Created By: JMQwilleranOctober 24, 2012 Last Edited By: ArivneSeptember 16, 2015

Children's Show, Adult Characters

A show targeted specifically at young children focuses on the affairs of characters who are essentially adults.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
The show is targeted at children, often very young children, and often focuses stories on issues important to young children, yet the characters are for all intents and purposes adults. How do we know they're adults? Because they don't go to school, manage their own households, and in many cases hold jobs or drive vehicles. The shows may include a token child character or a few token children, but the main characters are adults.


Examples:

Western Animation
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
    • The show is targeted at children but the "mane" characters are adults. They manage their own affairs, in many cases hold important jobs, and if their parents are seen, it's only for a visit. In the show the token children are the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
    • My Little Pony Tales and "G3.5" are the only My Little Pony series to avert this trope, with the characters as middle schoolers and young children respectfully.
  • Though the characters of Winnie The Pooh are allegedly Christopher Robins's stuffed animals come to life and have many child-like qualities, they are essentially adults. Each lives in their house, they gather their own food, and otherwise tend to their own affairs. Roo is the token child, Lumpy as well in some later Disney installments, and Christopher Robin / later Darby are undefinable because they live separate from the Wood.
  • Spongebob Squarepants is canonically in his late 20s, lives alone, and has a job. All the major characters are likewise adults.
  • The Care Bears are adults, though they help kids with their affairs. Each is also intended to represent a child-like quality of emotion, such as the bear who likes to have fun, or the cheerful bear. In earlier installments, Hugs and Tugs were the token children, in the newest one, that's Wonderheart Bear.
  • Maisy Mouse is a very odd case. The characters each live in their own houses, and Maisy shown taking her own bath and driving vehicles. Yet on the TV show, the characters speak in a sort of baby babble, and one of the books depicts Maisy as going to school. So, which is it... adult or kids?

Community Feedback Replies: 32
  • October 24, 2012
    Duncan
  • October 24, 2012
    Sheora
    While I think this is tropeable, the examples are shaky and forced. Most of them deal with animated characters that are of an ambiguous age. If you want to get real examples for this, look at Mr Rogers, Pee Wees Playhouse, and shows like that. Also, beware of cruft in your examples like "lest we forget."
  • October 25, 2012
    JMQwilleran
    Just because they're of ambiguous age doesn't mean that they're shaky. That's sort of the point. Regardless of whether the program actually gives an age, the characters are presented as adults and the reason we know this is because the things they do are adult, at least as accepted by general society. Children don't drive cars. Children don't manage their own households, aren't expected to hold regular jobs, and don't live on their own. (Yes, I realize there are exceptions, but this isn't considered anywhere near normal in typical western society, which is where these shows are originating from.) Strawberry Shortcake does. Winnie the Pooh does. I'm not even sure how either of the shows that you mention apply. As for "lest we forget," I never really had any intention of including it in the final posted version.

    Back to examples, given Spongebob, I would guess we could count Scaredy Squirrel as well.
  • October 25, 2012
    triassicranger
    I can't remember its name, but don't we already have something in YKTTW that covered this?
  • October 25, 2012
    MorganWick
    It seems like what you're getting at isn't so much a children's show with adult characters so much as a children's show with independent, mature characters.
  • October 25, 2012
    Tuomas
    Most comics in Disney Ducks Comic Universe and Mickey Mouse Comic Universe are this, and so are the animated shorts and feature films starring the same characters. There are some stories focusing on kid characters (most notably Huey, Dewey and Louie, the nephews of Donald Duck), but the main characters (Donald Duck, Scrooge Mc Duck, Daisy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, etc) are all adults: they own houses, go to work, raise kids, etc.
  • October 25, 2012
    Tuomas
    Many of the best known Franco-Belgian kids' comics also have adult protagonists. Some examples:

  • October 25, 2012
    DRCEQ
    Blues Clues counts for this trope, but I don't know enough about it to write it as a proper example.
  • October 25, 2012
    Sheora
    Morgan Wick made my point perfectly. The way you named and described the trope, it fits the examples I told you. You need to rewrite your concept if you're trying to get across the idea that your examples fit.
  • October 26, 2012
    rolranx
    perhaps we should specify if this counts only to *very young* children shows, like Barney, Blues C Lues etc or if it counts towards older kids shows? If we count any cartoon written for a child under 13 to watch. There are so many boys cartoons like Transformers, GI Joe, etc etc that focus on male adults fighting some sort of 'battle' that this seems like it may reach People Sit On Chairs level of common.
  • November 2, 2012
    JMQwilleran
    Perhaps I should be a bit more clear then. I'm thinking of characters that specifically carry a child-like appearance and would be mistaken for children if not for the fact that their behavior and habits suggest that they are adults. Under that scale, the shows/characters I originally mentioned would qualify, but something like Blue's Clues would not, because Steve/Joe are visibly adults and more-or-less presented as such. Same for something like Blake and Mortimer. Spongebob and Scaredy, perhaps a bit more nebulous - could they be mistaken for children? Strawberry Shortcake and the Care Bears might also be nebulous under this, though they definitely have child-like qualities about them.

    Is that a bit more clear? Because that's really what I was trying to get at. The strange phenomenon of characters that seem to be kids presented as though they were more-or-less adults.
  • November 2, 2012
    MaxWest
    He Man And The Masters Of The Universe got quite adult with its adult cast at times. One episode dealt with Teela in anguish of the true identity of her biological mother and "the Problem with Power" involved He-Man/Prince Adam being tricked into thinking he actually killed someone! Definitely not your average children's show plots.
  • November 2, 2012
    Topazan
    ^^ Maybe it's not so much about the physical appearance of the characters, since many of the characters in the examples are non-human and therefor their age is not obvious. What I think those shows have in common is that the characters have childlike personalities. The characters in Strawberry shortcake, Winnie the Pooh, Spongebob, and my little pony are extremely naive, playful, and carefree. Even though they live by themselves and everything, they don't engage in adult forms of socialization or entertainment. Instead, they play the way children do. I would also add Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to that list.
  • April 20, 2013
    Noah1
  • April 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In Word World (based on the few times I've seen bits of it) all the characters are childlike - one even needs a nightlight - but they all live on their own and presumably take care of themselves just fine.
  • April 21, 2013
    justanotherrandomlurker
  • September 23, 2014
    Pichu-kun
    The Strawberry Shortcake example is dubious. The characters firmly in the Vague Age environment and look like children in all versions. The oldest they seem is somewhere around fourteen to sixteen.
  • September 23, 2014
    DAN004
    Plus, sometimes there's the trope Free Range Children or Adorably Precocious Child for when children goes to the boundaries of adult things. Oh, and Troubling Unchildlike Behavior as well.

    If these come in a kids' show, how would they make an impact to this ykttw?
  • October 3, 2014
    Pichu-kun
    Well, they're not adults so they don't count.
  • October 16, 2014
    rexpensive
    So did you mean for this to be more like showing child-like (but not explicitly children) characters as having adult responsibilities and problems? That sounds tropable, but I do not think the name fits that idea.

  • October 16, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ no, the characters must be clearly an adult. Being a Man Child isn't a must.
  • October 16, 2014
    rexpensive
    Sorry for being confusing, I was talking to JM Qwilleran.
  • October 16, 2014
    Pichu-kun
    Maybe split the trope into "Mature adult characters" and "Adult characters who act like teens or younger"?
  • October 16, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ no need to.
  • December 21, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump?
  • December 24, 2014
    bwburke94
    I seriously doubt MLP:FIM qualifies. We might have to limit this to humans to prevent MLP/Care Bears/et cetera.
  • September 10, 2015
    Pichu-kun
    Reviving this YKTTW because I was gonna make a trope about mature, adult characters in children's media. No, I am not grabbing this though; just adding examples.

    • The characters in Jem for the most part act their age and have age appropriate romances. Jerrica is a business woman and musician who takes care of kids at a foster house while Shana is a fashion designer. The Misfits do act immature often, especially Pizzazz, but they come off as bratty women instead of overgrown children.
    • DC Comics and Marvel Comics adaptations almost always have characters that act their age, whether they're a Kid Hero or an adult superhero.
    • The Gems in Steven Universe are not humans, they're aliens, but for all purposes are adults. They are Steven's Parental Substitute's and deal with realistic enough problems for adults.

  • September 15, 2015
    EdnaWalker
    • Inverted by South Park. The main characters are 8-9 year old kids in an adult show.
  • September 15, 2015
    Jokubas
    Well, this is definitely a trope in my eyes. The characters in Winnie the Pooh come from the imagination of a child, they can barely spell, they misinterpret words like Elephant (Heffalump), and plots often involve learning very basic things. And yet, as the description says, they own their own houses, grow their own food, and so on.

    I think My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is relatively similar. A young viewer is not going to consider the Ponies older than them, especially as there are several characters that act as adults and authority figures to them, and the plots often involve the characters learning pretty basic things about friendship. And yet, again, they seem to own their own houses or even businesses.

    It definitely stands out when the characters are learning, in-universe, lessons meant for a young audience, and yet the cast all have adult responsibilities. It's much different than, say, Chihaya in The Idolmaster, who's an exception in the cast for living on her own (not to mention the circumstances that justify it).

    In that respect, I think Spongebob would count for me. The characters are very childlike in their outlook and understanding of the world to facilitate plots for a younger audience (especially as Patrick got Flanderized), despite them living on their own and working and being implied to canonically be adults.
  • September 16, 2015
    Arivne
    • Examples section
  • September 16, 2015
    samitv
    • Balamory is a British series about a painter, a police officer, a teacher, a scientist, and a fitness fanatic - all adults but the brightly coloured houses and people are what make children like the show.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable