Entertainment

David Hasselhoff leads tributes to SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg

The Hoff had appeared in a SpongeBob movie.

Tributes have been paid to SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg, who has died aged 57 after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease last year.

David Hasselhoff, who returned to his famous Baywatch red trunks to play a lifeguard in the SpongeBob movie in 2004, said it was a shocking loss.

He wrote on Twitter: “Wow what a unique and fantastic character Steve created! It was my pleasure and honor to be in SpongeBob The Movie and to share some great laughs with this gentleman, Shocking Loss!

“To this day I am stopped and flattered by people and kids who have seen me in the film.”

Another tribute came from fellow children’s television animator and friend Butch Hartman, who created The Fairly OddParents.

Also a Nickelodeon programme, The Fairly OddParents spanned a similar time to SpongeBob SquarePants, launching in 2001 and ending in 2017, while Hillenburg’s show began in 1999 and is still being produced.

“No words,” wrote Hartman on Twitter. “Steve Hillenburg was a friend and immensely talented creator. We grew up together at Nickelodeon. Prayers for his family and legions of fans. You will be sorely missed, Steve.”

Professional skater Tony Hawk thanked Hillenburg and referenced The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which was released in 2004.

Hawk tweeted: “Goodbye Stephen Hillenburg, thank you for the shared laughs with my kids through the years. We’re all Goofy Goobers thanks to you.”

German football club Borussia Dortmund honoured Hillenburg with an edited photo from the animation, putting title-character SpongeBob in the team’s famous yellow kit, matching the colour of his body.

“Thank you for all the memories, Stephen Hillenburg,” wrote the club on Twitter.

Hillenberg received two Emmy Awards and six Annie Awards, from the International Animated Film Association, for SpongeBob SquarePants.

New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik tweeted: “It’s no small feat to create something as weird but unashamedly sweet and uncynical as SpongeBob. RIP.”

Many commended Hillenburg’s influence, with US comedian Brandon Wardell tweeting: “Stephen Hillenburg is a legend and SpongeBob is basically responsible for everyone under 30 who’s made anything remotely cool.”

SpongeBob SquarePants has been translated and dubbed into numerous languages and Google searches for Hillenberg’s name spiked in Russia, Brazil, India and across Europe following his death.

Spanish singer Rayito tweeted: “He died Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob, an animated series that marked-and still marks-the childhood of millions.”

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