When Cartoon Network’s animated sequence Steven Universe launched in 2013, it didn’t appear to be one thing that was going to vary the way in which American animation dealt with storytelling. Creator Rebecca Sugar and her group began off with a deceptively easy story: within the first episode, child protagonist Steven Universe is upset as a result of the corporate behind his favourite ice-cream sandwich model is pulling it off the market. The sequence opener is so hyper-focused on the frozen deal with that it barely even registers that Steven is the first-ever hybrid between a human and a race of all-female crystal-based aliens.
Later episodes typically foregrounded the struggles between that alien race and Earth, however simply as typically, they continued to concentrate on smaller issues — largely Steven’s relationships with the opposite individuals in his small beachside city. At its most expansive, Steven Universe was a sequence concerning the subsequent evolution of an alien race making an attempt to dealer peace between an enormous, expansionist alien empire and the bizarre little blue-green planet that seduced just a few of that empire’s insurgent troopers. At its smallest, although, the sequence was about mindfulness and meditation, a couple of child discovering his personal id and separating himself from his mother and father, and about whether or not a few of his pals managed to get their band off the bottom.
But it was all the time about compassion and connection. Over the course of 160 episodes, Steven Universe taught its viewers classes about tolerance and acceptance, concerning the significance of speaking by way of conflicts and acknowledging feelings. Sugar and her crew additionally constructed up an enormous science-fiction mythos stretching again millennia. They capped that with a function movie, Steven Universe: The Movie. And then the 20-episode finale miniseries, Steven Universe Future, addressed a few of the present’s minor unfastened ends, whereas acknowledging the lasting results of the sequence’ motion on Steven, who’s, in any case, nonetheless simply an adolescent. The sequence wraps with Steven headed off on a street journey, but it surely seems like there’s nonetheless numerous story to inform, about how he continues to course of his grief, about what occurs to his many alien pals as they settle into their new life on Earth, and the way all the planet offers with its peaceable merging with a brand new species.
But Sugar says she has no plans to proceed the sequence from right here. “As of now, I haven’t accredited any official continuation, and except for the upcoming End of an Era artbook, I’m not concerned in, and haven’t accredited, any upcoming comics or books or video video games,” she tells Polygon through electronic mail. “There is no official continuation in development at this time.”
Given how the sequence has progressed — typically with little phrase between seasons, and abrupt reveals when a brand new “Steven bomb” was about to drop a bunch of recent episodes on the fandom — it’s no surprise followers are questioning if there’s secretly extra Steven Universe on the horizon. But Sugar says the sense that there’s extra story left to come back was a part of the plan all alongside.
”I all the time needed this world and these characters to really feel chic, as if it’s all the time happening earlier than and after the episodes, and continues to exist outdoors the body of what you see,” she says.
Has she thought of what may occur subsequent? Is there any hope of the story persevering with in different kinds, like in books or motion pictures? “The story is continuing off screen and I do know what happens next, at least in certain timelines, for the characters,” Sugar says. “But I would have to decide how and when I’d want to dig into that, or if it’s best to give them their privacy.”
So why cut up the final a part of Steven Universe off into its personal miniseries? Why inform the story this manner specifically? Sugar says it’s an artifact of the green-lighting and manufacturing course of. “While I was working on the original series, around 2016, I was told with a fair amount of certainty that we would not be picked up for more episodes,” she says. “I was asked if the remaining episodes from our current pickup would be enough to finish the story we’d planned.”
She didn’t really feel she might wrap up what she supposed because the story, so she “started fighting” for one more six further episodes. She says she ultimately did get these episodes, which grew to become the “Diamond Days” arc, culminating within the three-episode arc “Change Your Mind.” But initially, she was instructed that no, she needed to end the story with out that ultimate arc.
“Immediately after this meeting, when I was told there wouldn’t be more, I went up to my office and wrote the song ‘I Could Never Be Ready,’ which got folded into an episode we were working on at the time,” Sugar says. “I wasn’t ready for the show to end.”
Instead, she requested for a film finale, “so we could all spend a little more time together as a crew, and in this world with these characters.” Oddly sufficient, Cartoon Network accredited of the concept of a film — however then needed the present to proceed afterward. “I was told that there was no point to a movie unless it existed to promote more show,” Sugar says. “So all of the sudden, I had 20 additional episodes to work on while working on the movie. I was overjoyed, and tried to conceptualize a way to put the pieces of the story we’d intended to include in the original run into these additional episodes. But everything had to be different after the events of the movie, so I needed to approach these stories from a new angle.”
She additionally says she’d personally “changed a lot, and learned a lot,” since she first laid out the plan for the sequence again in 2012. And the brand new order for a film and a sequence continuation needed to specific that development, by letting Steven develop up a little bit bit as effectively. At the identical time, “the present had been an emotional rollercoaster for us, and crew members have been shifting on. So that grew to become a part of the story of Steven Universe Future.”
So when Sugar checked out how one can revise the ultimate miniseries arc, she realized she needed it to be concerning the means of closure and accepting endings. “Those of us who stayed through all of it needed to find a way to let go,” she says. “I wanted that to be part of the story, too, I wanted moving on to be something we could share with our audience.”
Ultimately, Steven Universe in all its kinds — the unique sequence, the film, and the spin-off finale — are an expression of Sugar’s personal life. In explicit, the present’s overtly queer themes, its visible and storytelling underpinnings, and its exploration of emotion and catharsis are private.
“My love of anime and my own experience as a non-binary person are both inexorable parts of the show’s foundation,” Sugar says. “The present is a pastiche, however I all the time attempt to hold it rooted in one thing actual and private. There have been massive visuals we needed, like a Jasper coaching montage, and a kaiju battle. We have been additionally impressed by the interpersonal battle and catharsis within the finale of [the 1990s magical-girl series] Ojamajo Doremi.”
“I needed to inform a narrative primarily based alone mental-health expertise, and impressed by a guide I used to be studying on the time known as The Deepest Well, by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, about therapeutic the results of childhood trauma. I don’t suppose it’s a matter of anime tropes complementing or difficult, [but] staying true to our private tales on the crew.”
Sugar says the present has been a labor of affection and a way of non-public expression for her writing and manufacturing group as effectively. “I’d say that the one personal experience we truly all share is a love of cartoons and cartooning. It’s why we all devoted our lives to this art form. That’s how I think of it. It’s all personal and true, including the cartoony stuff, and the anime stuff. It’s what we love, and the language we use to express ourselves.”