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Stephen McDannell Hillenburg (born August 21, 1961) is an American cartoonist, animator, and former marine biologist. He is the creator of the Nickelodeon television series SpongeBob SquarePants (1999–), which he has 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.
Born in Lawton, Oklahoma and raised in Anaheim, California, Hillenburg became fascinated with the ocean as a child and developed an interest in art. He started his professional career in 1984, instructing marine biology, at the Orange County Marine Institute, where he wrote The Intertidal Zone, an informative comic book about tide-pool animals, which he used to educate his students. In 1989, two years after leaving teaching, Hillenburg enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts to pursue a career in animation. He was later offered a job on the Nickelodeon animated television series Rocko's Modern Life (1993–1996) after his success with short films The Green Beret and Wormholes (both 1992), which he made while studying animation.
In 1994, Hillenburg began developing The Intertidal Zone characters and concepts for what became SpongeBob SquarePants. The show premiered in 1999 and has aired since then. 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 premiered; the sequel to the 2004 film, it marked Hillenburg's return to the show, after he co-wrote the story.
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. Despite this, he has been involved in public controversies, including one that centered on speculation over the SpongeBob character's intended sexual orientation, and a lawsuit that was filed against him. Hillenburg has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2017, but stated he would continue to work on his show.
Sylvester Gardenzio "Sly" Stallone is an American actor, screenwriter, producer, and director.
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