Steven Universe: TV’s Smartest Cartoon

For Rebecca Sugar, the lines between fantasy and reality have always been a bit blurred. Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, she spent much of her childhood enveloped in fictional worlds. If she couldn’t find a world that suited her in video games, comics, or cartoons, she would dream up her own world with vibrant characters, imaginative settings, and endless adventures that defied anything unfit for the rest of reality. This brief escape from normality was commonplace among Rebecca and her younger brother, Steven. The two would spend hours lost in their creations; and today Rebecca is breaking down barriers with that same sense of imagination and determination.

Steven Universe is the socially conscious, reality bending cartoon dreamed up by Rebecca, and draws on much of her childhood experience to bring joy and imagination to a new generation of kids. As Cartoon Network’s first female showrunner, Sugar has plenty of her own groundbreaking, coming-of-age tales to weave into Steven’s world.

In the series, Steven is a half-magic, half-human adolescent hero, and he often represents the bridge between fictional worlds and reality. The innovative show features bold, daring, and complex characters who generally have a broader sense of purpose for the world, and for the past five years, it’s been a creative portal for Rebecca to share her imagined worlds with the rest of the world.

An Unconventional Approach

It’s important for Rebecca and the rest of the Steven Universe dreamers to remain unconventional in their approach. Rebecca recently spoke with Huck Magazine saying, “Animation is a medium, not a genre, but a lot of people believe that there are certain things that cartoons do, or cartoons are. And that used to make me frustrated, but at a certain point I started to get very excited, because that means you can play with someone’s expectations.” The daily challenge remains to combine funny, interesting, relatable content with the unexpected, thoughtful, and boundary-pushing ideas into one fluid kid’s TV show.

The brightly-colored pastel world of Steven Universe has become one of the smartest shows on TV, and not just for who the characters are, or what types of adventures they seek in each new episode. Steven Universe is wired by a fascinating machine of intelligent, progressive minds who believe in doing more for kids, and more for the world, than providing “just” a 30-minute cartoon show; because Steven’s world, er… Rebecca’s world.. is so much more than a cartoon.

After speaking with The Verge recently, Rebecca expressed the true meaning of why Steven Universe is so special for her, “I try to always remember that it comes down to that feeling of being able to go home at the end of the day and hang out with your best friend, who’s also your brother. That’s the center point of bringing all these unrelated things together. They’re the things we share.”

As Steven (and Rebecca) slowly seep into mainstream and broaden the entire universe for themselves, there’s no telling what is to come in the future for this incredible and imaginative team.

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