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Steven Universe is an American animated television series created by Rebecca Sugar for Cartoon Network. It is the coming-of-age story of a young boy named Steven Universe (voiced by Zach Callison), who lives in the fictional town of Beach City with the "Crystal Gems" – Pearl (Deedee Magno), Garnet (Estelle), and Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), three magical humanoid aliens. Steven, who is half-Gem, goes on adventures with his friends and helps the Gems protect the world from their own kind. It premiered on November 4, 2013 as Cartoon Network's first animated series to be solely created by a woman. Books, comics and a video game based on the series have also been released. When the series is in a hiatus, there would usually be multiple episodes airing after it concluded. The theme of the series is love and family as it is based on the creator's brother, Steven Sugar.

Steven Universe
Steven Universe logo.svg
Genre Action[1]
Created by Rebecca Sugar
Developed by Rebecca Sugar
Ian Jones-Quartey
Phil Rynda
Voices of
Theme music composer Rebecca Sugar
Aivi & Surasshu
Jeff Liu
Opening theme "We Are the Crystal Gems", performed by Zach Callison, Estelle, Michaela Dietz, and Deedee Magno Hall
Ending theme "Love Like You", performed by Rebecca Sugar
Composer(s) Aivi Tran
Steven "Surasshu" Velema
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 132 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Rebecca Sugar
Producer(s) Jackie Buscarino
Running time 11 minutes
Production company(s) Cartoon Network Studios[4]
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original network Cartoon Network
Picture format 1080i (16:9 HDTV)
Audio format Dolby Surround
Original release Pilot: May 21, 2013 (2013-05-21)
Official: November 4, 2013 (2013-11-04) – present
External links

Rebecca developed the series while working as a writer and storyboard artist on Adventure Time, and left the show's production when Cartoon Network green-lit her series for full production. The writers would play homemade games during the writing phase, which would help them come up with new stories for the plot. Since the series is storyboard-driven, the writers and the storyboards would have to work together to make an episode. The main voice actors (Callison, Dietz, Magno and Estelle) record multiple episodes during recording sessions for three to four hours. The series has received critical acclaim for its art design, music, voice acting, characterization, promotion of LGBTQ themes and its science fantasy worldbuilding, and has a broad and active fanbase. It has been nominated for three Emmy Awards and five Annie Awards. It was renewed for a fourth and fifth season in March 2016. The fifth season premiered on May 29, 2017.


Setting and synopsis

The series is set in the fictional town of Beach City on the Delmarva Peninsula[5] on the American East Coast, where the Crystal Gems live in an ancient beachside temple, protecting humanity from monsters and other threats. Ageless alien warriors, they project feminine humanoid forms from magical gemstones that are the core of their being. The Crystal Gems are Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl and Steven, a young half-human, half-Gem boy who inherited his gemstone from his mother, the Crystal Gems' past leader Rose Quartz. As Steven tries to figure out his gradually expanding range of powers, he spends his days with his human father Greg, his friend Connie, his magical pet Lion, the other people in Beach City, or the Gems. He explores the abilities passed down to him by his mother, which include fusion—the ability of Gems to merge their bodies and abilities to form new and more powerful personalities.

The first season slowly reveals that the Crystal Gems are remnants of a great interstellar empire. Many places they visit are ruins once important to Gem culture, but now derelict for millennia. The Gems are cut off from their homeworld, and Steven learns that many of the monsters and artifacts they encounter are Gems who, corrupted by a Gem weapon of mass destruction, can no longer maintain rational humanoid forms. In parallel, flashbacks relayed by Greg develop the history of Rose Quartz and her relationships. By the end of the first season, Steven learns that, millennia ago, the Homeworld Gems intended to sterilize the Earth to incubate new Gems within it, but Rose Quartz led the other Crystal Gems in a violent and apparently successful rebellion against these genocidal plans. Now, 5,000 years later, the Homeworld's machinations once again extend towards the Earth with the arrival of two hostile envoys, Peridot and Jasper. In the second season, Peridot is convinced to ally with (and eventually joins) the Crystal Gems in order to prevent Earth's destruction by a Gem "geo-weapon" growing in the planet's core. In the third season, Lapis Lazuli, an errant Homeworld Gem, decides to live on Earth with Peridot; Jasper is defeated and imprisoned; and Steven learns that his mother shattered one of Gem society's matriarchs, Pink Diamond. In the fourth season, as Steven wrestles with his conflicted feelings about his mother's actions, Homeworld's remaining leaders begin to turn their full attention toward Earth once again. The fifth season begins with Steven being taken to Homeworld to stand trial for his mother's supposed crimes; he escapes with the help of Homeworld fugitives.

Concept and creation

Rebecca Sugar (creator of Steven Universe) is the first woman to create a show for Cartoon Network.

In 2011, former Vice President of comedy animation for Cartoon Network Curtis Lelash asked the staff if anyone had any ideas for a new pilot ideas for a new series. Rebecca Sugar voiced out her Steven prototype, and it was chosen for development. Sugar had worked on the project while she was still working with Adventure Time full-time.[6] The concept of the series was inspired by one of Rebecca Sugar's previous personal works she has done, "The Ballad of Margo and Dread". It was about a sensitive child helping a number of teens with problems that they were not verbal about.[7]

As Cartoon Network executives green-lit the show after the crew's art presentation, which made its debut in November 2013. Rebecca Sugar is the first woman to have created a show independently for the network.[8] Before Rebecca conceived a crew for the series, she tried to alter some topics in the show's plot and was developing the character's identity with themselves and others so her crew could have the freedom to have ideas for the show as she did when she worked for Adventure Time.[9] During art of Steven Universe, Rebecca repeatedly asked her brother Steven if it was a good idea to name the show after him, but then stopped asking when the show was green-lit. Steven had no problem with it, and trusted that Rebecca would not sabotage his name in a cartoon.[10]


Rebecca decided to have the pilot focus around the main characters with their personalities and made it funny to show why the series could be build around that. The pilot was developed to be a slice of life-type episode, as their world was still in development.[11] It gave Rebecca and her crew to focus the plot on how the Crystal Gems and Steven would interact with each other, and would jump on other things when the series was green-lit.[12] Rebecca planned on having sublime art in the pilot to make the setting more realistic, but due to limited time and resources, she was not able to go through with it. However, the experience of being denied helped her with the concept of the show and the pilot, stating "[...] to know that there is so much more that you can't see and the way that knowledge frustrates and excites and confuses and scares you." Lamar Abrams (storyboard artist) praised the animation of the plot and the character sketches before it was finished, and was interested to what was going to happen next. While Rebecca was having doubts on how the pilot looked like, Kat Morris (supervising director) agreed with how Abrams felt about the pilot, and wanted to get involved in the production. As the pilot was present to Cartoon Network executives, they gave the crew prompts to being their art presentation, which would be presented to the executives for a decision whether to green-lit the show or not.[8]

Cartoon Network released the development pilot in May 2013, causing panic from Rebecca and her crew due to the show being completely different from the pilot, as after the show had been green-lit, the show's characters and backgrounds had been refurbished by the leadership from Rebecca Sugar. When it released, many people liked it, as there was discussions on forums from how the series would play out, and hoped to see the show air soon. People who knew Rebecca Sugar from her previous work on Adventure Time were excited as well. After the crew freaked out, they thought it was good to see positive reactions from people about the show, because that boosted the crew's confidence in the show's success.[13]

Judging how Cartoon Network executives favored her pilot, Rebecca Sugar took it seriously as she was preparing the show in-depth.[9] During the production of the art presentation, Rebecca had to hire a number of people to work for her in order to make a presentation of the show before a decision was made by Cartoon Network executives. In order to focus more on the assignment, she hired Jackie Buscarino as a producer in September 2012 to make decisions of hiring people, to supervise the crew, and etc.[14] During some part of development time, Rebecca and her crew were temporarily moved to a "black building" behind Cartoon Network Studios, and were on the same floor as the crew for The Powerpuff Girls CGI special. That was where the crew found Kevin Dart (art director), Ellie Michalka (art director), Tiffany Ford (colorist) and Jasmin Lai (art director), who would become part of the Steven Universe crew after The Powerpuff Girls CGI production was finished, due to Steven Sugar's interactions with all of them.[15]

Cartoon Network had a list of suggested writers that could help with the project. When Rebecca Sugar saw Ben Levin and Matt Burnett, the former writers for Level Up, on the list, she had chosen them to help because she found the both of them to be greater fantasy nerds than her. Also, Rebecca was familiar with Ben's work from a presentation during her time in college.[16] Danny Hynes, who was a freelance artist, later became the lead character designer for the show due to his continuous efforts of turning in a lot of concept drawings of Steven and the Crystal Gems, and making room for ideas such as townies and monsters.[15] Ian Jones-Quartey (former supervising director) praised the way Hynes drew his concept designs, calling them special, and having sense. Both of them know each other, and what they wish to accomplish from designing cartoons. Jones-Quartey having experience with Hynes from him working on his own project Lakewood Pizza Turbo, he had no objections to having Hynes part of the crew.[17] Steven Sugar, the creator's brother, continued his role of being the background designer as he was in the pilot.[14] Artists like Dart, Michalka, Lai, Amanda Winterston (background painter), and others that have contributed to the show have inspired him in so many ways, and that was his favorite thing about working for the show.[18]

During the art presentation, Jones-Quartey, Guy, Hynes and Steven were making artwork that was different from what they worked on before. Jones-Quartey wanted to work with something new, but keep some elements from the show's previous project.[19] He was determinted to get positive reactions from what he had planned. During this time, Jones-Quartey worked with Elle Michalka, who took over his role later to take background paint to a new direction for the presentation. He wanted to make the art concept aesthetic for an "action-comedy" series.[10] The art presentation's drawings were done by Rebecca, Jones-Quartey, Hynes, Paul Villeco (writer/storyboard artist) and Steven, while Michalka did the painting.[20]


Rebecca Sugar wanted to have themes on the show that were similar to her and her brother's shared interests, and make it noticeable.[11] The series has a coming-of-age genre, and relates to children in real life as they grow up, where the world they came to understand becomes more risky and complex.[21] The series' theme is love and family.[22] Family is the primary theme because Rebecca Sugar states that Steven Universe is about her brother. Love is also the primary theme because Rebecca Sugar worked on it with Ian Jones-Quartey since its development.[23] The series' message is about love and acceptance.[24] The series talks about relationships, LGBTQIA+ identity, body shapes, and "hues of skin in a colorful sci-fi magic display of diversity". Kat Morris comments that she likes that the concepts are organic instead of "overly calculated", and that they built well for the show.[25]

Matt Burnett, one of the writers of the show, commented that having the simple life theme prevented the crew including "cynicism" or "snarkiness" in the show.[11] He also comments that the writers have no interest in having a superhero theme, and says that the show reflects on what entertains them as a whole for the show.[26] During the concept of the art presentation that determined the green-lit for the show, stars starting becoming a thing for the series, with them being included in the logo as well. The stars' concept was Jones-Quartey's idea, who views them as a "versatile" symbol. Jones-Quartey admits that he went overboard with it even when everyone at the presentation laughed at him for how he explained it.[19]

The unusually strong female presence in a series about a boy – all major characters except Steven and Greg are female – is intentional, according to Sugar. She intended to "tear down and play with the semiotics of gender in cartoons for children" because she considered it absurd that shows for boys should be fundamentally different from those for girls. In terms of plot, according to her, the series is developing towards a far-off end goal, although everything in between is kept flexible, in part, because her own intentions have "changed since I've started because I've grown up a lot" while working on Steven Universe.[27] Sugar said that Steven Universe was influenced by the anime series Future Boy Conan and Revolutionary Girl Utena, as well as by The Simpsons.[28] Musically, she considers Aimee Mann "a huge influence".[29] She described a theory underlying the series as "reverse escapism", that is, the notion that fantasy characters would become interested in real life and would want to participate in it. Steven personifies this "love affair between fantasy and reality".[30] In terms of art, the style of animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger inspired the art of the episode "The Answer".[31]


Rebecca Sugar worked on how the world would look during the pilot development, and would add notes to whatever she drew.[32] From ideas of foreign figures (Gems) living a human life, Rebecca drew a lot of sketches she had for the show regarding their world and their entire history. The series' design was inspired from what her and brother Steven Sugar were interested in, like certain video games, comics and animation.[11] After the series was green-lit, Rebecca had a goal to redesign everything from the pilot to make it look "flexible and simple" for her future crew so they could add ideas of their own to production design.[9] The creative director was Kevin Dart, then Jasmin Lai, Elle Michalka, and Ricky Cometa.[33] Kevin Dart's art style was a huge influence on the show, even when he was no longer the art director later on. Steven praised how he worked, and was even inspired by him during his college years. Steven mentioned that Kevin had more ideas for the art than he did.[18]

In the pilot, only two locations were shown, which were the Temple and the Big Donut. The Temple was designed by Ian Jones-Quartey, Steven Sugar, Ben Levin, Matt Burnett and Andy Ristaino, a storyboard artist who was working for Adventure Time at the time. The Temple having dual faces was based on Guy Davis' ideas.[18] Steven designed the rest of Beach City for the series, and was very picky in certain things he drew, like drawing something and wondering what minor things should go on it. He also designed more people, houses, cars, buildings and restaurants. Due to Rebecca's drawings including a redesigned look, the two locations already conceived had to be redrawn due to status quo.[15]

Rebecca, Steven and Jones-Quartey used to take trips to their favorite beaches so they could get ideas from how the backgrounds for the show should look like.[18] Beach City, the setting of the series, is loosely based on Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach and Dewey Beach, Delaware, all places that Sugar visited as a child.[34] Steven drew Beach City by having a boardwalk with different shops and the people that owned it would live in it.[15] As Steven designed Beach City, he wanted it to have a "specific style" so viewers can believe that it was based on a real location, and drew the roads and shops in a consistent manner with the Temple and the water tower being helpful to orientation.[18] The concept was inspired by Akira Toriyama's Dr. Slump due to the small environment and how all of the recurring characters lived where they worked. Steven Sugar made the boardwalk the main place for the character Steven's human world, as that would be the place that Steven would always be at to visit.[15]


Rebecca Sugar had the pilot of the show all planned out in her sketchbook. In it, the characters looked completely different from what the show has to offer now.[32] She was working on character development simultaneously, from their appearance to their personalities.[35] Sugar conceived the characters on the show to be similar to how her and Steven Sugar were in reality while being involved in "fantasy, lore-heavy worlds" that both have seen on TV, had interest in, and acted out what they saw, even drawing the setting when they were together.[11] Danny Hynes, the lead character designer, wanted to have the characters' design be more standard, simple and recognizable. That was influence from how Mickey Mouse was designed by artists from Disney.[36] He proposed twenty-four different human characters to the crew, but was never made official, however, later on him and Rebecca drew characters together, coming up with twenty-two designs, and only thirteen was made official with Ian Jones-Quartey doing the coloring of them.[37] Rebecca Sugar developed a number of fusions between different characters during pilot development.[11] The supporting characters Lars and Sadie were originally created in Sugar's college days.[38] The Pizza family was based on Jones-Quartey's Ghanaian family.[18] Ronaldo was created by Ben Levin and Matt Burnett.[39] Early development of Gem architecture and monster designs was made by Guy Davis, a childhood friend of Rebecca and Steven, whom they had no problem hiring.[18] From the beginning, it was a priority for have the characters act like they were in reality. For this to happen, the designs in storyboards were to have them have "flexibility". For example, Jones-Quartey comments that a character's emotions should not be similar when they are two different emotional (e.g. excitement, anguish).[40] The character design's team mission is to make the characters look like it's part of a classic cartoon, like Disney cartoons in the 1940s, Dragon Ball Z or Osamu Tezuka, and Harvey Kurtzman's projects. When drawing the characters for each episode, the crew only has two weeks to make modifications.[36] The names of the characters were inspired by certain types of food, and some were designed by it as well.[41] Some characters had to be redesigned because in the pilot it did not fit their personalities.[42] Rebecca Sugar planned to have the character designs get visual benchmarks so the artists who work with the crew does not drawn them too differently.[43] She also wanted to have the character models look more simple for "flexibility and inconsistency". Rebecca and her crew wanted to have artists evolve the characters freely without any conflict due to overly complex designs.[36]

The titular character, Steven, is loosely based on Sugar's younger brother Steven Sugar,[34] who is one of the series's background artists.[30] Growing up, Sugar would collaborate with Steven and other friends to create comics.[44] In an interview with The New York Times, she commented on developing the background of the show's protagonist, expressing her desire to base the character from the viewpoint of her brother growing up "where you're so comfortable in your life because you get all the attention, but you also want to rise up and not be the little brother."[45] His pet Lion is inspired by Rebecca Sugar's Maine Coon pet with the same name.[46] When Rebecca Sugar developed the Gem era, she wanted them to be like humans, like having fun and having real relationships. She intentionally developed the Crystal Gems to undergo a roller coaster of family living as they live with Steven.[11] She also wanted their gems to reflect their personalities – Pearl's perfect smoothness, Amethyst's coarseness, and Garnet's air of mystery.[47] Rebecca Sugar developed the Crystal Gems and Steven's relationship to be like brother and sister.[48] The Gems are, according to Sugar, all "some version of me... neurotic, lazy, decisive".[49] The Crystal Gems' face designs was influenced by Wassily Kandinsky, a college professor from Bauhaus who had a style for his students to pair three colors (red, yellow and blue) with the three basic shapes (square, triangle and circle). For the characters, Garnet is a square, Amethyst is a sphere, and Pearl is a cone due to their personalities.[43] For the Gems' development, Rebecca wanted to have the characters have a superpower that were related to classic cartoons. Gems being able to pull things out of their gem is a reference to how cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny from Looney Tunes who can just put their hands behind their back and be able to pull anything out. Gems being able to shape-shift is a reference to older cartoons such as the Tex Avery era from MGM, where the characters would change size (e.g. grow, shrink, transform) as they please. While the Crystal Gems are supposed to be serious, the writers wanted them to be "funny and weird" as well.[50]


According to Sugar, production for Steven Universe began while she was working on Adventure Time. Her last episode for the latter series was "Simon & Marcy"; following that episode, working on both series simultaneously "became impossible to do". Similarly, she encountered difficulty in the production of the episode "Bad Little Boy".[51] Cartoon Network execuitives approved the crew to begin production after their pre-production presentation, which Rebecca and her crew was very prepared for. During this time was the development of "Cheeseburger Backpack" and "Together Breakfast", while other episodes they worked on in the past was not developed any further.[10] As executive producer, Sugar works on every part of the series including art, animation and sound, but considers herself "the most hands on" at the storyboarding stage.[52]

In the development process for the series, the outline for an episode is passed to storyboarders, who then draw and write the episode simultaneously. The resulting storyboards are then animated based on traditional paper drawings by one of two Korean studios, Sunmin and Rough Draft,[53] based on the production crew's designs.[30] During production, the writers create new plots and outlines for new episodes while the storyboarders write and draw. After everyone does their part, they discuss on how they feel about the conception of an episode, while also talking about it in other areas than the conference room.When season production starts, everyone gets together to speak out their ideas for future episodes, and if everyone likes it, they go on to what they want the characters to do in it, and what they want to see happen.[54]

On November 14, 2013, 13 additional episodes were ordered for the first season.[55] On July 25, 2014, the series was renewed for a second season,[56] and began airing on March 13, 2015. It was again renewed in July 2015 for a third season, and in March 2016 the second and third seasons were split into two to create five seasons.[57][58]


During the pilot development, Rebecca Sugar had wrote and sketch a number of plot ideas for the show that would become episodes later on.[59] The premise of the show at first was Steven mostly showing his human side instead of his magic side, and Gem-related stuff were kept from him. The Crystal Gems would also drop off Steven to Greg for as long as they could. The premise was later changed, and some stuff from a lost episode they made had came back in later episodes.[60] With what Rebecca was coming up with involving the huge history involving Gems, she managed to plan out when to reveal certain information when episodes have passed by, while still developing the pilot episode.[11] Rebecca planned to have major plots involving the Crystal Gems shown in Season 2, where in the first season it was an introduction to relationships and personalities of the human and Gem characters in the show.[61] She created a chart with multiple printouts taped together about events that happened in 2,000 years involving Gem and Earth history. There are a number of important events she wrote that needs to be "fleshed out" in order for them to come into production. While the overall plot of the show has been set up, the writers are "improvising" to get to its ending. Matt Burnett states that the storylines that the writers wrote will pay off when the show comes to an end; as they all evolve the characters involved and the series as a whole.[62] Rebecca wanted the series to focus on comedy and positiveness before it got into controversial subjects involving the main characters. She felt like it was "more honest" to begin the show with happiness instead of immediately starting off with action or drama.[11]

The writers would write out episode names on paper cards and pin them on their conference room wall. The purpose of it is to look over what they've written overall and what to do next when they have their meetings. They also discuss about how to pace episodes and change the texture in each season by balancing "lighter" and "heavier" story arcs.[39] Sometimes it can get difficult for writers' as they figure out how important characters like Yellow Diamond would appear in the series without jumping from a current plot to a sudden war.[26] Ben Levin states that writing a season of Steven Universe is like a "jigsaw puzzle" due to the writing team having a lot of plot ideas that they need to put together for a proper season. Some get left out if it does not benefit character growth. After further discussion and questions involving the writing, the idea then becomes an episode. After they discuss all of the proposed episodes for the season, the "puzzle" is complete, and they begin either writing a major arc or an "interesting" finale for the season. Burnett comments that writing a season is like an equation in algebra, saying "[...] where one side is the season finale, and the x's and y's are the episodes we need for that solution to make sense". He uses "Ocean Gem", "Steven the Sword Fighter", "Monster Buddies", "An Indirect Kiss" and "Serious Steven" as examples of that. All of those episodes that were written has contributed to the upbringing of Season 1's finale very well, while they still had its own minor story.[39] The writing crew would play writing games to come up with ideas. One of them was to draw a scenario with some of the characters from the show, and as it's passed down to another writer, one writes minor sentences and the cycle continues until the paper is fully developed with a drawing and a "three-act" story. This act contributed to episodes like "Island Adventure", "Future Boy Zoltron" and "Onion Friend".[63] During writers' meetings, they would also have drawing games which involves designing new Gem characters and technology concepts. Burnett comments that the writers not using some ideas from the storyboarders since production started has been getting important as the series' seasons went by; this is because as making episodes has taken a "stronger continuity", storyboarders try less to change some things as they did before.[26]

Levin comments that the writers try their best to balance focus of the main characters (with Steven always getting the major focus) and the Gem/human era when writing episodes. The purpose of this balance is to show that Steven has the same interests on his human side as he does with his Gem side, due to him bring both species. Levin comments that the Gem mythology and drama would not be as interesting if Steven were not properly introduced through the first few of the beginning episodes. For dramatic episodes, Levin states that it is impossible to believe that he gets to work on a show that is not afraid to be "sincere and vulnerable", and comments that if every episode were to be emotional, it would feel repeated and forced. He feels that it's important for the show to have happy episodes to balance out the emotional ones. For example, showing Ronaldo when he was little ("Horror Club") to balance out Pearl sobbing on top of a mountain.[39] Levin comments that the writers have found ways for how Steven's powers are shown and keep the show's plot steady. Steven's new powers and Homeworld technology is released in a "measured (very slow) pace", making the experience for viewers to see feel natural and great. This is intentional, as they do not want to turn the show into a superhero genre or make him too powerful.[26] He also comments that it's important for writers' to not focus mainly on gem stuff and not lose touch of Steven's human side.[64] For Rose's room, instead of having it was a hangout room, it's like being in an episode of The Twilight Zone; For his healing powers, it works when he is emotional; For Lion's Mane, he was written to not be able to breathe in it so he would not hide in it if something bad happened.[61]

Before big plot episodes are aired, the writers' develop episodes where they are teased by giving out pieces of information that are relevant for the "climactic" episode when they release for the purpose of making the episode an emotional and "big spectacle" one. Hilary Florido (storyboard artist) comments that a lot of the action and magical things that appear on the show represents different narrative climaxes. Whether they are big or small, it is used to support new discoveries, difficulties, and personal views for the characters. She mentions that if a character evolution is not directly related to the show's plot, there would be no drama; that would cause viewers to not show interest on aftermath of fights or consequences on consuming magic.[26] It's very rare that the crew breaks perspective involving episode development because for them, it's not allowed. Burnett comments that "it functions as a perfect safety valve for both the audience and us". While the writers could give out hints of future events, they figured it would be better to just focus on the plot of the episode. The writers developed Steven to have the same pace as the audience does, like learning things and being curious without the character knowing except others. Levin comments if the pilot were written differently that explains Gem history in five minutes, the audience and the protagonist would be confused.[21]


A part of the storyboard and script from the episode "Island Adventure". The storyboard artists for the show are also the writers, and create script and storyboards in conjunction.

The series does not have a separate writing and storyboard procedure, where there would be crew of writers to write out the episodes and pass it on to the storyboarders to draw. In the series production, the writers and the storyboarders work together. With it, It's a major thing for a storyboard-driven series to wait a least a day until the writers are involved in the process to meet up and talk about what the storyboarders came up with.[54] During storyboard meetings, artists would draw their ideas on Post-it notes, and it would cover the walls, table, and the boxes located in the corners of their conference room. The drawings play a major role in episode ideas. The Cluster was conceived during one of the meetings, and became official by Season 2.[65] Occasionally, Rebecca Sugar does key poses to characters when they are in a certain moment in some episodes. She comments that she likes to go through scenes in an episode and cherry-pick a moment, and re-draws the scene to a certain way she likes to add more emotion to it.[66]

The storyboards for every episode made is by a pair of two artists, with each one writing half of the dialogue and drawing on panels in a similar style to comic strips. The process becomes complex in some extent when the storyboard artists do the process similar to how films are made, but doing all the making roles (e.g. live-action cinematographer, set designer) at once. After the panels are made, the thumbnail storyboard starts as artists draw mannerisms and dialogue based on their personal experiences. For example, for Rebecca, she draws them as like hanging out with her brother Steven after school when they were young when writing "quintessential" scenes.[67] After the process, the storyboard artists take their work and discusses it with the rest of the crew, where there would be big to small changes if needed.[68] After the team discussion, the storyboard artists draw a revised board from the thumbnail board on a full sized panel with notes to correct and improve things if needed. They are drawn on a drawing tablet using a stylus pen; it's associated with an unnamed storyboard software. The storyboards are then discussed again and corrected if needed. When the storyboards are approved, the process is complete.[69]


After the approved storyboards are received, the process of background art begins. If the characters are visiting old locations, the backgrounds are modified slightly to give the setting a real life feeling as the look constantly changes. In background art, Steven hides narrative bits in them because for world-building, "[...] that's the core of [it] [...] just having a cohesive underlying structure to everything". Elle Michalka (former art director) comments that the style of the paint in backgrounds was inspired by Paul Cézanne, where in his artwork, he would allow less spots that were important to be slight messy similar to a person's lack of focus, but creates a lot of detail and "specificity" in objects. She also comments that the art was inspired by Tao Te Ching as well, where it would highlight empty spaces and show the importance of them, "[...] like the space within a vase as being part of the vase that makes it useful". During the painting phase, the lines are like "descriptive bones", while the paint is used in a very loosely manner, like it's breathing underneath. With color, they would intentionally make it slightly "off register" with the line to highlight the distinction.[70] The painters would use "superimposed" watercolor texture before switching to Photoshop due to the first method making the backgrounds "very chunky". The steps they used is making giant shapes under the line and place more detail to the shapes. When painting the backgrounds, they would use color in a monochromatic manner, with using a few secondary colors. Ellie comments that while it may sound simple, it is difficult behind the scenes and it takes a lot of effort to make it in a specific picture dimension. When using color combinations, Amanda Winterston and Jasmin Lai would be the ones to find the types that were "just right". After the primary backgrounds are painted, they are sent to the color stylist who chooses colors for a character and/or a prop in model sheets that matches and complement the storyboard and the background. They rarely color the lines of the character and the prop. When a scene looks light effects, the lines are removed. The coloring in early episodes of Season 1 were experimental, as the stylist would have trouble if a storyboard showed a character and background mixed together, or if a character in a bright state walks to a shadow and the appearance of the character is unaffected. As the crew started to plan and check storyboards, mistakes like that rarely showed when the series progressed. The primary backgrounds are made in Burbank, while the secondary ones are made by artists in Korea.[71]


After the crew has finished constructing an episode, the production team sends it to animators in Korea to animate it. The animation is produced by Sunmin Images Pictures Company, and Rough Draft Korea separately. The production team and the animators in Korea communicate through email, and sometimes through video chat when they are animating a major plot episode. Before an episode is sent to one of the studios, Nick DeMayo (animation director) and his team create a specified plan for the animators in Korea. Before that happens, Nick reviews the locked animatic, and him and his team discuss from whether the details need minor changes to fixing anything that may interfere with the animation being done correctly.[72] After that, the team adds what movements the characters are doing to give clarification to the animators in the exposure sheets (a still frame of a picture with grids). What follows is composing mouth assignments for the characters when they are speaking, where they would explain what and when a mouth shape should be made for the lip syncing.[73] After the production team has done their part, the episode is then sent to one of the animation studios. The black and white version is sent first, and then after a couple of weeks, the colored version is sent.[74] Both animation studios do not animate the series digitally, as it is animated and inked by paper, scanned, and colored digitally. After that is finished, the crew then arrange a "work print" meeting to discuss the episode and review it just in case there are some mistakes. If some are found, Nick makes note of this and removes it, and sends it to either back to the animation studio or the post-production department in Cartoon Network to fix the issues.[75] If there are minor animation mistakes, or something is forgotten, the crew fixes it themselves.[76]

Voice cast

The main voice cast of the series.
Top-left: Zach Callison (Steven)
Top-right: Michaela Dietz (Amethyst)
Bottom-left: Deedee Magno (Pearl)
Bottom-right: Estelle (Garnet)

American actor Zach Callison, who has appeared in several animated series and films, voices Steven in his first leading role on television.[77] For his audition, he said ten lines from the pilot and sang the theme song, and was recorded during the process. After the audition, Rebecca gave him a call saying he got the part to voice the main protagonist of Steven Universe.[78] Garnet, the leader of the Crystal Gems, is voiced by Estelle, a noted British singer, songwriter and actress. She was asked by Cartoon Network to take the part, her first voice acting role.[77] For her colleagues, the actress Michaela Dietz and the actress and The Party singer Deedee Magno, the roles of Amethyst and Pearl were also their first part in an animated production.[79][80] Rebecca Sugar wanted Tom Scharpling, whom she knew from his podcast The Best Show with Tom Scharpling, to voice a character for any of her projects before the show was conceived. He was approached by her to consider and got the part to voice Greg Universe; he was even named after the character but was scrapped to avoid awkwardness. The Ruby Gems is voiced by Charltne Yi after Rebecca wrote a letter to her saying she was confident that she would be perfect for the role.[78] Grace Rolek, who plays the part of Steven's friend Connie, was 16 years old at the series's start, and has appeared as a voice actress in animated productions since the age of five or six.[81]

In recording sessions, the four main voice actors for the show (Callison, Dietz, Magno, & Estelle) spend three to four hours recording, with three to four weeks a month and ten months out of a year present. In recording sessions, cast members are either together or separately while recording, and they are often recording for multiple episodes instead of one. Every recording session is recordings for a new episode, and retakes for that particular one and/or previous ones if needed. Recording group sessions are in a semicircle in a maximum of six people if needed.[82] Rebecca Sugar and Kent Osborne (voice director) would be there during the process to handle it.[83] Both of them would comment on how the actors should voice the characters in a specific situation if needed. If they like the take, the production assistant marks it and passes it on to the animation editor for the construction of the rough cut of an episode. When the recording sessions starts, Rebecca Sugar verbally explains the storyboards, describes the sequences, character intention, and the relationship between the two; Kent Osborne's role is to press the recording button. Before and after recording sessions, the voice actors and Rebecca discusses new things in the plot, and shows the advanced storyboards to them before they start recording. Magno loves the recording group sessions as there is so much laughter from funny faces they make from recording specific lines for an episode that require emotion and/or physical activity (e.g. moving).[82]


Steven Universe features songs and musical numbers produced by Sugar along with her story writers, who collaborate on the lyrics for each song. According to Sugar, not every episode is meant to feature a song. She has instead opted to use them only occasionally to avoid forcing creativity.[51] Rebecca Sugar writes songs for the series during her travels, and uses her ukele for assistance.[84] Most of the incidental music is composed by chiptune/piano duo Aivi & Surasshu, with guitars by Stemage.[85] The theme song of the show was made during this time, and wrote multiple drafts of the lyrics.[86] The extended theme song was composed during her waiting in line for a airport security check in LAX from Los Angeles.[84] The show relies heavily on leitmotifs for its soundtrack, with various instruments, genre influences, and melodies allocated to specific characters as they appear on screen. Embedded in the music are influences from pop artists such as Michael Jackson and Estelle herself.[87] A first soundtrack album, Steven Universe Soundtrack: Volume 1, was released on June 2, 2017.[88] The soundtrack debuted at number 22 on the Billboard 200, and number 2 on the Soundtracks chart.[89]

With no music composer at the time, Jeff Liu recommended producer Aivi to Rebecca from being familiar with her previous music scoring work on Cryamore, a video game. When Rebecca asked for her to audition, she asked if producer surasshu could join her, which Rebecca accepted. To determine their worth, both producers had to score a clip from "Gem Glow", the first episode of the series. After sending their work to Rebecca, she liked their work and officially hired them to become music composers for the series.[90] Before they compose an episode, the pair video chat with Rebecca and the creative director to discuss the events in the episode and take notes. The pair have a week to compose the episode before sending in a preview to Rebecca.[91] After changes have been made, the pair then send the score to Sabre Media Studios for them to compose the final mix with their sound designs and the pair's score.[92]

Instead of giving the characters a theme melody, all of them were given their own instrumental theme to express their personalities, and would slightly change depending on a situation the character is in.[93] For example, the character Pearl is often accompanied by piano, Garnet is represented by synth bass sounds and Amethyst is an eclectic drum machine, with electric bass and some of her own synths, and Steven as the chiptune.[87][91] For humans, they produced sound palettes for them to represent the revolution of the series, the characters and their relationships. For other things like locations, objects, and abstract concepts, the producers created motifs and palettes for it as well.[91] When Rebecca or other writers write a song for an episode, they record a demo of it, which is then sent to the music composers to fully produce the music for it. When producing the songs, they use the same musical style they use for the show and the specific character that's singing it. As the songs were becoming complicated, producing them became more difficult as the regular style they would use would not fit well with the lyrics. One of the examples is "Here Comes a Thought" sung by Estelle and AJ Michalka (who voices Stevonnie), where they did not use a specific music style for, only discussing the "feel" of the song when they talked to Rebecca at the time.[94]


The pilot episode for Steven Universe was released on Cartoon Network's video platform on May 21, 2013,[95] and again in an edited version on July 20.[96] The pilot was also exhibited at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con,[97] and Rebecca Sugar hosted a 30-minute panel about Steven Universe at the 2013 New York Comic Con on October 13.[98]

The series premiered in the United States on November 4, 2013 on Cartoon Network, with two episodes.[99] In Canada, it began airing on Cartoon Network on November 11, 2013[100] and on Teletoon on April 24, 2014.[101] It also aired on Cartoon Network channels in Australia from beginning on February 3, 2014[102] and in the United Kingdom and Ireland since May 12, 2014.[103]

Since 2015, Cartoon Network has often aired new episodes in groups of five within the space of a week (marketed as "Stevenbombs"), rather than in the form of one new episode per week. The long hiatuses between these groups have frustrated fans – causing "agonized cries of a rabid, starving, pained cult following", as The A.V. Club put it. But this format, which is also used for other Cartoon Network series, has, in the publication's view, contributed to the network's improving ratings, as seen in spikes in Google Trends associated with each "bomb". The A.V. Club attributed this effect to Steven Universe's unusual (for a youth cartoon) adherence to an overarching plot, which gives it the potential to generate "massive swells of online interest", similar to the release of full seasons of adult TV series, that are "crucial to a network's vitality in an increasingly internet-based television world".[104] In January 2017, as a promotional tactic, Cartoon Network released one such set of episodes a few weeks early online for a brief time, leading fans to believe that they had been leaked.[105]


Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
Pilot May 21, 2013 (2013-05-21)
1 52 November 4, 2013 (2013-11-04) March 12, 2015 (2015-03-12)
2 26 March 13, 2015 (2015-03-13) January 8, 2016 (2016-01-08)
3 25 May 12, 2016 (2016-05-12) August 10, 2016 (2016-08-10)
4 25 August 11, 2016 (2016-08-11) May 11, 2017 (2017-05-11)
5 26 May 29, 2017 (2017-05-29) TBA


"Say Uncle", the crossover episode with Uncle Grandpa, aired on April 2, 2015. The episode follows Uncle Grandpa helping Steven use his Gem powers after he's unable to summon his shield. The episode, which Uncle Grandpa acknowledges is not canon, features a literal "plot hole".[106] Steven, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl had a cameo appearance on the Uncle Grandpa episode "Pizza Eve", along with other Cartoon Network characters from currently running and ended cartoons.[107]

Other media

Short films

Several short films have been released on the Internet. They include "We Are the Crystal Gems", the extended version of the title theme and second opening sequence, and a short series titled "The Classroom Gems", where the three Crystal Gems teach Steven lessons about Gems in the style of school. "The Classroom Gems" is inspired by omake clips from anime series such as Gunbuster, in which characters educate the audience about aspects of the series's lore.

Companion books

Several companion books have been published by the Cartoon Network Books imprint of Penguin:

  • Steven Universe's Guide to the Crystal Gems (October 2015, ISBN 978-0843183160) by series creator Rebecca Sugar contains information about the Crystal Gems.
  • Quest for Gem Magic (October 2015, ISBN 978-0843183177) by Max Brallier is a "colorful journal and activity book" aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds.
  • Steven Universe Mad Libs (October 2015, ISBN 978-0843183092) by Walter Burns is a Mad Libs word game book.
  • Steven Universe: Live from Beach City (February 2016, ISBN 978-0843183498) is a music and activity book with chord charts and sheet music for the major songs from the first season.
  • What in the Universe? (February 2016, ISBN 978-0843183481) by Jake Black is a book of trivia about Steven and the Gems.
  • Best Buds Together Fun (June 2016, ISBN 978-1101995167) by Jake Black is a "quiz and activity book" aimed at 8-12 year olds.
  • The Answer (September 2016, ISBN 978-0399541704) by Rebecca Sugar is a children's book adaptation of the episode "The Answer". It reached no. 7 of the New York Times Best Seller List on October 2, 2016.[108]
  • Arts and Origins (July 2017, ISBN 978-1419724435) by Chris McDonnell, with an introduction by Dexter's Laboratory creator Genndy Tartakovsky and a foreword from Rebecca Sugar. The book showcases concept art, production samples, early sketches, storyboards and exclusive commentary from the Steven Universe production crew.[109]

Video games

The tactical role-playing video game Steven Universe: Attack the Light! was released on April 2, 2015 for iOS and Android devices.[110] It was developed by Grumpyface Studios in collaboration with Rebecca Sugar for mobile devices. Players control Steven and the three Crystal Gems in fights against light monsters.[111][112] A sequel, Steven Universe: Save the Light, is to be released for consoles in summer 2017.[113]

A rhythm-based mobile game, Steven Universe: Soundtrack Attack,[114] was released on July 21, 2016 in the United States. In the game, a player-created Gem flees her pursuer through side-scrolling stages set to remixes of the series' music.

Steven Universe characters also appear in Cartoon Network's cart racing video game Formula Cartoon All-Stars, and in the side-scrolling beat-'em-up game Battle Crashers.[115] As with other Cartoon Network series, several browser-based games are made available on the channel's website, including Heap of Trouble, Goat Guardian and Gem Bound.[116]


BOOM! Studios has published several limited comics series based on Steven Universe:

  • A monthly comics series written by Jeremy Sorese and illustrated by Coleman Engle saw its first issue was published in August 2014.[117]
  • A graphic novel, the first in a planned series, was published by KaBOOM! on April 6, 2016.[118] Also written by Sorese and drawn by Engle, Steven Universe: Too Cool for School focuses on Steven accompanying Connie to school one day.[119]
  • In 2015, a four-part comics miniseries, Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems, was released.[120][121]

An ongoing series began in January 2017, written by Melanie Gillman and illustrated by Katy Farina.[122]

Toys and merchandise

In October 2015, Cartoon Network announced the launch of a line of toys based on Steven Universe, to be sold through specialty retailers. For the 2015 holiday season, Funko made "Pop!" vinyl figures, and Just Toys offered various "blind bag" novelty products. In spring 2016, PhatMojo sold plush figures and foam weapons, and Zag Toys released collectible bobbleheads and other mini figures. In 2017, Toy Factory is to sell a line of plush and novelty items.[123] In addition, Cartoon Network sells a variety of products that are based off some episodes and characters. Among these products there are mugs, blankets and several forms of clothing.[124]


Critical response

Steven Universe has received critical acclaim, with critics praising its art, music, voice performances, storytelling, and characterization. As an "equally rewarding watch" for adults and children, according to James Whitbrook in io9,[125] and "one of the stealthiest, smartest, and most beautiful things on the air" in the view of Eric Thurm in Wired,[126] it attracted a quickly growing fan base.[127]

Production values

Critics praised the "breathtaking beauty",[128] "intriguing, immersive environments"[129] and "loveably goofy aesthetic"[125] of Steven Universe's art. They noted the distinct look imparted by the soft pastel backgrounds,[129] as well as the series's "gorgeous, expressive, clean" animation.[130]

The chiptune-inspired music by the duo of Aivi Tran and Steven "Surasshu" Velema was also often highlighted in reviews, with Oliver Sava in The A.V. Club mentioning its range from "peppy retro" to Ghibli-esque "smooth jazz piano".[129] The musical numbers featured in some episodes are distinguished by their "uplifting determination", according to Thurm.[131] As Whitbrook wrote, they evolve from "little (...) goofy ditties" to become an integral part of the storytelling, with the much-lauded song performed by Estelle in the first season's finale being "a rap about the power of two women in romantic love, delivered during a fight aboard an exploding spaceship. It's as awesome as it sounds".[125] Thurm wrote for Pitchfork that "music matters in Rebecca Sugar’s work", more than even in most musicals, by structuring the characters' lives rather than only delivering the story.[132]

Reviewers also appreciated the voice acting of the broad ensemble cast. Tom Scharpling's Greg,[133] Zach Callison's "exuberant and expressive"[134] work as Steven and Grace Rolek "singing her heart out" as Connie[131] were among the actors particularly noted for their performances.

Writing and themes

Steven Universe covers a broad range of themes, including a low-key slice of life portrayal of childhood, an examination of unconventional family dynamics, and an intensive homage to anime, video games and other pop culture mainstays, as well as being a "straightforward kids' show about superheroes", according to Thurm.[135] Jacob Hope Chapman of Anime News Network noted that the anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena and Sailor Moon are visually and structurally Steven Universe's strongest influences, as reflected in its "predominantly playful tone, interrupted by crushing drama at key moments", as well as in its "glorification of the strengths of femininity, dilution of gender barriers, and emphasis on a wide variety of relationships between women, aimed at a family audience".[136] Other Japanese cultural icons the series references include Neon Genesis Evangelion, Akira, Cowboy Bebop and Dragon Ball Z, as well as Studio Ghibli movies and Junji Ito's horror manga The Enigma of Amigara Fault.[136]

The series' "masterful sense of pace", wrote Whitbrook, allows the series to subtly integrate elements of foreshadowing and worldbuilding into individual scenes that almost imperceptibly make an overarching dramatic narrative emerge from what might appear to be "monster of the week" episodes.[125] The series's conceit of telling a complex story from a child's perspective means that its exposition remains "artfully restrained, growing in ambition with the series" and Steven's character, in the view of Thurm.[126] Steven Universe's measured pace also allows its characters to become "more complex and interesting than most of their counterparts on prestige dramas",[137] in Thurm's view, developing "as real people and not entities serving narrative functions".[134] The series explores increasingly challenging facets of their relationships, such as the notion that Pearl may in part resent Steven because he is why his mother Rose no longer exists,[138] or the point where Pearl's "all-consuming passion" for Rose[131] becomes self-destructive. Even the action showpieces are on occasion cast as philosophical arguments, such as when Estelle's song presents the climactic fight in "Jail Break" as the contest between Garnet's loving relationship and Jasper's "lone wolf" attitude.[137]

Adams highlighted the "groundbreaking and inventive" portrayal of the complicated "mentor/caregiver/older sibling dynamic" between Steven and the Crystal Gems[128] in a series that, at its core, is about sibling relationships, according to Sava.[129] A notable emotional difference to Adventure Time and Regular Show, wrote Thurm, is that while these series deal with their protagonists' transition to adulthood, Steven Universe was, at least in its first season, content to be "enamored with the simplicity of childhood".[130] Nonetheless, Thurm noted, by the first season's end, Steven had slowly grown from an obnoxious tag-along kid to being accepted as a Crystal Gem in his own right, a change brought about by increased insight and experience rather than merely age.[137] In The Mary Sue, Joe Cain noted that unlike many heroes from antiquity (such as Hercules) to modern fiction (Luke Skywalker and others), Steven is not defined by the legacy of his father, but his mother; and that the wealth of the series' important mother figures highlights how rare they are in genre fiction.[139] The alien nature of the Gems, which prevents them from fully understanding the world they are dedicated to protect, is also handled with "remarkable depth and intellectual rigor", according to Kat Smalley of PopMatters, even as the Gems are shown to deal with human issues such as the "depression, post-traumatic stress, and self-loathing" the long-past war for Earth has left them with.[140]

Smalley characterized Steven Universe as a prominent part of a growing trend toward cartoons that appeal to both adults and children, which also includes the series Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005), its sequel The Legend of Korra (2012), Adventure Time and Regular Show (both 2010). This is not only reflected in the series's outreach to minorities previously seldom appearing in animation, but also in its broader themes, according to Smalley – instead of delivering genre-typical mustache-twirling villains, the series "deals with issues of extraordinary violence and horror, depicts its characters in shades of grey, and subtly plays with matters of philosophy, morality, and interpersonal conflicts, all while refusing to reset any development to a status quo".[140]

Gender and sexuality

Pearl (left) and Steven's mother Rose Quartz share a close embrace in a flashback shot cut from the British broadcast. Their past relationship is gradually seen to inform Pearl's relationship with Steven and those around him.

"Gender is at the forefront of the conversation surrounding Steven Universe", according to Erik Adams in the A.V. Club, who noted as remarkable that "the show's superheroes are all women".[128] As, among other things, a self-aware pastiche of "magical girl" anime, the series subverts that genre's premises, according to Whitbrook, by having Steven, a boy, embody the loving femininity of the typical magical girl protagonist—without being mocked for it or losing his masculine side in turn. Whitbrook characterized the series as ultimately being "about love—all kinds of love", including nontraditional forms such as the both motherly and friendly bond between Steven and the Gems, as well as Garnet as the "physical embodiment of a lesbian relationship".[125]

In awarding the series a place on the honor list of the 2015 Tiptree Award, which recognizes works of science fiction or fantasy that explore and expand gender roles, the jury wrote: "In the context of children’s television, this show deals with gender in a much more open and mature way than is typical for the genre, and has some of the best writing of any cartoon. (...) In addition to showing men and women who do not necessarily conform to standard American gender ideals, the show also gives us an agender/non-binary character and a thoughtful exploration of growing up".[141]

Autostraddle's Mey Rude wrote that Steven Universe was the most recent animated series aimed at a younger audience to feature significant representation of queer themes, such as through the androgynous fusion Stevonnie and the overtly romantic relationship between the Gems Ruby and Sapphire. This, according to Rude, reflects the growing prominence of these themes in children's cartoons: previous depictions were either subtextual or minimal, such as in the 2011 Adventure Time episode "What Was Missing" or in the 2014 series Clarence, or more explicit but unexplored, such as in the 2014 finale of Nickelodeon's The Legend of Korra. In Steven Universe, on the other hand, LGBT themes appear prominently in the second half of the first season.[142]

According to Rebecca Sugar, her series' LGBT representation is not intended to make a point, but to help all children understand themselves and develop their identity. In her view, queer youth deserve to see themselves in stories just as much as other children—and, given pervasive heteronormativity, not allowing them to do so can be harmful. Moreover, Sugar said, LGBT children also deserve to see the prospect of love for themselves in the characters they identify with—the ideal of fulfilling partnership and true love, established as the one thing to aspire to by generations of Disney cartoons, extended to all.[143] In 2016, Sugar said at a panel that the LGBT themes in Steven Universe were also in large part based on her own experience as a bisexual woman.[144]

The series's cachet as "one of the most unabashedly queer shows on TV", according to The Guardian,[145] made it all the more controversial when, in 2016, Cartoon Network UK decided to cut a moment showing a close embrace between Rose and Pearl – but not a kiss between Rose and Greg – from the British broadcast.[146] The decision, explained by the network as intended to make the episode "more comfortable for local kids and their parents", was criticized as homophobic censorship by fans and in the media.[147][148]

In 2017, Rebecca Sugar confirmed that Fluorite, a fusion of six Gems shown in the series, is meant to represent a polyamorous relationship.[149]

In 2017, the Kenya Film Classification Board banned Steven Universe, together with the cartoon series The Loud House, Hey Arnold!, The Legend of Korra and Adventure Time, from being broadcast in Kenya. According to the Board, the reason was that these series were "glorifying homosexual behavior".[150]


Cosplay of the character Opal, 2015. In Steven Universe, fusions between Gems are larger and often have additional body parts.

Steven Universe has a big, active fandom. As of April 2016, public interest in the series, as measured by Google Trends, outstripped – at times, by orders of magnitude – that of Cartoon Network's other series. The A.V. Club called this the closest thing possible to "definitive proof that Steven Universe is now Cartoon Network’s flagship series".[104]

Fans of Steven Universe have campaigned against censorship of the series' representation of LGBT relationships in countries other than the United States. A fan campaign persuaded Cartoon Network's French subsidiary to re-record the song "Stronger than You" in a translation that made the singer's love as explicit as in the original,[151] and another was launched in 2016 to protest Cartoon Network's British subsidiary's practice of removing scenes of affection between Gems from the UK broadcasts.[145] Similarly, Swedish fans launched a protest petition after flirting between Gems was changed to unrelated dialogue in the Swedish broadcast of the episode "Hit the Diamond".[152]

According to io9, "while most of the Steven Universe fandom is supportive and welcoming, there is a small subsection that's known for being extreme and hostile under the guise of inclusiveness".[153] In 2015, a fan artist attempted suicide after she was bullied through social media because of the body proportions in her art,[154][155] and in 2016 storyboard artist and writer Lauren Zuke quit Twitter following harassment by fans because of the artist's perceived support for a particular romantic relationship between characters.[153]

In 2017, a full-length fan-made episode, "The Smothering",[156] set in an alternate version of the story's continuity, was appreciated by io9 as "one of the more impressive pieces of work to come out of the Steven Universe fandom".[157]

Beach City Con, a Steven Universe fan convention, was held in Virginia Beach, on October 13–15, 2017.[158]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
2013 Behind the Voice Actor Awards[159] Best Male Vocal Performance by a Child Zach Callison (as Steven) Won
2014 Annie Awards[160] Outstanding Achievement in Character Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production Danny Hynes and Colin Howard Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Production Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production Steven Sugar, Emily Walus, Sam Bosma, Elle Michalka, and Amanda Winterstein (for "Gem Glow") Nominated
Young Artist Awards[161] Best Performance in a Voice-Over Role - Young Actor Zach Callison (as Steven) Nominated
Behind the Voice Actor Awards[162] Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in a Television Series - Comedy/Musical Deedee Magno Hall (as Pearl) Won
Michaela Dietz (as Amethyst) Nominated
Best Female Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Supporting Role - Comedy/Musical Kate Micucci (as Sadie) Nominated
Best Female Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Guest Role - Comedy/Musical Jennifer Paz (as Lapis Lazuli) Won
Susan Egan (as Rose Quartz) Nominated
Best Vocal Ensemble in a Television Series - Comedy/Musical Cast of Steven Universe Won
Hall of Game Awards[163] Most Valuable Cartoon Steven Universe Nominated
2015 67th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards[164] Short-format Animation "Lion 3: Straight to Video" Nominated
James Tiptree Jr. Award[141] Honor List Rebecca Sugar, Steven Universe Won
2016 Annie Awards[165] Best Animated TV/Broadcast Production For Children’s Audience "Jail Break" Nominated
Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production Ian Jones-Quartey (for "The Test") Nominated
Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production Joe Johnston, Jeff Liu, and Rebecca Sugar (for "Jail Break") Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards 2016[166] Favorite Cartoon Steven Universe Nominated
2016 Teen Choice Awards[167] Choice Animated Series Steven Universe Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award[168] Short-format Animation "The Answer" Nominated
Behind the Voice Actors Awards[169] Best Female Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Guest Role AJ Michalka (as Stevonnie) Nominated
Best Female Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Supporting Role Jennifer Paz (as Lapis Lazuli) Nominated
Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in a Television Series Michaela Dietz (as Amethyst) Nominated
Best Vocal Ensemble in a Television Series Steven Universe Nominated
2017 GLAAD Media Awards[170] Outstanding Comedy Series Steven Universe Nominated
2017 Teen Choice Awards[171] Choice Animated Series Steven Universe Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award[172] Short-format Animation "Mr. Greg" Nominated




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  5. ^ Sugar, Rebecca (August 20, 2014). "I am Rebecca Sugar, creator of Steven Universe, and former Adventure Time storyboarder, AMA!". Reddit. Archived from the original on December 13, 2015. 
  6. ^ McDonnell 2017, p. 19
  7. ^ McDonnell 2017, p. 14
  8. ^ a b McDonnell 2017, p. 25
  9. ^ a b c McDonnell 2017, p. 43
  10. ^ a b c McDonnell 2017, p. 60
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i McDonnell 2017, p. 24
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