And that's a wrap, folks. After several years of the original series, a movie, and an epilogue series, Steven Universe has come to a close with tonight's four-part finale. While we won't spoil too much here about the exact contents of tonight's episodes, ComicBook.com did have the opportunity to interview Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar in advance of their premiere.
The interview, which is broken down into specific questions and answers below, ranges wildly from Sugar's favorite song in the series to the final shot of Steven Universe Future and more. If you read any further, do so with the knowledge that you will almost certainly spoil something or other. If you're not too particular about that, or if you've seen the finale, hopefully the interview will provide you with something to chew on as we all collectively move forward in a world without more Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems to look forward to.
Have you already watched the finale? If so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments, or hit me up directly on Twitter at @rollinbishop to talk all things animation! Regardless, read on to see what Sugar had to say about... well, everything, broadly speaking. (The only extremely spoiler-y stuff is near the end, if you've not watched yet and are still extremely curious.)
ComicBook.com: OK, so, I guess first and foremost here... congrats. You did it. It's done.
Rebecca Sugar: Thank you!
What now for you?
Oh, well I'm going to take a little time. We're planning on going on our honeymoon, so hopefully we'll still get to go, but we haven't really had time, me and Ian Jones-Quartey. We haven't really had time to, to do that until now so that's on the horizon for me.
Now you've got time. Well, fingers crossed, that you get to go.
IT IS ACTUALLY OVER, ISN'T IT?
I actually interviewed you around the time of the movie release, and at that time y’all had not announced Steven Universe Future, so when I asked, “What next? What happens?”, things were a little coy, but this is the epilogue series, Steven Universe Future, and it's done, right? This is the end?
Yeah. This is the end of the show. Yes.
So, with that, let me ask: why end here? Why now?
Well, we had finished the story we had written in 2012 and 2013 with “Change Your Mind,” and at the time I was given the impression that there would be no more show. And so I was really, passionately pitching the movie and pitching more stories then, because I didn't want to be done with these characters in this world. I'm glad that we have gotten to spend this time with the characters. And I feel that, although it's been tumultuous in terms of the television landscape over the course of making this series, I feel that over the course of everything we found a way to tell all of the stories that we had planned to tell. And also express the ways that we've grown as people and as artists within that too. I wanted to make sure that Future was about the process of moving on, so that it would make it possible for us also.
IS STEVEN UNIVERSE FUTURE A REFLECTION OF THE SHOW'S JOURNEY?
I was going to ask, the epilogue series really hits on what happens after you've done the thing you set out to do. You would say that this is a reflection of the show's journey?
Oh sure, and I always wanted to make sure that the show would make room for us to be able to talk about how we were feeling. That's always been a goal of the show. The movie also; we had worked so hard to complete “Change Your Mind” that the beginning of the movie was a reflection of how we felt. That we couldn't believe we'd made it, and that was it, and we'd done everything, and then all of a sudden the movie was just this unbelievably huge challenge that we could never have been prepared for, so having the characters go through that with us is really cathartic.
IS THE MOVIE A CLIMAX OF SORTS?
Thinking of the movie, obviously Steven Universe, Steven Universe: The movie, and Steven Universe Future, are their own things, but do you view sort of the show as a cohesive whole as well with the movie as the climax?
Gosh, I don't know if I would call the movie a climax, but I do think that they all connect. I do think that... personally I would want audiences to watch all of it. I don't think it's complete without the movie and without Future. I think that all of it is necessary in my mind, but I think the fact that they are a little separated is part of the statement. They're connected, and they should all be -- they're all Steven Universe, but there's this sort of series proper, the movie, and Future as the epilogue. That's how I hope that it feels; that's my intention.
HOW SHOULD FOLKS GO ABOUT WATCHING IT ALL?
Now obviously, once this is all out on digital, people are going to be able to just binge the whole thing, whereas it aired pretty broken up, sparse, big gaps between things. Do you think folks should wait between the end of Steven Universe Season 5 to go into the movie, or does it just like it doesn't really matter?
I hope that it will all be taken as a whole. However anyone would like to watch it is fine by me. I'm just glad that if you want to watch it without any breaks that that is now possible or will be possible. The way I really hope people will watch it is with their friends and with their families. That's always been a hope -- with their siblings. This a show about me and my siblings.
ANYTHING THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT?
You've talked a bit about how there was a point where you felt that there maybe wouldn't be more show, and that's when you kept pitching really hard for the movie, and I assume stuff that became Steven Universe Future. Is there anything you wish you could have done in Steven Universe Future that ultimately didn't make the cut?
Yes. Yeah. We had some stories that ended up not relating to the ultimate theme of Future. We had a really great “road nights” story that I wish that we could have done, but ultimately we told the story that we landed on. There's always been a lot of stories on the cutting room floor, and there are many that I think are great and are exciting, and a lot of times on the show, we would come up with something one season, and then we'd find a home for it three seasons later. Because Future was only 20 episodes long, that wasn't possible. But ultimately we chose what we chose for a reason, and I feel really strongly about the direction that we took the season in, so I don't have any regrets.
WHAT IS THE THEME OF STEVEN UNIVERSE FUTURE?
What would you say the theme of Steven Universe Future is?
It's Steven's relationship with himself, and it's finding that ability to take care of yourself, to care about yourself. We realized at a certain point that that really had to be our focus, and so we began to relate everything to that theme.
That makes a lot of sense.
"STEVEN NEEDS THERAPY"
You know for, I think for like a couple of years now, a popular meme in the fandom has been just the title card with the words “Steven Needs Therapy” showing up. Were you aware of this when working on the season, or is it just sort of a happy coincidence that trauma and dealing with trauma became a big part?
Well, it's been a part of the show since the very, very beginning of the show. I suppose that that being something that the fans are interested in never struck me as something outside of the content that we had actually made. He mentions many times throughout the show -- very casually -- these incredibly difficult things he's going through. He talks with the cool kids in the car about the pressure to be his mother, and how he feels like they blame him for her being gone. In “Mindful Education”, we have a whole sequence where thinking about what he's been through is so unbearable for him that he literally can't stand it. To see people recognize this, to me, just felt like a natural interpretation of the actual content of the show.
WHAT DO YOU TELL FANS NOW THAT IT'S DONE?
Now speaking of the fans, I mentioned that I was going to be interviewing you in the near future, and other than just generally people saying, "express our thanks", "we love the show", "we love that Steven Universe exists," and so on, there was sort of this sadness, this not knowing what to do with themselves now that it's ending. What do you tell fans that are sad to see it go, and for people who are a little bereft as the show ends, what media would you suggest they seek out maybe?
Oh my gosh. Well one thing I'm really hoping that our audience will do is take this chance to watch the show from the beginning. I think this also relates to what you're just talking about, so much of what's in Future is already being discussed in the earliest episodes. So much of who Steven is as a character is tracked throughout the entirety of the series. I hope that with it being finished that it will have a lot of replay value. A lot of times we think of the show in game terms, and replay value was something that was very important to me.
Now, I do have one last big question here. Now that it's finished, now that it's complete… I gotta know: favorite episode, favorite moment, favorite song.
I gotta know.
That's so hard, because I really love so many of them. Let's see. It's hard to choose a favorite episode. You know, I think… I think I would say “Mr. Greg,” because it was the first time we did a full musical episode, and making a musical was a real lifetime dream. I remember getting that work print back, and seeing the animation on it, and just being so moved that we were able to actually do it. The fact that we could fit seven songs into 11 minutes was so difficult -- and we didn't get any additional time or anything. This is just all of us pulling everything we could together to try and make this happen. I think in that moment I really realized how much we could do if we set our minds to it, so it has a really special place in my heart.
I think my favorite moment would be the moment that Steven fuses with himself in “Change Your Mind”, which is something that we had been building to for so long. We always understood internally, at least since the very beginning, that Steven is a fusion of himself, and that this moment when he realizes that and understands that and they come back together would be this huge climactic turning point for him as a character. To get a chance to show that and get all the way to the end, which we weren't sure if we’d make it that far. Then also to get a chance to work with James Baxter on it. All of that was such a dream come true.
And then -- what was the third one? Episode, moment, and?
And song, oh my gosh. [lengthy pause]
If you want it to be a top five, to make it easier, that's fine too!
Top five? No, I can do one. I think of all the songs in the show, the song “Change Your Mind” is the most personal. I don't know if it's necessarily -- if I would call it my favorite, but it's definitely the most personal. It was a personal song that I wrote while I was fighting for the wedding and then we found a home for it. I wanted to find a home for it in the show because it was so much --
Oh! You know what, actually though, can I retract? [laughs] “Love Like You” is definitely my favorite song. There's no question about that. “Love Like You” is my favorite song. The melody, the music, was written by Aivi and Surasshu, and it's just such a beautiful song. They asked me to write the lyrics, and they also asked me to sing it for the credits.
I wrote the lyrics over many, many years, and I really changed as a person over the course of those years. Writing the lyrics across that span of time, they really changed with me as a person, and I think their music for it is just so beautiful. When they sent me the very ending with a very, very long “yous”, Aivi had recorded a temp of all of these harmonies, and it's really the moment -- when I heard that -- that I realized that the original series, we were really finishing it. It just hit me like a ton of bricks that we were going to conclude this song that we've been working on for, I think, maybe something like five years at the time? Four or five. That one is really important to me, and it just captured the whole arc of the show.
WAS THE END ALWAYS THE END?
Now, speaking of the whole arc of the show, Steven Universe Future ends with Steven leaving Beach City, which in a sort of sneaky, cheeky way is also the end of every Steven Universe Future episode. Was that always sort of the plan for that to be the last scene?
Yes. Yeah. Well, as we were approaching Future, we wanted to make sure that everything was new, which meant new opening, new title cards, new ending credits. With the original series, I had always wanted the laundry hand to feel as if you were coming home and you were home at the beginning of every episode. Then in the moments where he would be away from home, like when he was staying in the country working on the drill, or if he was swept up in space, we would use a different card so you would feel how strange it was that he wasn't able to be home.
So that theme of home, and the warmth of home, was such a huge part of the original series. For Future, I wanted this feeling of momentum. That it wasn't about resting, and it wasn't about staying still, that it was about going somewhere, moving towards something. I wanted you to feel that in every episode. I wanted it to feel like the restlessness of that, but I also wanted it to feel like the hopefulness of that.
Is there anything else you would like to add as the show comes to a conclusion, stray thoughts, anything at all?
I'd just like to say thank you to everyone. I'm really so grateful, and it's been such an incredible learning experience to work on this show. The support from fans, the enthusiasm, and the way that people have paid such close attention to the stories that we've been working to tell. It's just been so moving, and I am blown away and so grateful. When I was younger, I was the kind of fan that would just dig into everything and analyze everything. If I loved the cartoon, it would give me a strength and an excitement that would just carry through the whole rest of my life and lift me up. To see people react to our show that way, it's just been so incredible, and I'm so grateful, and I'm so honored. So, thank you.
Here's how Cartoon Network described the conclusion of the franchise prior to the last 10 episodes airing:0comments
"Steven Universe Future concludes as Steven is beginning to question his purpose as he runs out of Gems to help. Who is he if he’s not saving the world? And what is this strange new power that’s making him glow pink? Without other peoples' problems to solve, he’ll have to finally face his own."
Steven Universe Future aired its four-part series finale earlier tonight, if you somehow weren't already aware, and international watchers can look forward to the 10 recent episodes later this year. You can also check out all of our previous coverage of Steven Universe right here.