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.