is the creation of the global icon Spongebob Squarepants.

Before he was an animator, Hillenburg was a marine biologist who taught children for a living, but he always had a passion for art. During his marine biology career, he created a comic called The Intertidal Zone. This was a comic featuring talking sea creatures including a sea sponge named Bob The Sponge.

He eventually decided to go out and pursue his passion in art, so he went to the California Institute of Arts to study animation. After he graduated he got hired by Nickelodeon to work on the show Rocko’s Modern Life. Once that show ended in 1996, he had the opportunity to devote his time to a new project of his own making.

He decided to fuse his passions for marine biology and animation in a new cartoon pitch for Nickelodeon that was originally titled Spongeboy Ahoy. The project was green lit in 1997, and the first episode of Spongebob Squarepant debuted May 1, 1999.

    Over the course of the first three seasons of the show, Spongebob skyrocketed in popularity, and became both the number one children’s show at the time and a worldwide phenomenon.

After Season 3, Hillenburg intended to end the series with a full length feature film. However, Nickelodeon had other plans and decided to continue making new episodes after the film while Hillenburg took a smaller role as an executive producer.

For the next six seasons, Hillenburg gradually took less and less control over the series, and many fans criticized the newer seasons for being lackluster to the magic of the original three.

After the series went down a downwards spiral and many fans believed the show couldn’t come back from, a miracle happened. Hillenburg returned to write for the second Spongebob movie, “Sponge out of Water,” and later returned to the series after the movie was well received.

Hillenburg’s return to the series kicked off what fans call the renaissance era of the show, and a new movie is planned for 2020.

It is unclear what Nickelodeon’s future plans for the show are, but no matter what they do it will never tarnish the legacy Hillenburg created.

Personally, watching Spongebob made up some of the most iconic memories of my childhood, and I can still watch classic episodes today and laugh.

The iconic quotes and moments in the show can be referenced, and anyone from my generation (late 90’s/early 2000’s) will understand. I speak for myself, my generation and anyone who has had a laugh over an episode of Spongebob when I say from the bottom of my heart, thank you Stephen.