Stephen McDannell Hillenburg is an American animator, cartoonist. He is the creator of the popular children television series SpongeBob Square Pants. SpongeBob is one of the longest airing and most popular American series on Nickelodeon.
Stephen Hillenburg was born on August 21, 1961, in Lawton, Oklahoma, United States. His father, Kelly N. Hillenburg was a military man and his mother, Nancy nee Dufour was a teacher. When he was a year old, his family moved to Orange County, California. Stephen attended Savanna High School in Anaheim. He received his university education at the Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. He majored in marine science and art.
Stephen Hillenburg is married to Karen, a chef. The couple has a son named Clay. Stephen is known as a private person and he is described by his colleagues as a workaholic. He was described as a funny, down to earth, shy family person. In March 2017, Stephen was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He came out to thank the public for the love shown him and he also requested that the public honor his privacy.
After college, Stephen took up several minor jobs including park service attendant. He later found a job with the Orange County Marine Institute now called the Ocean Institute. He worked as a marine- biology teacher for three years. He wrote a comic book, “The Intertidal Zone” a book he used to teach his students. He tried to get the book published but he was turned down by many publishers.
He left his job to pursue a career in animation. In 1989, he went to CalArts to enroll in the Experimental Animation Program. He graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in experimental animation. In 1992, Stephen released two of his animation works; “The Green Beret” and “Wormholes”. He became the director for “Rocko’s Modern Life which aired from 1993 to 1996. He did not only direct this cartoon but he also wrote and produced some of the episodes. In 1995, he got promoted to the creative director of the cartoon.
In 1997, Stephen Hillenburg pitched SpongeBob to the Nickelodeon executives. They approved and funded the show. The cartoon first aired on May 1, 1999. The first airing was a preview and the cartoon was scheduled to air as a Saturday morning show. The cartoon officially started airing on July 17, 1999. The show received positive reviews. The cartoon appealed to both the older and younger generations. In its first month of airing, the show unseated Pokémon as the most rated Saturday morning children series. The cartoon hit over 61 million viewership by May 2002.
Stephen halted the series to produce a movie version. The movie was released in 2004. Stephen later resigned and Paul Tibbitt took over. Even then, Stephen was still an advisor and the executive producer for the show. He also released a comic book titled “The SpongeBob Comics”. A second adaptation of the original series was released in 2015. This was titled, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.
How much is Stephen Hillenburg Net Worth in 2017
Stephen Hillenburg has focused on his career as an animator since 1992. He has included the knowledge from his former career, marine biology, in the creation of his cartoon. Stephen net worth is $130 million US dollars as of 2017. His wealth can be attributed to his career as an animator.
Stephen Hillenburg revealed that it was scary changing careers. According to him, he thought about SpongeBob for a long time. It took almost ten years to make it happen. He mentioned that he did not want to produce his own show considering how difficult it was when he was directing “Rocko’s Modern Life”. He however eventually decided to work on SpongeBob. Many people encouraged him after reading his comic book “The Intertidal Zone”.