The Legacy of Stephen Hillenburg, Creator of “Spongebob Squarepants”

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Story by Jerell King. Photo by USA Today.

DEC. 05, 2018: Monday, November 26th, 2018 was a day where we lost another phenomenal cartoonist. Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of “Spongebob Squarepants”, sadly passed at the age of 57. Hillenburg held many titles throughout his lifetime, including a marine biologist, teacher, writer, producer, director, and animator. However, the one that will be remembered most of all is that he is the creator of the famous and extensively popular Nickelodeon cartoon, “Spongebob Squarepants”.

Stephen Hillenburg was born August 21st, 1961 in Lawton Oklahoma. In 1984, he graduated from Humboldt State University with a bachelor’s degree in natural resource planning and interpretation and then proceeded to teach Marine Biology at the Orange County Marine Institute. While he taught though, he still had a passion for drawing, so he began to study experimental animation at The California Institute of the Arts, where he received a master of fine arts degree in 1992.

Seven years later, he was working with Nickelodeon as a writer and director for the cartoon series “Rocko’s Modern Life” where he developed the yellow spongy sensation that took the country by storm ever since its appearance in May 1999. This series became successful over the many years the show ran and now spans over 250 episodes. The show produced two movies, one in 2004 and the other in 2015, and a recent Broadway musical that was outstanding, with 12 Tony Award nominations, and it actually won one for best scenic design. Even with all of the accolades, the show stuck true to its roots with unforgettable characters and many entertaining moments throughout the years for everyone, young or old.

The comical world of Spongebob will always have a special place in my heart. Spongebob was one of my favorite cartoons as a young kid, as I fed right into the comical characters and humorous plots. Just looking at what crazy or whacky ordeals Spongebob and his pals were gonna get themselves into next made my Saturday mornings special. I can even look back at some of the older episodes today as a much older person and still get a good laugh out of the jokes. Besides the humor, Spongebob also taught me valuable lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Thanks to this show, I was able to learn the importance of good friendships, optimism, and most importantly, having a strong imagination. The show built this concept of imagination, through the main character, a talking sponge. The show captures how having a great imagination can brighten up your day and really resonates with me. Looking back, without the creative imagination of Stephen Hillenburg, my childhood would not have been as fun as it was. For that, I thank Mr. Hillenburg for providing a piece of entertainment that can resonate with everyone, and I thank him for creating memories with this show that I will cherish forever.

Jerell King is an 11th grade scholar at Friendship Tech Prep Academy.