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What Could Have Been / Steven Universe

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One of the first known posters for Steven Universe.

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    Pre-series development 
  • The very earliest concepts — before even a finished pitch for the pilot — had the same basic premise and principal cast, but much was radically revised even by the pilot:
    • Steven was an apparent-Muggle teenager who joined the main group as an "intern", not knowing the others beforehand. He was still the son of their former leader, which gave him powers as well, but this would be something they all discovered partway into the series.
    • The (yet-unnamed group equivalent to the) Crystal Gems weren't aliens at all, but beings created in a magic-filled alternate universe by "the Mother" and sent to protect humanity thousands of years ago. It would turn out that the monsters attacking in the present were also sent by Mother, who had since changed her mind and decided to destroy humanity.
    • The group's leader was originally named "Onyx". This was changed early enough that even her very first sketch has said name replaced by "Garnet". Other possible names include "Zircon" and "Zincide".
    • Early sketches for the pilot pitch mention a prototype for Connie, but she had her mother's name, Priyanka.
  • The pilot had numerous differences from the final show: The artstyle was more realistic, everyone seemed to have different chemistry with each other (for instance, Amethyst and Pearl seemed to get along better, Pearl teased Steven, and Steven both knew and reciprocated Lars's dislike for him), the Temple was called the "Crystal Palace" and looked incredibly different, the Big Donut was right across the street, and Garnet's gauntlets were golden and showcased her gems in the center of them.
  • There were many ideas considered during the period of the pilot's production without being directly shown, which ultimately weren't used in the final show:
    • The aforementioned concept of the Gems being from another dimension stood until sometime between the pilot and series.
    • Rose could visit Steven in his dreams — and he would wake up surrounded by roses whenever she did.
    • The Gems were explicitly supposed to be/look like teenagers, not ageless but generally adult-looking.
    • On a related note, the Crystal Gems were to disguise themselves as humans to hang out amongst them. Pearl acted as their chauffeur, and her driving cars at various points in the final series is a remnant of this.
    • Rose was a lot slimmer than she is in the show. Her hair was also straight and wavy instead of bunched up with ringlets.
  • At one point, the Crystal Temple was called the Obsidian Temple. Obsidian, as it turns out, is the fusion of the Crystal Gems the temple is modeled after.

  • Matthew Moy (Lars) also auditioned to play Steven. This possibly inspired the plot of "The New Lars", where Steven possesses Lars's body (and thus speaks with his voice).
  • Deedee Magno-Hall (Pearl) also auditioned to voice Sadie.
  • Shelby Rabara (Peridot) auditioned for all four of the main characters as well as Stevonnie, getting closest to being cast as Garnet.
  • Jennifer Paz (Lapis Lazuli) auditioned to be Amethyst. "The New Crystal Gems" pokes fun at both this and the above by having Peridot and Lapis impersonate Garnet and Amethyst.
  • Erica Luttrell (Sapphire) also auditioned to be Garnet. This played into her being cast as Sapphire, as Rebecca wanted to work with her.
  • Charlyne Yi (Ruby) also auditioned for Stevonnie.
  • Estelle (Garnet) also auditioned for Amethyst.
  • Cristina Vee auditioned for Spinel

    Characters and Character Design 
  • Rebecca Sugar came up with Greg's character with Tom Scharpling in mind to play him, and so started with the name "Tom". She changed it because she realized that could make things awkward when asking him to play the part.
  • When coming up with ideas for the show's supporting cast, there were numerous characters that were shifted around or heavily reworked:
    • One idea was for a pizza delivery boy that drove around Beach City and was an Author Avatar of Ian Jones-Quartey. He ended up being replaced by the Pizza family, who are based on Jones-Quartey's family. Ian himself still appears as one of the background characters often used for crowd shots.
    • Another idea was for a Heroic Wannabe named "Baby" who threw soda cans at people as a Calling Card. His role was loosely equivalent to Ronaldo, but Baby thought of himself as more of an action hero than an investigator.
    • It was once planned that there would be several humans besides Greg that the Crystal Gems were friends with. This role mostly ended up going to Connie.
  • Lion was originally going to look weirder, with his appearance inspired by Chinese guardian lion statues.
  • A rejected idea regarding Garnet's permafusion status was that they were Fused most of the time not voluntarily, but because they needed to treat an injury, or because they couldn't cope with Rose's death separately.
  • Early ideas for Bismuth's design included multi-colored bands around her face and arms/wrists, plus eyes with black sclera. The former were replaced by her Multicolored Hair, while the latter were specifically judged as too overtly menacing for someone whose bad side is meant to be a surprise.
  • Though the basic concept for Sardonyx's character was made early on, for a long time her personality was very stoic and quiet, rather than a flamboyant Performance Artist.
  • Concept art shows that Leggy and Eyeball's gems were originally on the other side of their bodies, something that stuck with Leggy during the storyboards, but was changed in the final episode.
  • The Off Colors originally had two more members, a pair of Quartzes named Flint and Chert who went AWOL for refusing to fight. They were dropped because the group was already pretty sizable, and didn't quite fit the theme of the rest of the group (who were rejected by Homeworld for the way they were, rather than acts they chose to do). Flint and Chert would later appear briefly in Future.
  • The first sketch of Lars as a Space Pirate had a different style of cape, while the scar was much larger and on the other eye. One idea floated for his resurrected form was only a teardrop-shaped patch of skin changing to pink, not all of it.
  • The character designer for Nephrite's uncorrupted form thought of giving her sharp teeth, but hated how much it made her look like Mike Wazowski.
  • The crew tried giving Pearl's third outfit a scarf, mostly so Rainbow Quartz 2.0 would have it, but didn't like how she "looked like a kid detective" wearing it.
  • For Garnet's third form, it was considered making her new glasses clear instead of opaque.
  • The crew toyed around with star-shaped hair for Peridot's third form, but decided against it, as that combined with her new glasses would've changed her silhouette too much.
  • The earliest concepts for Steg had a very pointy mohawk and a tied up ponytail with spikes on the end (like a stegosaurus tail), a strong contrast to the enormous, flowing hair from the final design.

    Plot and Episodes 
  • The first episode storyboarded was shelved before going any further, or even getting a formal title — the crew simply called it "the shield episode". It was about Steven trying to summon his Gem weapon, eventually doing so to save himself and his father from being hit by a car. The Gems disguised themselves as humans to go out in public and Rose appeared in Steven's dream, both concepts rejected for the series proper. There was a song called "The Meatball Sub Song" and Pearl drove an old car. "Gem Glow", the actual series premiere, reused the basic plot of Steven trying to use his Gem weapon, while Pearl driving around town in an old car was used for "Last One Out of Beach City", three whole seasons later.
  • While creating the outline for "Tiger Millionaire", the writers came up with a boatload of ideas for pro-wrestlers in the Beach City Underground, but obviously only a few made it into the actual episode.
  • "Steven and the Stevens" was meant to have Steven's pilot design appear among the room full of time clones, but it ended up being too hard to convey the difference to the animators (as the pilot was animated by a different studio than the series).
  • In "Mirror Gem", one of the earlier concepts for getting Steven to deliver a Big "NO!" would be during Mayor Dewey's speech, in response to Dewey attempting to sing to the crowd.
  • "Ocean Gem":
    • This episode was originally conceived as the series finale just because the crew had no idea whether or not the show would get renewed, hence its massive Info Dump. If it was the series finale, the main difference would be that Garnet and Pearl's dialogue at the end would be reworded from a Sequel Hook to something more conclusive.
    • During the fight with Lapis, instead of Greg breaking his leg, he was originally going to lose it entirely, and it would've been replaced by a robotic one for the rest of the series.
  • "Lion 3: Straight to Video" (35th) and "Story for Steven" (48th) were pitched as airing in the opposite order than they ended up. Jeff Liu and Joe Johnston, the storyboard artists for both episodes, thought it was better for Steven to see Rose and hear her voice on a video before hearing a story about her from Greg.
  • "Lion 3: Straight to Video" also had a song written early on for the Dream Sequence that ended up being cut.
  • "Marble Madness" went through two major rewrites during the outlining stage. The original idea was that Steven would end up trapped with one of the Robonoids and befriend it, but it was decided this was too similar to the plot of the previous episodes "Steven's Lion" and "Monster Buddies". The second outline was about a single Robonoid breaking when it landed on Earth, being repaired by the Crystal Gems to follow it, and Steven following along in secret when the others don't let him come with. It was decided this didn't have much going on at the start and that Steven being kept out of the mission didn't make sense. The final draft was written with a series of Robonoids dropping onto Earth and the whole team, Steven included, following one they allow to land safely.
  • One dropped idea for the Barn Arc was a scene parodying the bible-reading in A Charlie Brown Christmas where Peridot would recite a bunch of things about Gem mythology, expecting the others to immediately understand what she's talking about.
  • In a very early draft for "Mr. Greg", Pearl ended up so angry at Greg she started throwing cars at him.
  • "Bubbled" was initially conceived as Steven's dream after he lost consciousness while floating around his bubble in space. In it, Steven is a private detective investigating Pink Diamond's murder. The crew decided this was a bad time for a plot like this, as Steven had just found out she was dead.
  • In the early storyboard for "Mindful Education", the injuries Connie accidentally inflicted on her classmate were far more severe: instead of Jeff ending up with one arm in a sling, he was wheelchair-bound with an arm and leg each in a cast.
  • The Barn Arc was originally planned to end with an episode called "Greg's Brother". Judging from the title, it was an earlier version of "Gem Harvest" (which came a season later) where Andy was Greg's brother, not his cousin.
  • "Steven's Dream" was conceived as two episodes: The first included Steven making a trip into Rose's room, then ended when Steven and Greg planned a trip to Korea. The second was called "Steven Abroad" and would have mostly been a Vacation Episode about said trip before leading into the Out of This World Rescue Arc. However, the writers decided to hurry to the Crystal Gems' journey into outer space, and so merged the episodes into one, moving Steven's visit to Rose's room to the later episode "Storm in the Room" and cutting the vacation in Korea down to a montage.
  • In an older version of the Out of This World Rescue Arc, Greg was going to befriend the Famethyst right off the bat. He was also going to wear a red jacket.
  • "I Am My Mom" was originally going to focus more on Lars and Sadie and where they're at in their relationship, with the former pouring his heart out to the latter about how much of a changed person he's become. Lars still would've ended up hiding during the battle against Topaz, leaving him stuck on the ship, but not before telling Sadie "I'll never abandon you again!". The scene was cut because talking at such an inopportune time made Sadie and Lars both come off as self-absorbed, and it was somewhat redundant when the next episode would mostly be about Steven and Lars talking with each other (for instance, Lars would admit he bailed on going to the potluck in "The Good Lars" before getting kidnapped, which became something discussed in "Stuck Together").
  • At one point, "Off Colors" would've ended on a cliffhanger with Lars's death, with his resurrection being in the next episode. It was decided to end the episode with him being brought back to life, as ending the episode on his death would've been too depressing and grim.
  • The Future Music playing at the Homeworld ball in "Together Alone" was at one point planned to be sung by a Vocaloid or similar voice synth program, but the composer decided "it wasn't hammy enough" and just performed the vocals himself.
  • The titular song of "Change Your Mind" wasn't even written for the show at all. It was something Rebecca Sugar wrote for herself when she was frustrated over the network's resistance to the aforementioned wedding.

    The Movie 
  • During early drafts, the looming threat of the movie was that Spinel would (almost) regain her memories at multiple points, and Steven would hit her with the Rejuvenator each time to keep her violent self from hurting people. They decided they needed to raise the stakes higher, and so introduced the Injector and the idea that Steven was trying to restore her memory.
  • Spinel's character design started with just the idea of incorporating hearts somehow—the first drawing was "just a heart with a face"—from which the artists came up with an enormous variety of designs. One was a very short, cartoony design with heart-shaped hair and parachute pants forming a heart. Another was more similar to Pink's, with visible, glossed lips and jester-inspired eyelashes. One looked like a combination of Minnie Mouse and Shadow the Hedgehog.
  • During initial storyboards, Connie wore her space camp outfit even before she left to go there.
  • The scene of Steven and the amnesiac Amethyst in Vidalia's garage was storyboarded to be longer. Amethyst would shapeshift into more objects, Vidalia herself showed up, and Steven explains to her why Amethyst was like she was.
  • Steven and Greg fusing to form Steg was another thing they'd been thinking of since developing the first season, with one early idea being that it was for a Battle of the Bands. Steg was also originally going to be called Mr. Multi-verse, and the battle of the bands episode would have featured Marty in some fashion.
  • In early storyboards for "True Kinda Love", the Crystal Gems attacked Spinel aggressively. Co-director Joe Johnston thought they came off as too mean, so it was redone with them countering Spinel's attacks instead.
  • A special theatrical Sing-A-Long edition was planned by Fathom Events, complete with an exclusive premiere of the episode "Homeworld Bound" (which featured Spinel), only for the event to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.



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