Nickelodeon confirmed that the creator of one of the most-loved cartoon series in the world lost his combat with a rare neurodegenerative disorder.
American animator and 'SpongeBob SquarePants' creator Stephen Hillenburg first publicized his battle with ALS in March 2017. Stephen Hawking, a famed physicist, also suffered from the same disease and died last year.
Despite his condition, Hillenburg still decided to continue working on the series and stated, "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."
On Monday, the American television network confirmed the passing of Hillenburg after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS. They also took to Twitter and asked his fans to revere his life and work.
"He was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family," Nickelodeon said in a statement.
Since the declaration of the 57-year-old animator's death, the network has not yet announced whether or not they will continue to create 'SpongeBob SquarePants' episodes on behalf of the late artist.
We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants. Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work. — Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon) November 27, 2018
Remembering "Steve" Through SpongeBob
Hillenburg almost made everything in the animated series -- writing, producing and directing -- that started in 1999 until it grew into countless episodes, movies and a Broadway show.
"SpongeBob SquarePants" established its record for being broadcasted in over 300 countries and translated in more than 60 languages. As of this writing, it already bagged 75 awards and made two full-length films.
Moreover, the production successfully sent the show to Broadway, which marked the birth of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical in 2017 before they earned a Tony for Best Scenic Design of a Musical.
Despite controversies surrounding the main character's sexual orientation, it became known as one of the most popular animated series of all time in the world. Not only the $13 billion-worth TV series delivered fun and adventure in each episode, but it also became the source of some of the best memes in Internet history.
Colleagues Paid Tributes
On September 7, 2001, the "Band Geeks" episode featured the song "Sweet Victory" by David Glen Eisley. They included the aforementioned song on the series' tracklist album "SpongeBob SquarePants: The Yellow Album" in 2005.
After learning Hillenburg's death, Bob Kulick and David Glen Eisley chose to honor and remember the "SpongeBob SquarePants" creator by releasing a new version of their song "Sweet Victory".
"May you all have a happy holiday season. May the new decade find you all celebrating your own 'Victories' in your lives, your hearts, and your souls," Eisley wrote alongside the special version of the anthem.
Meanwhile, the musical lead actor Ethan Slater expressed his despair in an e-mail following the news of Hillenburg's death. He said how heartbroken he got after he heard the news.
Slater described the late animator as a "truly generous and kind person" and reminisced how the creative genius welcomed the Broadway cast as members of the family.