'Rocko's Modern Life' Creator Joe Murray Remembers 'Spongebob Squarepants' Mastermind Stephen Hillenburg

Rocko's Modern Life creator Joe Murray has honored Spongebob Squarepants mastermind Stephen Hillenburg by writing a memorial to his fallen friend.

In an editorial for Variety, Murray spoke about how the two first met, revealing that it was "at the Ottawa Film Festival in 1992" where Hillenburg was screening his film Wormholes. Murry said that "after watching it" he "immediately knew we would get along well."

"I approached him in the lobby and told him about this show I was doing for Nickelodeon called Rocko's Modern Life and asked if he would be interested in working on it," the animator continued. "I was already in awe of his talent, and the two of us, neither having worked in television, thought it would be funny to see what kind of havoc we could bring to the medium."

"Little did I know that, with SpongeBob, he would change the face of television forever," Murray added. He went on to say that Hillenburg was "passionate, brilliant, and tireless."

Murray then shared a story about a project Hillenburg was working on that would later become the iconic Spongebob Squarepants.

"When Rocko ended, he showed me a pitch for a series he was working on called Spongeboy. I thought it was fantastic choice to delve into his undersea creatures, because it married his love for and education in oceanography with his extreme talent for cartoons," he explained.

"Spongebob Squarepants got picked up and after two seasons was well on its way to superstardom. I loved the fact that he insisted on producing a limited number of episodes at a time, choosing not to overlap seasons, which is the norm in animation because of the length of production time," Murray continued. "He loved quality and respected his audience. That's what made his episodes on Rocko and SpongeBob so great."

Murray went on to call Hillenburg "a great friend, and wonderful husband and father," and share that their families had always been very close.

"Our children played together, and dinner at the Hillenburg's was filled with great conversation and wonderful food prepared by his wife, Karen. He was generous, honest, and funny," he said. "Upon meeting him, nobody would ever sense any air of ego, despite being in the presence of a legend, a game changer. He and Karen were also philanthropists, widely recognized for their generosity and commitment."

Murray ended his memorial by saying that Hillenburg's "mark on entertainment will endure, and his contribution to this world will always be felt. I feel honored to have worked side by side with him, and anyone who knew him or was entertained by his work should be forever grateful."


Hillenburg passed away on Monday, one year after announcing that he had been diagnosed with ALS.