Steven Universe Creator Rebecca Sugar Explains How Spinel Was Designed

With Steven Universe Future on the horizon, it only felt right to take a look back at everything [...]

With Steven Universe Future on the horizon, it only felt right to take a look back at everything that came before in the franchise. With that in mind, we'd like to present a never-before-published segment of an interview with creator Rebecca Sugar conducted around the time of Steven Universe: The Movie's release -- all about the lovable villain Spinel.

Warning: Spoilers below for Steven Universe: The Movie. Like, serious spoilers.

If you're not familiar, Spinel is the movie's antagonist. She was left to wait all by herself for thousands of years at Pink Diamond's behest, and the realization that she had waited for nothing basically broke her. She comes to Earth to take her revenge on Steven, and the whole thing plays out from there. When given the opportunity, we asked Sugar about how Spinel was designed, and her answer was enlightening, to say the least.

Steven Universe The Movie Spinel Spinel feels very distinct from every previously revealed Gem. She's, for lack of a better term, extremely cartoony. How did that design come to fruition? Is it a mixture of storyboarders plus the fact that Sarah [Stiles, voice of Spinel,] is pushing this to the limit? How did Spinel become Spinel?

Rebecca Sugar: Oh, that is very much in her DNA. When we started working on this, the first concept for her is that she would be an old rubber hose cartoon because you have to understand that she has been frozen in time, that she's old. She hasn't had a chance to develop, and to change, and live these arcs that our main character cartoons have. Looking at animation semiotically, it made sense that she'd have to look like this cartoon that's been trapped in time and denied this opportunity to grow. From the very beginning we knew that she would have to look, and move, and feel specifically out of place in the present and that that would be part of what makes her threatening and part of what makes her charming.

There's also a recurring theme in Steven Universe where he's faced with animation tropes that are old, and they just don't really work for him. He's clashing with them. All of the final arc of season five is Steven coming up against these old animated fairytale concepts that he just doesn't fit inside. There was a piece of Homeworld, there was a piece of that conflict that we hadn't gotten to do yet, and that is the old school rubber hose cartoon. We did returning to the castle. We did the mice making his clothes.

We have always had this theme of the friction between Steven and old notions of what a cartoon or what an animated piece of media should be, so it was only right. I've been waiting for so long to get to do a cartoon character like this because some of my favorite animation of all time is Fleischer cartoons, especially Grim Natwick, Betty Boop drawings. I really wanted to pay homage to the classic Ub Iwerks cartoon bounce. It was just exciting to have a story that lent itself to needing someone to feel old in that way.


What do you think of Sugar's response about Spinel here? Are you excited to watch the upcoming Steven Universe Future? Let us know in the comments, or hit me up directly on Twitter at @rollinbishop to talk all things animation! You can also check out our full review of the film, which we gave 5 out of 5, right here.

Steven Universe: The Movie is now available both digitally and on home media wherever such things are sold. While the film takes place after the events of the Steven Universe television series, a new epilogue limited series, Steven Universe Future, is seemingly set to wrap the franchise up. Steven Universe Future is set to premiere on December 7th. You can check out all of our previous coverage of Steven Universe: The Movie right here.