Stephen McDannell Hillenburg (born August 21, 1961; age 57) is a former American marine biologist, animator, and the main creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, who left production shortly after the first movie was completed, and returned upon creation of the second, and has continued to be show runner since then.
Other than behind-the-scenes work, he was the early voice actor for Potty the Parrot and also played the ukulele for some of the show's original music, including the "Best Day Ever" special.
In 2007, Troy Walker, a cartoonist from Fairfield, California, sued Hillenburg, claiming that he stole his ideas from Walker's 1991 comic strip, "Bob Spongee," the Unemployed Sponge. Walker argued that the concept and design of Hillenburg's SpongeBob SquarePants was lifted from his "Bob Spongee" homemade toy character. In his original concept, Walker drew a face on a kitchen sponge and attached plastic googly eyes. He placed the model in a transparent bag that included the comic strip, and sold it in Northern California as collectibles at flea markets and through the mail in 1992. Walker claimed that he produced 1,000 of the "drawn-on" dolls.
In 2002, after learning about SpongeBob SquarePants, Walker concluded: "It obviously fell into the hands of one of the producers of the show. It's a clear pattern of duplication." He filed the lawsuit against Hillenburg, Paramount Studios, and Nickelodeon and their parent company, Viacom, in a United States district court in San Francisco. He had demanded $1.6 billion in damages, and alleged that the accused used his idea without his permission  . He said that "they took all of it." Walker also pointed out that the show's pilot episode "Help Wanted" (in which an unemployed SpongeBob gets his job at the Krusty Krab) was proof that the defendants stole his concept. The settlement was later dropped after a summary judgement in Viacom's favor.
Sometimes, he is referred to as "Steven or Steve Hillenburg."
After The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie came out, Hillenburg left the show, because he wanted the show to end when the first movie came out. However, Hillenburg didn't leave the show entirely; he still serves as an executive producer.
According to Paul Tibbitt's Twitter feed, Hillenburg came back to work on the series in January2015. This was proven true as he produced some episodes from season 9.
He served as executive producer of the show from 2015 onward, after being absent from the position for 10 years and 2 months.
He is against revealing the identity of Mrs. Krabs and has kept it a secret throughout the series.
Sometime in 2002 or 2003, Stephen Hillenburg was approached with Spike (now called Paramount Channel since 2018) to the fact that they asked him if they can do an adult version of the series, similar to the Ren and Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon series, but Stephen Hillenburg and both Nickelodeon refused with Stephen saying it would be a terrible idea.
According to fans of SpongeBob, it is possibly known that Stephen himself says he hates the idea of SpongeBob having a crossover with another cartoon, and it's unknown why he dislikes crossovers, probably because he finds them pointless, or he is against the idea of SpongeBob getting a crossover. However, Patchy the Pirate appeared in a Big Time Rush episode only once, meaning Patchy was the only live action character of the series to appear in another show.
In "Help Wanted," Stephen Hillenburg's name was misspelled as "Stephen Hilleburg," missing the "N" in his surname.
Nominees: : Chiho Oyamada Carr, Nicolas Carr, Mishelle Fordham, Daisuke Sawa, Monette Becktold, Jeff Hutchins, Timothy J. Borquez, Tom Syslo, Eric Freeman, Dan Cubert, Lawrence Reyes, Jason Stiff, Tony Orozco and Kimberlee Vanek (for "Suction Cup Symphony;" 2009) • Chino Oyamada Carr, Nicolas Carr, Mishelle Fordham, Monette Becktold, Jeff Hutchins, Timothy J. Borquez, Eric Freeman, Tom Syslo, Keith Dickens, Jason Stiff, Sergio Silva, Tony Orozco and Kimberlee Vanek (for "SpongeBob SquarePants vs. The Big One;" 2010)
Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR Animation in Television
Nominees: Devon Bowman, Justin Brinsfield, Nicolas Carr, Andrea Anderson, Mishelle Fordham, Monette Becktold, Jeff Hutchins, Eric Freeman, Tony Orozco and Danny Tchibinda (for "Gary's New Toy;" 2013) • Mishelle Fordham, Monette Becktold, Jeff Hutchins, Timothy J. Borquez, Tom Syslo, Eric Freeman, Bobby Crew, Keith Dickens, Gabriel Rossas and Tony Orozco (for "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!;" 2013)