The Crystal Gems live in an ancient beachside temple and protect humanity from monsters and other threats. The Gems are ageless alien warriors who project female humanoid forms from magical gemstones at the core of their being.
As Steven tries to understand his gradually-expanding range of powers, he spends his days with his father Greg, his friend Connie, his magical pet lion, other residents of Beach City, and the Gems. He explores the abilities inherited from his mother, which include fusion—the ability of Gems to merge their bodies and abilities to form new, more-powerful personalities. The program's first season gradually reveals that the Crystal Gems are remnants of a great interstellar empire.
During their missions they visit ruins that were once important to Gem culture but have been derelict for millennia. The Gems are cut off from their home world, and Steven learns that many of the monsters and artifacts they encounter are Gems who were corrupted by a Gem weapon of mass destruction and can no longer maintain rational, humanoid form.
By the end of the first season, Steven learns that, millennia ago, the Gem empire intended to sterilize the Earth to incubate new Gems, but Rose Quartz led her supporters, the Crystal Gems, in a violent and apparently successful rebellion against the genocidal plan.
Five thousand years later, the Gem Homeworld's machinations again extend towards Earth with the arrival of hostile envoys Peridot and Jasper. In the second season, Peridot allies with and eventually joins the Crystal Gems to prevent Earth's destruction by a Gem "geo-weapon" buried in the planet. During the third season, Lapis Lazuli, an errant Homeworld Gem, decides to live on Earth with Peridot; Jasper is defeated and imprisoned, and Steven learns that his mother shattered one of the Gem empire's matriarchs, Pink Diamond.
In the fourth season, as Steven wrestles with his conflicted feelings about his mother's actions, Homeworld's remaining leaders return their full attention to Earth. The fifth season begins with Steven taken to Homeworld to stand trial for his mother's supposed crimes.
After escaping, he gradually learns the truth behind his mother's assassination of Pink Diamond: In , after former Cartoon Network vice-president of comedy animation Curtis Lelash asked the staff for ideas for a new series, Rebecca Sugar—an artist working for the network's series Adventure Time —described her initial ideas for what would become Steven Universe, and the project was chosen for development.
While developing her show, Sugar continued working on Adventure Time. The pilot is a slice-of-life episode that does not involve major events because the series' world was still in development. This unsuccessful experience helped Sugar develop the show's concept; she said, "to know that there is so much more that you can't see and the way that knowledge frustrates and excites and confuses and scares you". Her brother had no problem with it and trusted Sugar to use his name wisely.
Sugar and her team panicked because the series was going to be very different from the pilot episode. The pilot was popular when it was released, engendering forum discussions in which people expressed their hopes of seeing it on the air soon.
Those who knew Rebecca Sugar from Adventure Time were also interested. Positive reaction to the show reassured its crew. Some artists who had worked on the special, such as colorist Tiffany Ford and art directors Kevin Dart, Ellie Michalka and Jasmin Lai, were later invited to join the Steven Universe team. Jones-Quartey wanted to work with something new, retaining elements of the show's previous project.
He later said he over-used them, and they were criticized at the art presentation. Michalka did the painting. The series also expresses the importance of acceptance,   and explores relationships, LGBT identity, body shapes and "hues of skin in a colorful sci-fi magic display of diversity".
The series' plot is developing towards a distant goal; everything in between is kept flexible, partly because her intentions have "changed since I've started because I've grown up a lot" while working on the show.
Steven personifies the "love affair between fantasy and reality". The series' design was also inspired by her and her brother's interest in video games, comics and animation. Steven Sugar praised Dart's work and was inspired by him in college years, saying Dart had more ideas for the art than he did.
The Temple's dual faces were based on Guy Davis' ideas. Sugar also designed people, houses, cars, buildings and restaurants. Because of Rebecca Sugar's redesigned drawings, the two original locations had to be redrawn. Slump , which features a small environment in which the recurring characters live where they work. Steven Sugar made the boardwalk the focus of Steven Universe's human world. The coloring was done by Jones-Quartey. In drawing the characters for each episode, the crew has two weeks to make modifications.
Because of the characters' personalities, Garnet is square, Amethyst is a sphere and Pearl is a cone. The Gems' ability to shape-shift is a reference to older cartoons such as Tex Avery 's work for MGM , where characters would change at will. Although the Crystal Gems are intended to be serious characters, the writers wanted them to be "funny and weird" as well.
Working on both series simultaneously became impossible; she also encountered difficulty in the production of the episode, " Bad Little Boy ".
The episodes "Cheeseburger Backpack" and "Together Breakfast" were developed at this time. The storyboards are animated, using paper drawings and the production crew's designs, by one of two Korean studios; Sunmin and Rough Draft  and the production crew's designs. The series' storyboard artists are also its writers. During storyboard meetings, artists draw their ideas on post-it notes , which are then attached to walls, table and boxes in the corners of their conference room.
The drawings play a major role in forming episode ideas; Sugar looks at these designs and occasionally makes changes to key poses. Sugar likes to review and re-draw scenes and characters to add extra pathos and emotion to storyboards. This process can be quite complex; the storyboard artists must block out the cinematography and focus on scenic design in a way similar to film production.
After the panels are made, the thumbnail-storyboard artists draw mannerisms and dialogue based on their own experiences; Sugar draws "quintessential" scenes from her memories of hanging out with her brother after school.
The storyboards are again discussed, corrected and finally approved. Although the series' overall plot is established, the writers improvise to arrive at its ending; according to Matt Burnett, the storylines will be resolved by the series' end. They discuss episode pacing and vary each season's texture by balancing "lighter" and "heavier" story arcs. After further discussion and questions about the writing, an idea becomes an episode. After discussing a season's proposed episodes the "puzzle" is complete, and they begin writing a major story arc or a season finale.
Burnett said writing a season is like an algebraic equation "where one side is the season finale, and the x's and y's are the episodes we need for that solution to make sense"; he cited "Ocean Gem", "Steven the Sword Fighter", "Monster Buddies", "An Indirect Kiss" and "Serious Steven" as examples.
Those episodes led to the season-one finale as a minor story arc. In one, a scenario with characters is drawn and passed to another writer. The second writer adds a few sentences before giving it to a third, until the drawing has a three-act story. Burnett said he and Levin use fewer ideas from the storyboarders than they previously did; storyboarders change fewer things than they did before because the episodes have a "stronger continuity". The balance indicates Steven has the same interests on his human side as he does on his Gem side.
Levin said the Gem mythology and drama would have been less interesting if Steven was not as well-developed in the first few episodes. Grateful to work on a show which is unafraid to be "sincere and vulnerable", he said if every episode was emotional the series would become formulaic; happy episodes balance out emotional ones.
The character's powers and home-world technology are revealed at a "measured very slow pace", satisfying the viewer and keeping the series clear of superhero territory. According to storyboard artist Hilary Florido, much of the series' action and magic are narrative climaxes, demonstrating the characters' discoveries, difficulties and views.
Florido said if a character's evolution is not directly related to the plot, there is no drama. Although the writers could hint at future events, they prefer to focus on plot and develop Steven in real time. Levin said if the pilot tried to present Gem history in five minutes, the audience and protagonist would be equally confused.
If the characters visit old locations, the pre-existing backgrounds are modified for authenticity; it is likely locations would change slightly over time. Steven Sugar likes to hide narrative bits in the backgrounds because he believes the key to world-building is "having a cohesive underlying structure to everything".
The art was also inspired by Tao Te Ching , whose work highlights the importance of empty spaces, "like the space within a vase as being part of the vase that makes it useful". When painting the backgrounds, they use one primary and several secondary colors; Amanda Winterston and Jasmin Lai found suitable color combinations.
After the primary backgrounds are painted, they are sent to the color stylist, who chooses colors for a character or prop from model sheets, matching and complementing the storyboard and background. The lines of the character or prop are rarely colored. The lines are removed when scenes need light effects. The coloring in early season-one episodes was experimental because the stylist would have difficulty if a storyboard's character and background mixed together or a bright character walked unchanged into a shadow.
Mistakes became rare as the crew planned and checked storyboards. The primary backgrounds are made in Burbank; the secondary ones by Korean artists. The production team and animators communicate by email and sometimes use video chat when animating a major episode.
Before sending the episode to one of the studios, animation director Nick DeMayo and his team create a plan for the animators after reviewing the animatics. Mouth assignments for the characters, describing mouth shapes and timing for lip-syncing, follow. The black-and-white version is sent first, followed about two weeks later by the colored version  The animation is drawn and inked on paper, then scanned and colored digitally. The crew then arranges a "work print" meeting to discuss the episode and review it for errors.
DeMayo notes any errors, removes them and sends the episode back to the animation studio or to Cartoon Network's post-production department to fix any remaining issues. Cartoon Network asked Estelle to take the part, her first voice-acting role. She approached Scharpling for the part of Greg Universe , who was originally named Tom.
The Ruby Gems are voiced by Charlyne Yi , to whom Sugar wrote to say she was confident Yi would be perfect for the role. Cast members record together or separately; they are often recording multiple episodes. Each recording session covers a new episode and includes retakes for that episode or previous ones if needed. In group recording sessions, a maximum of six actors stand in a semicircle. If they like a take, the production assistant marks it and gives it to the animation editor for the episode's rough cut.
When a recording session begins, Sugar explains the storyboards and describes the sequences, character intention and the relationship between them; Osborne does the recording. Before the sessions, Sugar and the voice actors discuss new plot elements and shows them the advanced storyboards.
Magno said she enjoys the group recording sessions because the funny faces the cast members make while recording lines requiring emotion or movement often cause them to laugh. Multiple drafts of the theme song's lyrics were written.
The music is influenced by the works of Michael Jackson and Estelle;  and Sugar has cited Aimee Mann as "a huge influence". Volume 1, was released on June 2, Sugar asked Aivi to audition and agreed that producer Surasshu could join her.