Stephen Hillenburg may have passed away last Monday, November 26 at the age of 57, but his work and greatest legacy will remain forever.
Hillenburg, who is originally from Oklahoma, started his career teaching marine biology at the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point, California. He later switched gears to focus on animation, earning a degree at the California Institute of the Arts and working on Nickelodeon series Rocko’s Modern Life for about four years in the mid-1990s. It was at Nickelodeon that his interests in marine biology and animation combined to create SpongeBob SquarePants.
Nickelodeon released a statement about Hillenburg, remembering the animator for his warmth and creativity:
“Steve imbued ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ with a unique sense of humor 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.”
Clancy Brown, who plays Mr. Krabs, also gave his remarks regarding Hillenburg’s death in a tweet.
My moment of silence had to be at least a whole day.
Steve's passing is so very sad but ALS is brutal, unrelenting.
He was a sweet, humble dude. Happy. Funny. In love with his family. A faithful friend. A pure heart
He is also a legitimate genius.
He never thought so, but I do. https://t.co/fj4rmj2f2C
— Clancy Brown (@RealClancyBrown) November 28, 2018
The show has been running for over twenty years, receiving the title of the longest-running animated series in Nickelodeon. SpongeBob SquarePants has seen more than 250 episodes to date, two full-length movies (with a third one scheduled for 2020), and an award-winning Broadway musical.
However, Spongebob isn’t just a kid’s TV show, it’s a celebrated work of art that influenced generations. Its unique sense of humor has appealed to both children and adults, its characters completely diverse, giving us limitless lessons of friendship and optimism. Spongebob has never failed to encourage the power of our imaginations, even after we left the cartoons’ nest years ago. I mean, look at all the memes that show enabled us to conjure up.
Spongebob himself, with his overly bubbly and innocent personality, has taught us the value of gratitude (he even wrote a song about it) and how despite the difficult and unpleasant situations people encounter in life, they have the power to completely turn it into our favor. His life is literally a mess: He works underpaid in a dead-end job, continuously fails his driver’s exam and is often the subject of scrutiny. But that doesn’t stop him from making the most out of these basic and lifeless situations, a feature we especially need at this point.
The show also taught us how powerful our imagination is, and encouraged us to use it as a weapon in battling skeptics or just people who want to bring us down sometimes (Squidward, but we still love the guy!). Sure, every kid’s show always presents this idea into an out-of-world experience, but Spongebob does this in a ridiculous, somewhat realistic sense like ordering a TV and playing inside its cardboard box or building a bubble stand to make a quick penny. It shows us the beauty of thinking like a child and how it can make any day better.
Also, who would forget the soundtrack that one could still recite to this day? The show not only provided us with the aforementioned lessons on life but as well as a groovy soundtrack that shaped our childhood with songs like “Ripped Pants,” “Campfire Song Song,” “Sweet Victory,” and “Goofy Goober?” “F.U.N.” is also great if everyone could stop sexualizing it for just a moment. But either way, these ridiculous yet catchy songs hold a special place in our hearts.
So thank you, Stephen Hillenburg, for creating a pineapple and putting it under the sea because not only did you influence more than one generation but you also created a culture like no other.
Featured Image Via Nerdist