SpongeBob SquarePants Creator Stephen Hillenburg died Monday of ALS, Nickelodeon confirmed in a statement. He was 57.
Here’s everything you need to know about Hillenburg’s net worth.
1. SpongeBob SquarePants Is a $13 Billion Franchise
According to The New York Times, as of 2017 SpongeBob SquarePants has generated over $13 billion in retail merchandise sales. The show has been broadcast to more than 200 countries.
In 2009, the 10th anniversary of the show, Advertising Age reported that the SpongeBob franchise makes $8 billion dollars a year for Nickelodeon, with more than 700 license partners worldwide. The show attracted $813 million in advertising revenue from 2004 to 2008 according to the publication. While it debuted to middling ratings, within a year the show had soared past Nickelodeon’s previous top ratings earner Rugrats, the publication reported.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie released on November 19, 2004 and made over $140 million in the box office worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Hillenburg was the director of the movie.
The second movie, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, grossed over $325 million worldwide, according to the website. Hillenburg worked as the co-writer and executive producer.
2. Hillenburg Was a Marine Biology Teacher Before Creating SpongeBob
Hillenburg earned a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Planning and Interpretation with an emphasis on marine resources from Humboldt State University in 1984, according to Variety. He then started teaching marine biology at the Orange County Ocean Institute (then known as the Marine Institute).
While working at the institute, he drew on his love of art to create a comic book known as “Intertidal Zone” to use as a teaching tool, according to Hogan’s Alley. The comic featured a character known as Bob the Sponge, the earliest predecessor to SpongeBob.
Hillenburg then attended the California Institute of Arts in 1987, according to Variety. He graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in 1992. He won an award for his animated short “Wormholes” the same year. Then he was brought on board as writer and director on Nickelodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life from 1993 to 1996. Then on May 1, 1999 he debuted the very first episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.
3. He Made Frozen Walt Dolls to Help Pay For His Education
To help fund his tuition at CalArts, Hillenburg along with Conceptual Artist Burt Payne 3 created and sold “Frozen Walt Dolls,” according to Cartoon Brew. They continued creating the dolls throughout the 90s.
The dolls play on the urban legend of Walt Disney having his body frozen after his death on December 15, 1966 so that he could be revived in the future. However, according to Mental Floss, Disney was cremated two days after his death.
4. Hillenburg Died of ALS
In March of 2017, Hillenburg was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, according to Variety. In a statement shared with the publication, Hillenburg said that he will continue to work on SpongeBob SquarePants and his other projects despite the diagnosis.
“[Hillenburg] was a beloved friend and long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our hearts go out to his entire family,” said Nickelodeon in a statement sent to Variety.
5. He’s Won Many Awards Throughout His Career
In 2010, Hillenburg along with SpongeBob SquarePants Executive Producer Paul Tibbitt and Line Producer Dina Buteyn won a Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program, according to IMDB. In 2018, he and Supervising Producers Marc Ceccarelli and Vincent Waller and Producer Jennie Monica won another Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding Children’s Animated Series. He’s also been nominated for nine Primetime Emmy awards for his work on SpongeBob.
In 2018, he won the Winsor McCay Award from the Annie Awards. The award is given out in recognition of excellent lifetime or career contributions to animation, according to the official Annie Award website.