Cartoon Network treated fans to a musical celebration of the hit animated show, Steven Universe, at Comic-Con Friday morning.
Executive producer/creator/writer Rebecca Sugar, Zach Callison (Steven), Estelle (Garnet), Michaela Dietz (Amethyst), Deedee Magno-Hall (Pearl), Ben Levin (writer), and series composers Aivi Tran and Steven “Surasshu” Velema took the stage for a live performance of various songs from previous episodes, including “On the Run,” “Jail Break,” and “Mr. Greg.” The panel was moderated by former supervising director Ian Jones-Quartey.
The show just kicked off its Summer of Steven, (or what Jones-Quartey referred to as a Steven Nuke), with new episodes airing every weeknight until Aug. 12. There was a sneak peek of the episode “Beach City Drift,” which airs tonight at 7 p.m.
Other panel highlights and reveals are below.
The Importance of Music
The characters aren’t who they are without their score. Songs are written early in the writing process to integrate them into the plot and feeling of the episode. Sugar records a raw demo, sends it to the composers, and then poses are added in the animatic stage based on each actor’s affectations. The songs are intended to convey and tell the story of each character’s feelings and emotions, and each character has their own instrument (Pearl’s music features a lot of piano).
The fusions are interesting because the team has to combine individual character’s sounds, and it’s not just laying one on top of the other. The composers find a third sound that expresses how the characters influence each other — for example, in Pearl and Garnet’s music, Pearl’s ornateness causes Garnet’s sounds to be more showy, and Garnet’s confidence influences Pearl’s piano to be more bombastic.
On Musical Episode “Mr. Greg”
Sugar says working on the episode was a dream come true because she’s always wanted to do a musical, but it was a challenge to fit it all in the same length as a regular episode. Magno-Hal has a musical background and loves the fact that the show is so musical and that Sugar’s music is unpredictable.
The Credits Song
Sugar says the song is about love so it pertains to everyone, and love is a huge theme of the show. It was originally imagined to be 30 seconds and told from the perspective of Gems about being loved by humans and then being shocked by it. It evolved into a message about loving and respecting yourself because you can’t have mutual respect with another person if you don’t first respect yourself. It’s a struggle that every character in the show deals with.
Steven Universe has truly embraced technology with activations across multiple platforms. Just yesterday, Cartoon Network launched a new game called Soundtrack Attack, a rhythm game that allows you to create your own Gem and play songs from the show.
A Personal Connection
Sugar was working on Adventure Time when Cartoon Network asked her if she had any other show ideas. So she started with the character of Steven, who is based on her little brother, because she wanted a show to always be personal and close to her. The resulting Steven Universe became a sci-fi fantasy show with Sugar’s relationship with the brother at the core of it. She also likes the idea of being open to change; the show is consistently inconsistent and evolving.
Steven also shares his birthday with Sugar’s brother, Aug. 15 (though canonically, the first episode aired in January, and Sugar feels Steven is certainly a Leo.)
Female Empowerment and LGBT Representation
A lot of the show is based on Sugar’s personal experience as a bi-sexual woman. She felt it was necessary to share stories about love and attraction for underrepresented people. It’s important for kids to hear stories about how all types of people can be loved and to talk about consent and identity. Sugar says she wants to feel like she exists, and she wants everyone who wants that to be able to feel the same.
What’s to Come
Look out for another Steven Bomb, a Family Special, and the introduction of new Gems throughout the Summer of Steven, airing weeknights until Aug. 12.