Stephen McDannell "Steve" Hillenburg (August 21, 1961 – November 26, 2018) was an American marine biologist, marine science teacher, and animator best known for creating the Nickelodeon series SpongeBob SquarePants. He owned the series' production company, United Plankton Pictures, and was also a writer for Rocko's Modern Life. In 1998, he married his wife Karen Hillenburg, whom he named Karen Plankton after. They had one son together.
On November 26, 2018, Hillenburg had passed away from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
- He served as the creative director/producer for the last season of Rocko's Modern Life.
- Hillenburg was the first creator of a Nickelodeon animated series (Nicktoons) to pass away.
- According to Vincent Waller on Twitter, the episode "Pineapple RV" was the final SpongeBob episode to be fully finished before Stephen Hillenburg's death.
- "Goons on the Moon" was the last SpongeBob episode to premiere during Hillenburg's lifetime.
- "The Nitwitting" was the first episode to premiere after Stephen Hillenburg's death.
- Nickelodeon Kart Racers was the last SpongeBob-related video game released during Stephen Hillenburg's lifetime.
- "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout", which commemorated the series' 20th anniversary, and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run were dedicated to Hillenburg.
- According to Everybody's Talking: The Voices Behind SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg originally practiced voicing Squidward in a 1996 tape recording before Rodger Bumpass was ultimately chosen for the role.