Stephen Hillenburg was an American cartoonist, animator, producer, marine biologist and teacher. He was the creator of the Nickelodeon television series SpongeBob SquarePants, which he 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.
In 1994, Hillenburg began developing The Intertidal Zone characters and concepts for what became SpongeBob SquarePants. The show premiered in 1999. 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 was released; the sequel to the 2004 film, it marked Hillenburg's return to the franchise, after he co-wrote the story and acted as an executive producer on the project.
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.