Stephen Hillenburg, the visionary creator of “SpongeBob SquarePants” died Monday, Nickelodeon and Jessica Berger, a rep for his family, confirmed to USA TODAY. The cause of death was ALS.
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a rare terminal illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“SpongeBob” is Nickelodeon’s all-time biggest hit, and has aired for nearly two decades since its premiere on May 1, 1999, bringing characters SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Sandy Cheeks, Plankton, Pearl Krabs, Mrs. Puff and Larry the Lobster to life.
“We are sad to share the news of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants,” the children’s channel tweeted Tuesday. “Today, we are observing a moment of silence to honor his life and work.”
Hillenberg’s cheery SpongeBob, awash in puns and happily flipping Krabby Patties at the Krusty Krab eatery, became a pop culture sensation. Famous folks filed in to voice characters over the years, including Amy Poehler, Johnny Depp, LeBron James, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Kristin Wiig, Mark Hamill, Betty White and Jon Hamm.
The franchise extended to the silver screen with “The SpongeBob Movie” in 2004 (which grossed $140 million worldwide), which Hillenburg wrote, produced and directed. It was followed by “Sponge Out of Water” in 2015 ($325 million worldwide), which Hillenburg wrote and executive produced. A third “SpongeBob” film will hit theaters in 2020.
David Hasselhoff, who starred as himself in “The SpongeBob Movie,” remembered his time on set.
“Wow what a unique and fantastic character Steve created! It was my pleasure and honor to be in ‘SpongeBob The Movie’ and to share some great laughs with this gentleman,” the “Baywatch” alum tweeted. “To this day I am stopped and flattered by people and kids who have seen me in the film.”
The squishy yellow guy also made a move to Broadway. “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical,” which opened in December 2017, was rewarded with 12 Tony nominations, though the show closed after less than 10 months.
“The fact that it’s undersea and isolated from our world helps the characters maintain their own culture,” Hillenburg told the Associated Press in 2001. “The essence of the show is that SpongeBob is an innocent in a world of jaded characters. The rest is absurd packaging.”
“We are incredibly saddened by the news that Steve Hillenburg has passed away following a battle with ALS,” Nickelodeon’s statement said. “He was a beloved friend and longtime creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family. 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.”
The television series touched Busy Philipps’ family: “Sponge Bob has brought my little one Cricket so much joy and given her the weirdest & wildest sense of humor. Thank you Mr. Hillenburg and rest in peace.”
Hillenburg first parlayed his fascination with ocean life into a career as a biology teacher at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California. In 1987, he began his career in animation, and from 1993 to 1996 got his start at Nickelodeon on “Rocko’s Modern Life.” From there, Hillenburg began work full time, writing producing and directing an animated series that would eventually become “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
He revealed his ALS diagnosis in 2017, saying in a statement he intended to keep working on “SpongeBob,” which is renewed until 2019.
“I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS,” he said at the time. “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.”
Hillenburg is survived by Karen Hillenburg, his wife of 20 years, son Clay, mother Nancy Hillenburg (nee Dufour) and brother Brian Kelly Hillenburg, his wife Isabel and nieces Emma and Hazel.
9-year-old genius to graduate university
(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.
Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.
Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.
He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.
His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.
“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.
Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.
While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.
But Lydia has her own theory.
“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.
The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.
“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.
“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”
Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.
“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”
Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”
His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.
“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.
“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”
While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.
“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”
Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.
However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.
In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.
Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.
New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne
Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem
Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.
The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.
Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.
🚨WANTED for ASSAULT: on 11/6 at approx 3:43 PM in front of 128 West 112th St in Manhattan, a 32 yr old male was walking with his 8 yr old son when a white BMW jumped the curb & hit the father & son. The driver then got out and slashed the father. Call @NYPDTips with any info. pic.twitter.com/cwd79rcM4c
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) November 15, 2019
Father and son were both knocked through a gate.
The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.
One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.
McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.
McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.
Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.
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