‘Spongebob Squarepants’ Creator Diagnosed With ALS
Spongebob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The American animator, 55, announced that he had been diagnosed with the neurological condition, sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in a statement to Variety.
“I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS,” Hillenburg’s 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.”
A source close to the marine biology teacher turned animator told Variety that Hillenburg is in the early stages of the terminal illness, which affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord leading to a loss of brain and body function.
Beloved children’s cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants, whose title character is an overenthusiastic young sea sponge, debuted in 1999 and has been a fixture on TV screens ever since.
Hillenburg directed a blockbuster 2004 movie based on the franchise, and a second film, which he co-wrote, hit cinemas in 2015.
The cartoon series is the most successful show in Nickelodeon’s history, having won a hoard of TV awards, including two Emmys, and generated more than $12 billion in merchandising income.
After learning of Hillenburg’s condition, Nickelodeon executives issued a statement which read, “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.”