SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg, who brought the zany cartoon marine underworld of Bikini Bottom to television, the movies and the stage, has died at the age of 57. Hillenburg had said last year that he was suffering from the neurodegenerative disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Hillenburg was a marine biology teacher in Southern California when he started creating sea creatures as teaching tools.
The first episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, featuring the cheerful yellow sea-sponge, who lived in an underwater pineapple, and his friends Mr Krabs, Larry the Lobster, Patrick, and their Krusty Krab restaurant hangout, aired on American television in May 1999.
The series went on to win multiple awards, produced a series of spin-off books, two Hollywood movies and a Broadway musical. The television series has aired in more than 200 nations and has been translated into more than 60 languages.