Rebecca Sugar was recently interviewed by podcast Comic News Insider, and she provided some new and interesting tidbits about Steven Universe and some of her other work.
The whole podcast can be found on Itunes, or listened to here. Rebecca’s interview starts around 40:25.
Here are some of the highlights:
40:55 – Rebecca was working on Steven Universe while working at Adventure Time. She specifically mentioned boarding the pilot of SU while boarding “Lady & Peebles” for AT.
42:25 – Rebecca says the main plot ideas of Steven Universe were preplanned. She always knew about Garnet’s eyes and fusion status. She had Sardonyx drawn before the pilot. She had charts for every fusion combination and their weapons.
44:15 – Rebecca confirms that the story changes, but not because of network notes or fan reactions. It takes about a year to make an episode so she says it’s fun to watch fans react but that doesn’t influence the show. She was happy to see that fans wanted to see Peridot redeemed because that arc had already been written when the audience was introduced to her as a character!
45:25 – Rebecca jokes that being a showrunner has “aged her a decade.” She loves the collaborative atmosphere, citing specifically the idea that Sapphire is always relating to sight and seeing, Ruby to touch and feeling. She also says Sapphire didn’t always have one eye.
The characters of Ruby and Sapphire weren’t fleshed out until collaboration happened–they sort of “became” Ian Jones-Quartey and Rebecca, since they were in a relationship, running the show, and being together all the time. “Stronger Than You” is semi-autobiographical in that regard as well.
48:35 – On the songwriting process for Steven Universe, Rebecca says she writes premises and outlines of songs that will go into episodes. She’ll give and get direction like: “In the course of the song, they have to learn this, or they start out feeling this way… then I’ll take it home and work on it before we end up boarding it. The best case scenario is that I have something to give to everyone when they start to draw it.”
50:00 – More confirmation there is an upcoming full musical episode, which will feature seven songs in eleven minutes! There is a song by Jeff Liu and Ben Levin, but when Joe Johnston was drawing the song he added a Pearl verse. Rebecca loves the storyboard format because drawing and writing are inseparable, which means songs are very visual as well.
51:02 – Shelby Rabara (the voice of Peridot) had auditioned for Garnet! Jennifer Paz (Lapis) was almost Amethyst. There is tap dancing in the musical episode, and it’s Shelby Rabara’s tapping recorded.
52:30 – Rebecca wouldn’t reveal who her dream song cast would be because it’s a spoiler, but it’ll come up “in the fall.”
55:00 – Patty LuPone, voice of Yellow Diamond and broadway superstar, corrected the grammar of one of her lines from “by who?” to “by whoM?”
56:00 – Rebecca hints at a Patty LuPone song!
56:10 – On fusion, Rebecca says she wanted to explore a new way to talk about relationships. She says it started as a geeky excitement of “blank + blank = blank and has a hammer!” But of course the concept has developed beautifully from there. “I’m so interested in ways people change each other. When you’re with someone, you are not the same person necessarily you are when you’re with someone else. Especially if it’s someone you’re close to… the space between people becomes a person.”
58:50 – When an interviewer mentioned Pearl’s “unrequited” love for Rose, Rebecca was quick to say: “I don’t know that I would call it unrequited!” Personally, I’ve been aware since “Rose’s Scabbard” that these characters were romantically involved, but there are still large contingents of the fandom who say otherwise. It’s very helpful to have word of God confirmation that these lovely aliens had reciprocal feelings for each other (not to say it wasn’t complicated!). I can’t wait to see more of their backstory fleshed out.
59:30 – Rebecca’s brother Steven Sugar, on whom Steven-the-character is based, drew comics with Rebecca as kids. She still talks to Steven about the show, and praised his personal project “Friday Knights.” Because she’s so busy with the show, and has little time to practice, she laments that “he’s getting so much better than me at drawing!”
1:00:05 – Rebecca is very shy.
1:01:55 – When asked what she would do with an 8-episode miniseries from Cartoon Network to do with what she chose, Rebecca replied she’d like to explore her old comic, Pug Davis.
1:03:15 – Rebecca’s not really involved with the Steven Universe comics, but she’s excited for them. She mentions that show canon is the only absolute canon, and that even her personal stuff (such as a storybook based on beloved episode “The Answer!”) wouldn’t be at that tier. She explains the writer’s room is tight, and that group consensus is important.
1:04:45 – She would love to team up with Adam Muto of Adventure Time, but seems like she doesn’t think a crossover would work. AT is our world but in the future, whereas SU is an alternate timeline of our present.
1:05:00 – She loves writing music for Ice King.
1:05:50 – Rebecca says the voice actors try to record things together whenever possible. “Without Deedee [Pearl], Michaela [Amethyst] and Zach [Steven] can have a bad influence on each other.” I love how much these VAs reflect their characters, and this makes me itch for a Steven-Amethyst fusion!
1:08:50 – Rebecca wrote the bridges of the extended intro at an airport, and now that’s all she can think about when she goes through security.
1:10:05 – “Everything Stays,” which was written for the recent 8-part Adventure Time miniseries “Stakes,” is apparently the most personal song she’s ever written.
1:11:30 – “As a control freak…” aka more evidence Rebecca Sugar most closely identifies with Pearl.
1:12:55 – Rebecca does have a “finite ending” in mind for SU.
1:13:12 – But the story is always changing; how to tell the story is always changing. Why she wants to do it is always changing.
As always, Rebecca Sugar is a delight to listen to. She is changing the media landscape around us as we speak, and I hope she continues to make cartoons for as long as she is willing and able!
Author: K-K Bracken
K-K Bracken grew up overseas and in the Washington, DC area, went to the Ohio State University to get her BA in English, and has been in Columbus, Ohio ever since. She is currently querying her first novel ORCHESTRATION under the name Bracken Beveridge. She is the founder and organizer for the first Steven Universe exclusive fan convention, Beach City Con.
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