Stephen McDannell HillenburgUSA

Stephen Hillenburg Bio, Wiki, Age, Cause of Death, Net Worth, Wife (Karen Hillenburg), Children, Cartoonist

26th November, Stephen Hillenburg Creator of ‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ Dies aged 57

Stephen Hillenburg Wiki

Stephen Hillenburg Bio

Stephen McDannell Hillenburg was born on 21st August 1961  and died on 26th November  2018. He was an American cartoonist, animator, and former marine biologist and teacher. He was the creator of the Nickelodeon television series SpongeBob SquarePants (1999–), which he has also directed, produced, and written. It has gone on to become one of the longest-running American television series as well as the highest-rated show ever to air on Nickelodeon.

Stephen Hillenburg Birthday
He was born on 21st August 1961 in Lawton, Oklahoma, United States
Stephen Hillenburg Died He died on 26th November 2018 (aged 57)
Stephen Hillenburg Cause of Death The cause of death was ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) which Hillenburg revealed he had been diagnosed in March 2017
Stephen Hillenburg Education
  • Humboldt State University(B.S., 1984)
  • California Institute of the Arts(M.F.A., 1992)
Stephen Hillenburg Wife Karen Umland Hillenburg
Stephen Hillenburg Children 1 son Clay Hillenburg
Stephen Hillenburg Net Worth He had an estimated Net Worth of $ 100 Million as at the time of his death
  • Cartoonist
  • animator
  • director
  • producer
  • writer
  • voice actor
Years active 1984–2018
Notable work
SpongeBob SquarePants
Hometown Anaheim, California, U.S.
Stephen Hillenburg Scientific career
Fields Marine biology
Institutions Orange County Marine Institute
Influences Jacques Cousteau

Stephen Hillenburg Biography

Hillenburg was born in Lawton, Oklahoma and raised in Anaheim, California. His parents were, Kelly N. Hillenburg Jr. (July 16, 1936 – August 30, 2006), worked for the U.S. military and his mother, Nancy (née Dufour), who taught visually impaired students. Hillenburg became fascinated with the ocean as a child and developed an interest in art. He started his professional career in 1984, instructing marine biology, at the Orange County Marine Institute, where he wrote The Intertidal Zone, an informative comic book about tide-pool animals, which he used to educate his students. Hillenburg enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts to pursue a career in animation n 1989, two years after leaving teaching. He was later offered a job on the Nickelodeon animated television series Rocko’s Modern Life (1993–1996) after his success with short films The Green Beret and Wormholes (both 1992), which he made while studying animation.

In 1994, Hillenburg began developing The Intertidal Zone characters and concepts for what became SpongeBob SquarePants. The show premiered in 1999 and has aired since then. He also directed The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004), which he originally intended to be the series finale. However, Nickelodeon wanted to produce more episodes, so Hillenburg resigned as the showrunner. He went back to making short films, with Hollywood Blvd., USA (2013). In 2015, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water premiered; the sequel to the 2004 film, it marked Hillenburg’s return to the show, after he co-wrote the story.

Besides his two Emmy Awards and six Annie Awards for SpongeBob SquarePants, Hillenburg has also received other recognition, such as an accolade from Heal the Bay for his efforts on elevating marine life awareness, and the Television Animation Award from the National Cartoonists Society. Despite this, he has been involved in public controversies, including one that centered on speculation over the SpongeBob character’s intended sexual orientation, and a lawsuit that was filed against him.

Stephen Hillenburg Wife, Children, Personal Life

Hillenburg was married to Karen Hillenburg (née Umland), a chef who teaches at the New School of Cooking in Culver City, California. He deemed her wife as the funniest person that he knew. The couple had a son named Clay (born c. 1998). Hillenburg formerly resided in Hollywood and in Pasadena and lived with his family in San Marino, California until his death.

Stephen Hillenburg with Wife, Karen Hillenburg
Stephen Hillenburg with Wife, Karen Hillenburg

Hillenburg’s hobbies included surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and performing “noisy rock music” on his guitar. He jammed with his son who is a drummer which, according to Hillenburg, is “a great way to bond with each other.” He also enjoyed bird watching at home, but said that he was always “an ocean freak”.

As per his colleagues, Hillenburg was “a perfectionist workaholic”. He was also known for his private nature. Julia Pistor, co-producer of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, noted that Hillenburg was “very shy”. She went on to say, “He doesn’t want people to know about his life or family. He’s just a really funny, down-to-earth guy with a dry sense of humor who puts his family first and keeps us on our toes in keeping our corporate integrity.” Hillenburg said about himself, “I make animation films because I like to draw and create things. I have no real interest to be on camera or to be a celebrity. It’s not that I don’t like people, but I like having my privacy

Stephen Hillenburg Illness, death and Cause

In March 2017, Hillenburg disclosed to the Variety magazine that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a terminal illness that affects and causes the death of neurons that control the brain and the spinal cord. He released a statement to the publication, in which he said that he would continue to work on SpongeBob SquarePants “for as long as [he is] able.” He added, “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.” At the time, Hillenburg was currently in the early stages of the disease, according to a source close to him.

Hillenburg died on 26th November 2018 from complications from ALS.

Stephen Hillenburg Awards and honors

In 1992, one of Hillenburg’s early works, Wormholes, won for Best Concept at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. For SpongeBob SquarePants, Hillenburg has been nominated for 17 Emmy Awards, winning in the categories of Outstanding Special Class Animated Program and Outstanding Sound Editing – Animation in 2010 and 2014, respectively. His show has also received several other awards and nominations, including 17 Annie Award nominations, winning six times, as well as winning two British Academy Children’s Awards, out of four nominations. In 2002, SpongeBob SquarePants won its first TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Children’s Programming nomination.

In 2001, Heal the Bay, an environmental nonprofit organization, honored Hillenburg with its Walk the Talk award. He was recognized for raising public awareness of marine life through SpongeBob SquarePants. The following year, Hillenburg was given the Television Animation Award from the National Cartoonists Society, and the Princess Grace Statue Award from the Princess Grace Foundation (PGF).  The PGF introduced the Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship in 2017, an annual grant named in Hillenburg’s honor to emerging animators. In 2018, Hillenburg received the Winsor McCay Award at the 45th Annie Awards, and a special recognition at the 45th Daytime Emmy Awards “for his contribution and impact made in the animation field and within the broadcast industry.”



Moses Njoroge is the Senior Editor at Glob Intel, a news and IT service provider company. He has a wide range of experience in freelance writing, Web/System Development and other related IT services.

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