Steven Universe

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Steven Universe
Steven Universe.png
Genre Drama[2]
Created by Rebecca Sugar
Story by
Directed by
  • Elle Michalka (art)
  • Nick DeMayo (animation)
  • Ian Jones-Quartey (supervising)
Voices of
Theme music composer
  • Rebecca Sugar
  • Aivi & Surasshu
  • Jeff Liu
Opening theme "We Are the Crystal Gems"
Ending theme "Love Like You", performed by Rebecca Sugar (from Season 2)
Composer(s) Aivi Tran
Steven "Surasshu" Velema
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 67 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Rebecca Sugar
  • Ian Jones-Quartey (co-executive producer, from Season 2)
Running time 11 minutes
Production company(s) Cartoon Network Studios[3]
Original channel Cartoon Network
Picture format 1080i (16:9 HDTV)
Audio format Dolby Surround
First shown in July 27, 2013 (2013-07-27) (Pilot)
Original release November 4, 2013 (2013-11-04) – present
External links

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, who grows up with three magical aliens, the "Crystal Gems" Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl, and helps them protect the world from their own kind. A part of Cartoon Network Studios' artist-driven "Shorts Program", Steven Universe is the first Cartoon Network series to be created by a woman, and was developed by Sugar while she worked on the Cartoon Network series Adventure Time. It premiered on November 4, 2013.

Steven Universe has received critical acclaim for its art design, music, voice acting and its depth of characterization and sci-fi worldbuilding. The series was nominated for an Emmy Award and two Annie Awards. It was renewed in July 2015 for a third season.[4] Companion books, comics and a video game based on the series have been also released.

Setting and synopsis[edit]

The series is set in the fictional Beach City on the Delmarva Peninsula on the American East Coast, where ageless alien warriors, the Crystal Gems, live in an ancient beachside temple, protecting the world from evil. They project female 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 Gems' former leader Rose Quartz. As Steven tries to figure out his powers, he spends his days with his human father Greg, his friend Connie, other people in Beach City, or the other Gems, whether to help them save the world or just to hang out. He explores the abilities passed down to him by his mother, which include fusion — the ability of Gems to merge their identities and bodies to form a new and more powerful personality.

The first season slowly reveals that the four Crystal Gems are remnants of a once great interstellar civilization. Most of the locations they visit are ruins that were once of great importance to Gem culture, but have become derelict for millennia. The Gems are cut off from their homeworld, and it becomes apparent that the monsters and artifacts they encounter are Gems who have lost the ability to maintain rational humanoid forms. In parallel, flashbacks related by Greg develop the history of Rose Quartz and her relationships. By the end of the first season, Steven learns that the Homeworld Gems intended to sterilize the Earth to incubate new Gems within it. Now, 5,000 years after Rose Quartz led the other Crystal Gems in a violent and apparently successful rebellion against these genocidal plans, the homeworld's machinations once again extend towards the Earth with the arrival of two hostile envoys, Peridot and Jasper.


Concept and creation[edit]

The titular character, Steven, is loosely based on Sugar's younger brother Steven Sugar,[5] who is one of the series's background artists.[6] Growing up, Sugar would collaborate with Steven and other friends to create comics.[7] 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."[8]

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.[5] The supporting characters Lars and Sadie were originally created in Sugar's college days.[9] The Gems are, according to Sugar, all "some version of me... neurotic, lazy, decisive".[10] She wanted their gems to reflect their personalities – Pearl's perfect smoothness, Amethyst's coarseness, and Garnet's air of mystery.[11]

"God forbid a piece of media not include super masculine self-insert super powered hero characters for straight males to identify with."

— Series story editor Matt Burnett in response to fans asking for male Gems[12]

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.[13]

Sugar said that Steven Universe was influenced by the anime series Future Boy Conan and Revolutionary Girl Utena, as well as by The Simpsons.[14] Musically, she considers Aimee Mann "a huge influence".[15] 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. The titular character, Steven, personifies this "love affair between fantasy and reality".[6]


A part of the storyboard and script from the episode "Island Adventure". Unlike in other series, the storyboard artists are also the writers, and create script and storyboards in conjunction.

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".[16] 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.[17]

The series is developed such that 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,[18] based on the production crew's designs.[6]

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.[16]

On November 14, 2013, 13 additional episodes were ordered for the first season.[19] On July 25, 2014, the series was renewed for a second season,[20] and began airing on March 13, 2015. It was again renewed in July 2015 for a third season.[4]


The pilot episode for Steven Universe was released on Cartoon Network's video platform on May 21, 2013, along with a few other pilots.[21] They were taken down and redirected to a 404 page shortly after.[22] On July 20, 2013, Cartoon Network uploaded an edited version of the pilot to both their official website and Facebook page.[23] The pilots were also exhibited at the San Diego Comic-Con,[24] and from July 27 to July 28, 2013, Cartoon Network aired a sneak peek of the pilot as part of Big Fan Weekend, along with the pilots for Clarence and Uncle Grandpa. A 30-minute panel dedicated to the series was hosted at the New York Comic Con on October 13, 2013, with Rebecca Sugar hosting.[25] The series premiered in the United States on November 4, 2013 on Cartoon Network, with two episodes.[26]

In Canada, it began airing on Cartoon Network on November 11, 2013[27] and on Teletoon on April 24, 2014.[28] It also airs on Cartoon Network channels in Australia from February 3, 2014[29] and in the United Kingdom and Ireland from May 12.[30]


Steven Universe series overview
Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
Pilot July 27, 2013
1 52 November 4, 2013 April 16, 2015
2 TBA March 13, 2015 TBA


A crossover episode with Uncle Grandpa, "Say Uncle", aired on April 2, 2015.[31]

Other media[edit]

Short films[edit]

A short film made available in July 2015, "What are Gems?",[32] has Pearl teach Steven about the nature and abilities of Gems. The sequence is inspired by omake clips from anime series such as Gunbuster, in which characters teach the audience about aspects of the series's lore.

Companion books[edit]

Several companion books are to be published by the Cartoon Network Books imprint of Penguin:

  • Steven Universe's Guide to the Crystal Gems for Humans (October 2015, ISBN 978-0843183160) by series creator Rebecca Sugar contains information about the Crystal Gems as well as original art.[33]
  • 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.[34]
  • Steven Universe Mad Libs (October 2015, ISBN 978-0843183092) by Walter Burns is a Mad Libs word game book.[35]
  • 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.[36]
  • What in the Universe? (February 2016, ISBN 978-0843183481) by Jake Black is a book of trivia about Steven and the Gems.[37]

Video games[edit]

A tactical role-playing video game based on the series, Steven Universe: Attack the Light!, was released on April 2, 2015 for iOS and Android devices.[38] It was developed by Grumpyface Studios in collaboration with Rebecca Sugar for mobile devices. Players control the four Crystal Gems in fights against light monsters.[39][40]

Steven Universe characters also appear in Cartoon Network's cart racing video game Formula Cartoon All-Stars. 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.[41]


BOOM! Studios publishes an ongoing monthly comics series based on Steven Universe written by Jeremy Sorese and illustrated by Coleman Engle.[42] A preview appeared in Adventure Time: 2013 Spoooktacular #1.[43] The first issue was published in August 2014.

A graphic novel based on Steven Universe, the first in a planned series, is to be published by KaBOOM! in December 2015. Also written by Sorese and drawn by Engle, Steven Universe: Too Cool for School focuses on the friendship between Steven and Connie as he accompanies her to school one day.[44]


Steven Universe has received critical acclaim for its art, music and voice performances, storytelling and its characterization. As an "equally rewarding watch" for adults and children, according to James Whitbrook in io9,[45] and "one of the stealthiest, smartest, and most beautiful things on the air" in the view of Eric Thurm in Wired,[46] it attracted a quickly growing fan base.[47]

Production values[edit]

Critics praised the "breathtaking beauty",[48] "intriguing, immersive environments"[49] and "loveably goofy aesthetic"[45] of Steven Universe‍ '​s art. They noted the distinct look imparted by the soft pastel backgrounds,[49] as well as the series's "gorgeous, expressive, clean" animation.[50]

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".[49] The musical numbers featured in some episodes are distinguished by their "uplifting determination", according to Thurm.[51] 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".[45]

Reviewers also appreciated the voice acting of the broad ensemble cast. Tom Scharpling's Greg,[52] Zach Callison's "exuberant and expressive"[53] work as Steven and Grace Rolek "singing her heart out" as Connie[51] were among the actors particularly noted for their performances.

Writing and themes[edit]

Steven Universe covers a broad range of themes, including a low-key slice of life portrayal of childhood, an examination of unconventional family dynamics, 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.[54] 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".[55] 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.[55]

The series's "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.[45] 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.[46] Steven Universe‍ '​s measured pace also allows its characters to become "more complex and interesting than most of their counterparts on prestige dramas",[56] in Thurm's view, developing "as real people and not entities serving narrative functions".[53] 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,[57] or the point where Pearl's "all-consuming passion" for Rose[51] 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 "Jailbreak" as the contest between Garnet's loving relationship and Jasper's "lone wolf" attitude.[56]

"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".[48] 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 also highlighted that the series was ultimately "about love — all kinds of love", including nontraditional forms such as the both motherly and friendly bond between Steven and the Crystal Gems, as well as Garnet as a "physical embodiment of a lesbian relationship".[45] Autostraddle's Mey Rude noted 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 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 first season.[58]

Adams highlighted the "groundbreaking and inventive" portrayal of the complicated "mentor/caregiver/older sibling dynamic" between Steven and the Crystal Gems[48] in a series that, at its core, is about sibling relationships, according to Sava.[49] 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".[50] 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.[56]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
2013 Behind the Voice Actor Awards[59] Best Male Vocal Performance by a Child Zach Callison (as Steven for "Steven Universe") Won
2014 Annie Award Outstanding Achievement in Character Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production[60] Danny Hynes and Colin Howard Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Production Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production[60] Steven Sugar, Emily Walus, Sam Bosma, Elle Michalka, and Amanda Winterstein (for "Gem Glow") Nominated
Behind the Voice Actor Awards[61] Best Vocal Ensemble in a Television Series - Comedy/Musical Cast of "Steven Universe" (for "Steven Universe") Won
Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in a Television Series - Comedy/Musical Deedee Magno Hall (as Pearl for "Steven Universe") Won
Michaela Dietz (as Amethyst for "Steven Universe") Nominated
Best Female Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Supporting Role - Comedy/Musical Kate Micucci (as Sadie for "Steven Universe") Nominated
Best Female Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Guest Role - Comedy/Musical Jennifer Paz (as Lapis Lazuli for "Steven Universe") Won
Susan Egan (as Rose Quartz for "Steven Universe") Nominated
2015 Primetime Emmy Award[62] Short-format Animation "Lion 3: Straight to Video" Pending

Home media[edit]

Video on demand[edit]

Depending on the customer's region, Steven Universe is available through various video on demand services such as Hulu, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and Xbox Video.


Episodes on the Steven Universe DVDs are not in original broadcast order. In the table below, the episodes are listed in the order they appear on the DVD, and are numbered according to the order in which they were originally broadcast.

Region 1
DVD title Season(s) Aspect ratio Episode count Total running time Release date Episodes
"Gem Glow" 1 16:9 12 132 minutes January 13, 2015 2 ("Laser Light Cannon"), 1 ("Gem Glow"), 6 ("Cat Fingers"), 7 ("Bubble Buddies"), 9 ("Tiger Millionaire"), 10 ("Steven's Lion"), 15 ("Onion Trade"), 12 ("Giant Woman"), 14 ("Lars and the Cool Kids"), 19 ("Rose's Room"), 18 ("Beach Party") and 22 ("Steven and the Stevens")


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External links[edit]