"Edgy and angry, so zesty and tangy! There's new demographics When nobody asked for it!"
Retooling a show or theme for a different audience is an especially tricky process. Very successful shows are often structured around a specific appeal to demographics into a winning combo, with minor (un)intentional concessions to Periphery Demographics
, creating happy side revenue. This is evident in anime fandom's terms like shojo
being treated as quasi-genres. But actively retooling a show to a new specific audience tends to result in stuff not seen as good as the original, perhaps because it automatically invites comparisons. This can create bad situations like Recycled IN SPACE!
, although there are occasional gems. In less cynical situations, this may happen just because writers tend to be out of their element in different kinds of stories.
Note that the Audience Shift is different from a Genre Shift
, as the latter's changes usually keep the same kind of viewers.
Anime and Manga
- Pokémon Origins. While it's still family-friendly, it's the first (and so far, the only) Pokémon work to definitely be aimed at the franchise's adult fansnote more than its traditional demographic of children. Other incarnations are either "all-ages" (like the games, according to Word of God and Word of Dante) or strictly for kids (like the main anime).
- Similarly, the Mega Evolution specials are a spinoff of the main anime. Unlike the rest of the series, they are clearly meant to appeal to teenagers and young adults just as much as kids due to their older cast and focus on the "badass" mons, as well as their similarity to the popular Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 animated trailer.
- While the idea of Sasami from Tenchi Muyo! as a Magical Girl had been done both in parody and as a 'serious' story within the franchise, Sasami Magical Girls Club, a straight adaptation for young girls, is mostly ignored by the fandom.
- Despite being an ostensibly shonen production, The Vision of Escaflowne tended to fall in the middle ground of fandom. Interestingly, its two print adaptions are more obviously marketed to a male audience and a female audience but are usually seen as inferior.
- The OAVs of Magic Knight Rayearth are likewise made with a knowledge of the show's male fandom, to detrimental results.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is an odd case, being a fanboy Dating Sim spin-off. It mutated into a Magical Girl show, of which (wholesome) versions are usually targeted to young girls. However, its philosophy and treatment of the main character was very different than shoujo usual plays, which ended up attracting the usual fans who wanted something different. This group is big enough that some countries that licensed it cut out the Fanservice and ended up marketing directly to this younger age group.
- There are a few Shounen titles which have had Seinen releases in the future (generally in Manga). Some of these instances are Fist of the North Star, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and Trigun.
- The anime version of Rosario + Vampire is apparently designed for a male audience, moreso than the manga was. Not everyone was happy about this though.
- GaoGaiGar was ostensibly a kid's show when it originally aired in 1997. The sequel OVA series, GaoGaiGar FINAL, tried banking on the Periphery Demographic with some Darker and Edgier content.
- The Astro Fighter Sunred anime was based on a seinen manga, yet with the removal of some sex jokes and a downplay of the violence to the cartoonish the result was a perfectly kid-friendly sentai parody that aired on a timeslot for children, without losing any of the underlying satire and adult-aimed situational comedy of the original.
- Shugo Chara Party!, the third anime season of Shugo Chara! was aimed at the preschool/early elementary crowd, while the previous seasons were aimed at older children/teenagers. It unsurprisingly bombed, and pretty much killed off the franchise in Japan.
- Smile Precure was the first Pretty Cure series that tried appealing to otaku and little kids (along with the girls who usually watch it) with a simplistic plot and Moe eye candy. While it does have its fans, it's generally considered one of the weakest entries in the franchise.
- Marvel and DC superhero comics have a long history of this. Originally they were meant for anyone but then The Comics Code happened so they changed to make them more kid-friendly. Eventually both sides got tired of obeying the comics code and began aiming the comics toward older and older audiences. Now the comics are mostly targeted at teens and adults.
- The Gargoyles continuation comic and its spin-off, Bad Guys, have a much more adult bent to them, with things like stabbing (with blood!), suicides, and even more complex characterization than the TV series had.
- 2000 AD was initially aimed at 8-12 year old boys, but like what happened with American comics, gradually started appealing to older tastes as its readers aged. In the late 90s, Tharg attempted to launch a new comic called Earthside 8 to bring in 2000 AD's original demographic, but the plan was scrapped.
- Archie Comics will occasionally feature a story in which the characters are involved in dangerous or hostage situation, usually featuring a villain with some sort of firearm. At some point Archie Comics decided it needed to be more "kid friendly" and edited out said guns when stories are reprinted. The results were usually odd; Archie and friends would be extremely intimidated by people who were simply pointing at them and unarmed people are depicted walking or running as if they were holding an invisible rifle.
- In addition to the above, there were a few rare comics that seemingly have stopped being reprinted presumably due to subject matter. One involved Betty and Veronica discussing about Archie (and explicitly calling him "sexy"). An early comic of Cheryl Blossom featured her attempting to go topless at a beach, while her brother disguised a beer can as a soda can. The second comic can be found in a "Best of Archie Comics" release, but otherwise neither of them have been reprinted in over a decade (despite the company's tendency to frequently reprint comics from well over 20 years ago).
- The film of The Lovely Bones had an initially unintentional Audience Shift. It was made tame enough to be rated PG-13 so the scriptwriters' children could watch it, and in marketing tests it did much, much better with teenage girls than with adults. Paramount advertised it heavily on fan blogs for Twilight.
- Toy Story, where Andy's age roughly mirrored the viewers'. Toy Story 3, released fifteen years after 1, is pretty much about the loss of childhood innocence and entering the adult world, and is very much written with the college audience as the first priority.
- Star Wars arguably went from a sci-fi series with adults in mind to a version more suitable for children starting with Return of the Jedi; children have been a large Periphery Demographic of the series since its release.
- Clash of the Titans went from being a film for families and young children with the original to being a movie for teenage boys and college students for the remake (as a way to emulate the success of violent action films such as 300).
- Gross-Out Comedies like Animal House and Porky's were originally made with an adult audience in mind (specifically, they were meant to be nostalgic throwbacks for adults who were in high school or college when those movies took place). However, once teenagers turned out to be the main audience for those movies (with adults actually being offended by them), the demographic for such films shifted to teenagers (with the nostalgic settings dropped).
- Harry Potter started out as a kids' series, but slowly mutated into more of a young-adult series as the primary fanbase grew older. J. K. Rowling supposedly wrote the later books to acknowledge this, introducing themes when she thought the audience would be ready - thus dating (the Yule Ball) and the death of a schoolmate in Book 4, etcetera.
- The Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys franchises got a little Spin-Off-happy in the 1980s, and ever since, they've created several spin-off series designed to audience shift in both directions.
- Each series has had two Spin-Off Babies series shifting even younger than the original preteen markets. Nancy had the Nancy Drew Notebooks and Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, while the Hardys has The Clues Brothers and The Secret Files.
- They also each had a Darker and Edgier spinoff geared toward teen and young adult audiences. The Nancy Drew Files and The Hardy Boys Casefiles, and their crossover Supermysteries all dialed up the romance, upped the body count, and dealt with much more mature content (in the very first Casefile, Joe's girlfriend is blown up by a terrorist's car bomb.)
- The Dukes of Hazzard began as a more serious, adult-oriented television series. After the first few episodes were filmed and audience testing began, the studio decided it was playing better to younger audiences and the series was toned down and made more family friendly.
- Conversely, the game show Family Feud has become more adult-oriented over time. It can be argued that this started when Ray Combs became host, although a notable shift was in 2010: not only was Steve Harvey introduced to YouTube before he made his television debut, but adult-themed questions became the norm.
- Happens regularly to teen oriented pop bands (Duran Duran, the Backstreet Boys, and Bon Jovi being three obvious examples) who choose to grow up with their original fans, moving on to a softer, more mature sound, rather than trying to win over a new generation of teens.
- Linkin Park claims that their shift in sound is as well. Moving from powerful guitars, angsting and screaming to a softer yet still hard sound with more of political angsting rather than a personal angsting.
- The Three Month Rule aside, the WWE has undergone two major retools to shift their audience appeal. Throughout the 80s, they had been geared heavily toward a family friendly product, headlined by Hulk Hogan and other colorful characters. Around 1993, with his top stars having been on top of the card for the better part of a decade, Vince McMahon shifted into the "New Generation" era, putting a bit more athleticism into the ring and gradually moving away from cards filled with one-sided squash matches. The idea was that the New Generation would attract a new generation of fans to the sport, headlined by Bret Hart, Diesel, Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, and The Undertaker.
- Spurred on by the more athletic product being delivered by WCW at the time, the New Generation Era morphed into the Attitude Era around 1998. No longer making any pretense of being child friendly, the Attitude Era was aimed squarely at the rich in disposable income 18-to-25 demographic, with a heavy emphasis on in-ring violence, sex appeal, and more adult storylines. After WCW collapsed and WWE was left standing on top of the heap, the need for the Attitude Era had passed. The avid teen viewership was starting to grow up and move on and, thanks largely to its edgy product, younger viewers had been discouraged from watching. Starting in late 2002, the second major retool began with the rise of stars like John Cena and Randy Orton, largely discouraging blatant swearing and over-the-top hardcore violence on the weekly shows and toning down the amount of female Fanservice. The result is a much more family-friendly, if not as revolutionary product, albeit one that acknowledges a more "educated" wrestling audience by not insulting their intelligence. As much.
- The mean age of the RuneScape players has gotten older. Jagex has acknowledged that and many things can be seen as a result such as more sophisticated storylines and eventually, making the profanity filter optional.
- Neopets was originally designed for college students, but over time its primary demographic has shifted younger and younger until now, it's mainly aimed at little kids. This can lead to What Do You Mean, It's for Kids? when they stumble upon some of the remnants of its early days.
- Facebook was originally just for college students, but then it opened up to high school students as well, and eventually to everyone. This is part of the reason for its many layout changes over the years (for example, the decision to make it less oriented around school and work networks came not long after opening the site to everyone).
- G.I. Joe is a franchise that was traditionally aimed as Merchandise-Driven for children. While the comics and movie always tended to attract a more adult audience, G.I. Joe: Resolute is so far the sole animated exception. Granted Hasbro had flirted with the idea since Transformers: The Movie and G.I. Joe: Renegades is fairly dark for a kids show, but GI Joe Resolute was the first GI Joe production to be aimed at older viewers only.
- Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon, due to Executive Meddling, went all-out with all the grossness, violence and Ho Yay that could only be hinted at in the original show. Many claim that this was the show's downfall, as it took too far what was already borderline Up to Eleven in the first place.
- Spongebob Square Pants changed noticeably when teens and grownups started watching it and the kids who were around during its inception grew up.
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is this, shifting the demographics from all-ages to seven-and-under. Other than the aforementioned kids, the only people who seemed to like it are parents glad that their toddlers can sit still for thirty minutes, for once.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is aimed at a toddler to mid elementary demographic. My Little Pony Equestria Girls is aimed at a more late elementary to middle school aged demographic, somewhere between 9 and 13.
- A mild example with newer episodes of The Simpsons which add more pop-culture references and sight gags (as well as more edgy humour) in order to try and appeal to young viewers.
- Toonami, originally aired during the daytime with programs aimed at kids and pre-teens. When it was Un-Canceled, it received a new placement after the watershed on [adult swim]. A necessary evil, as in this day and age, it can feel as if almost every anime dub outside of Pokémon contains varying degrees of content that seen as child-unfriendly in certain places and it was probably deemed easier to air the revived block later than argue with soccer moms.
- This is arguably not an audience shift, as it's still aimed at the exact same group of people, who have simply aged since watching Toonami as kids.