Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of the animated show SpongeBob Squarepants, has died following a battle with the neurodegenerative disease ALS.
The news was confirmed by Nickelodeon, which has broadcast the hugely popular cartoon series since 1999.
"[Hillenburg] was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family," the network said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. "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."
Hillenburg revealed he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (ALS) in March last year.
Back then, he told Variety that he intended to work on his show "for as long as I am able."
SpongeBob SquarePants has aired on Nickelodeon since 1999.
The series, about an anthropomorphic sea sponge named SpongeBob and his various underwater-dwelling friends, airs in more than 200 countries and been translated into more 50 languages. It has earned numerous awards during its run, including four Emmy Awards.
Hillenburg earned a special Emmy Award earlier this year for his work in the animation field.
May his soul rest in perfect peace..
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