Sad news has struck the animation community tonight. Stephen Hillenburg, animation veteran and creator of Nickelodeon’s most successful cartoon (Spongebob Squarepants), has received a diagnosis of ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s a neurodegenerative illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and is eventually fatal.
“I wanted people to hear directly from me that I have been diagnosed with ALS,” Hillenburg said in a statement released to Variety. “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. We ask that our sincere request for privacy be honored during this time.”
“Steve Hillenburg is a brilliant creator who brings joy to millions of fans,” said a Nickelodeon representative. “Our thoughts and support are with Steve and his family during this difficult time. Out of respect for their wishes for privacy, we will have no further comment.”
The Spongebob Squarepants crew is currently working on the tenth season of the show, with an eleventh already greenlit. Hillenburg says he will continue to work on the TV series for as long as his health permits.