I don’t know how I missed this press release, but last month, Cartoon Network announced that they will produce two new series: Peter Browngardt’s Uncle Grandpa, based on a popular pilot of the same name that Browngardt made a few years ago, and Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe.
The latter announcement is particularly significant for an ignominious reason: this marks the first time in Cartoon Network’s twenty-year history that they have greenlit a children’s entertainment series created by a solo woman creator. It’s a little too early to start celebrating the fact that Cartoon Network is producing a show by a woman, but it does represent a baby step in the right direction.
Sugar is also among the new generation of creators who established a reputation online before attracting the attention of the animation industry. Contrast this to the path of animation creators past (Seth MacFarlane, Genndy Tartakovsky, John Kricfalusi) when artists remained largely anonymous to the public before being made famous by their shows. It’s a turning point in animation culture—artists no longer need the reach of a network to establish a fanbase, and further, networks now mostly react to trending artists instead of launch new careers.
It’s been particularly gratifying to watch Rebecca Sugar’s meteoric rise to fame because Cartoon Brew was the first major media outlet to promote her work — all the way back in 2007 when she was a twenty-year-old animation student in New York who enjoyed making whimsically dirty drawings of famous cartoon characters. At that time, I wrote, “Rebecca Sugar is ridiculously talented…she’s certainly an artist with a bright future ahead of her.” We’ve been following her development ever since, and selected her thesis film Singles for our annual Student Animation Festival in 2009.
After graduating from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, Sugar moved to Los Angeles where she began working as a writer, storyboard artist and songwriter on the series Adventure Time. Sugar’s new show Steven Universe is a “coming-of-age story told from the perspective of Steven, the youngest member of a team of magical Guardians of the Universe.” Who knows what it all means, but with Rebecca at the helm, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for this one.