'SpongeBob SquarePants' Creator Stephen Hillenburg Dies At 57

Nov 27, 2018
Originally published on November 28, 2018 9:10 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now a moment to remember the creator of Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants." Stephen Hillenburg died yesterday of ALS at age 57. NPR's Andrew Limbong has this look at his work.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS")

TOM KENNY: (As Patchy the Pirate) Are you ready kids?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) Aye, aye, Captain.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: You could have watched "SpongeBob SquarePants" as a kid from your living room during snack time or from your dorm room with the munchies.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS")

KENNY: (As Patchy the Pirate, singing) Oh, who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) SpongeBob SquarePants.

LIMBONG: SpongeBob SquarePants is loud, innocent and excited about life. But he also feels the pressures of adulthood - holding down a job, learning how to drive.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS")

MARY JO CATLETT: (As Mrs. Puff) OK, now, what do you do next?

KENNY: (As SpongeBob SquarePants) Floor it?

CATLETT: (As Mrs. Puff) Yes - no. Don't floor it.

KENNY: (As SpongeBob SquarePants) OK, floor it.

CATLETT: (As Mrs. Puff) No.

LIMBONG: Stephen Hillenburg created SpongeBob after teaching marine biology in California. Then he attended the California Institute of the Arts. In a Nickelodeon promo video, he said he was encouraged when another writer saw some comics he'd made about the actual underwater world.

(SOUNDBITE OF NICKELODEON PROMO VIDEO)

STEPHEN HILLENBURG: It's basically to teach about tide pools. It was that moment where I said, maybe I should pursue this.

LIMBONG: Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob, told WHYY's Fresh Air in 2004 what shooting the pilot was like.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

KENNY: Steve Hillenburg actually brought a tank of helium into the studio. And all of us voice actors just (imitates sucking air) sucked (imitating SpongeBob SquarePants) on it - aye - aye - aye - aye.

TERRY GROSS, BYLINE: (Laughter).

KENNY: And it was - it was - that was the pilot. So I said, boy, if this thing goes, we are going to have a lot of fun.

LIMBONG: After Hillenburg announced he had ALS, he received a Creative Arts Emmy for his contribution and impact in animation. Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) SpongeBob SquarePants.

KENNY: (As Patchy the Pirate, singing) If nautical nonsense be something you wish... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.