Audience Shift

"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 and shonen 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, and eventually lead to Pandering to the Base, 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.

Sometimes, this is a result of a long-since-discontinued series being revived years after the fact. Technically, it's aimed at the same demographic as before—they're just older and can handle more adult things now. Of course, remember that Tropes Are Tools; it can be hard for less experienced writers to work more mature material into the aforementioned series without coming off as pandering, and even if the transition is handled relatively well, it can still be disconcerting to see characters the audience has treasured since childhood suddenly start making sex jokes.

Note that the Audience Shift is different from a Genre Shift, as the latter's changes usually keep the same kind of viewers.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Pokémon Origins: While it's still family-friendly, it's the first Pokémon work to definitely be aimed at the franchise's adult fansnote  more than its traditional demographic of children. Other incarnations are mostly "all-ages" (like the main RPG games) or for kids. Pokémon Generations, its Spiritual Successor, continues this trend.
  • Similarly, the Mega Evolution specials are a spinoff of the main Pokémon 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.
  • Saiyuki was originally shonen manga but shifted to a josei publication.
  • 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 infamous anime version of Rosario + Vampire was aimed at a male audience, moreso than the manga was. Its emphasis on sexual fanservice at the expense of the original plot of the manga was a cause of outrage among fans, many of whom to this day are still demanding a more manga-faithful reboot.
  • 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. It unsurprisingly bombed, and pretty much killed off the franchise in Japan.
  • The Sailor Moon franchise is usually for young girls, but Sailor Moon Crystal is targeted at the adult women who grew up with the 90's anime and manga, complete with merchandise like adult-sized shoes and makeup.
  • The Digimon franchise was initially conceived as and is most known for being a children's franchise, but dwindling sales of franchise media among children have caused Bandai Namco and Toei Animation to shift their focus towards older teenagers and adults, especially those who grew up with the original series. This is reflected in the video games having much darker plots than before and the Digimon Adventure tri. anime featuring the original cast during high school.
  • Joining the ranks of Digimon and Sailor Moon, Ojamajo Doremi is a show targeted towards young girls. After nearly 7 years after the original series' end, a light novel series titled Ojamajo Doremi 16 was released, taking place when the characters are in high school. Since the 15th anniversary of the series' first release, products for adult women, such as makeup and jewelry accessories, were being released for the audience that grew up with the show.
  • Due to Values Dissonance, many anime and manga are aimed at older audiences in dubs and translations. This causes fans to mistake them for being aimed at more mature viewers/readers than they really are. For example Naruto is aimed at elementary and middle schoolers in Japan, even with all gore, sexuality, and cursing. For the English dub, Cartoon Network would air a "family friendly" version that censors some of that stuff, while the "uncut" version is aimed at teenagers and adults. Since the show was Screwed by the Network and mainly regulated to home releases until the Toonami relaunch, the series has done away with the "family friendly" version and focuses on the "uncut" one.
  • Osomatsu-kun was family friendly. Osomatsu-san takes place ten years afterwards and portrays the characters as much more flawed than before. The troublesome sextuplets grew up to be NEETs, and much of the humor stems from watching them either try to make something out of their lives or avoid the responsibility for as long as possible.
  • KING OF PRISM is a whole different beast from the anime it spun off from, let alone the rest of the young girl-focused Pretty Rhythm franchise. With its primarily pretty boy cast, oodles of fanservice, and bigger emphasis on relationships between the boys, it's much more geared at the older girls who watched Pretty Rhythm than their younger peers.

     Comic Books 
  • 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:
    • Archie Comics 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, 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).
    • In the 2010s Archie began expanding their horizon with more Darker and Edgier spinoffs such as Afterlife with Archie or Archie vs. Predator. This is turn caused the Continuity Reboot Archie Comics (2015) to be aimed at slightly older audiences than their original demographic, though they're still pretty family friendly.
  • The Jem cartoon was aimed at girls twelve and under. The Jem and the Holograms comic reboot is aimed at an older audience, though not much is actually above PG rating aside from mild swearing and slight sexuality.
  • The The Transformers (IDW) comics are likewise aimed at the older Periphery Demographic of the franchise instead of young boys, although, again, besides a couple of "damns" and alcohol references (though both have some basis in canon), it's fairly tame.

     Films — Animated 
  • 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.
  • This has somewhat occurred with hand-drawn animation in general. Other than TV, the medium has rarely had a shot in theaters since the mid 2000s and any attempts otherwise have largely failed. With the rise of internet streaming and the GKIDS release of The Secret of Kells however, hand-drawn features have seen a revival in the indie and underground markets whichnote  are made up of adults and animation enthusiasts alike regardless of the film's intended audience.
  • Disney Animated Canon works are aimed at general audiences. This means they're not kid's films, they're family films that can be enjoyed by all audiences. Most merchandise however is aimed at their youngest demographics. They do have stuff aimed at adults, such as the Frozen book A Frozen Heart and their collectable merchandise, however most Disney merchandise is aimed at kids.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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. Revenge of the Sith definitely shifted the opposite direction, towards a teen/adult focus. This film took the Darker and Edgier route as far as it could possibly go, becoming the first PG-13 Star Wars.
  • Clash of the Titans (1981) was a film for families and young children; Clash of the Titans (2010) was a movie for teenage boys and college students (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.)

     Live Action Television 
  • 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 evoked that with the change of their sound as well, shifting lyrical content from personal issues to political content, decreasing the amount of screaming, and not having as many guitars.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • Raw is basically a three-hour variety show, or a commercial for a national tourist board. Everyone's goofy and having fun, smiling and laughing, making jokes, nobody is being serious about the fact that they're supposedly fighters trying to settle feuds and obtain championships. This is amplified by the commentary team consisting of three salesmen constantly trying to pitch you something (which isn't even being presented at the moment). Come to the WWE... We have entertainments.
    • 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.
  • In the 1990s, All Japan Pro Wrestling was the place to watch if what you wanted to see was serious, straightforward pro wrestling focused on work rate over gimmicks. In the 2000s, most of All Japan's roster packed up for Mitsuharu Misawa's Pro Wrestling NOAH, which continued to give them the same style for the most part with an added bonus of a Junior Heavyweight Tag Team division, a concept popularized by Genichiro Tenryu's WAR. This meant that even with WAR's roster coming in to replace the lost All Japan wrestlers, NOAH was still doing everything they were already known for doing, leading to the much lighter, softer and stranger Puroresu Love period, designed to attract new fans(and more importantly, new sponsors) to pro wrestling. When Nobuo Shiraishi took over these 'new' fans would turn to Wrestle-1, were most of the All Japan wrestlers he ran off ran too, leading to All Japan switching its focus back to fans of traditional, straight forward pro wrestling again in 2014.
  • 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 BeForever revamp of the American Girls Collection flagship historical line and the Truly Me revamp of the modern line are intended to try and prevent this. These dolls are, like the books they're paired with, intended for the 8-12 demographic with a clear stated aim of letting these kids be kids instead of be pressured to age out of age-appropriate things and try to grow up fast. However, parents who didn't get the memo are actually contributing to the problem by buying the dolls for younger kids, sometimes even toddlers, to the point where kids declare that they've grown out of their "babyish" dolls before they actually hit the appropriate age for them! The other problem with this is that these parents are risking their kids' health with choking and injury hazards (though the newer accessories go for plastic instead of glass and metal and bunch things like food items together instead of making them separate and more easily lost). Thus, with the aforementioned revamps, the company put a focus on the books and compiled them into larger editions with no illustrations, so they're more obviously middle-grades books; they also put heavy emphasis on the fact that these characters are 9-10-year-old girls and meant to be viewed as equal playmates, and ads show girls in the 8-12 age range.
  • In the 2010s the Easy Bake Oven changed its marketing strategy to be aimed at girls and boys instead of only girls. In 2012 Hasbro decided to redesign the oven to be gender neutral, in response to people whose son's wanted to bake but didn't enjoy the pink and purple colors of the toy.
  • After multipled failed attempts to reboot the children's Masters of the Universe franchise, Mattel gave up and aimed the latest incartion of the toyline, MOTUS Classics, strictly towards adult collectors.

     Video Games  

     Web Original 
  • 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. However, a second audience shift that balanced its focus to both kids and adults started around 2012 when older players came back, culminating in the site being acquired from Viacom/Nickelodeon by Jump Start specifically because its audience skewed older.
  • 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).

     Western Animation 
  • The original silent Felix the Cat cartoons were made for general audiences (leaning towards adult in some of their subject matter) while the made-for-TV Joe Oriolo cartoons from the 1950's were aimed exclusively at kids instead.
  • 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 The 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 And 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 11 in the first place.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants 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:
    • The toyline for My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic is aimed at a toddler to mid elementary demographic. The spinoff My Little Pony: Equestria Girls is aimed at a more late elementary to middle school aged demographic, somewhere between 9 and 13.
    • The toys were originally meant to be aimed at unisex audiences but Hasbro enforced a Girliness Upgrade early into G1 and made it exclusively aimed at girls. Friendship Is Magic is aimed at unisex audiences according to Word of God and is supposed to be something that both little girls and their family members can find enjoyable.
  • 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.
  • The Powerpuff Girls was not aimed at only girls. It was aimed at a unisex audience, though merchandise was mainly female aimed. The reboot seems to be aimed much more at girls than the original, focusing less on the superhero spectacle and more on the story and interactions between characters.
  • Originally Looney Tunes was aimed at general audiences and many shorts were even aimed specifically at adults. Over time, the Animation Age Ghetto became a thing and Looney Tunes became associated with being a children's cartoon, causing a lot of Values Dissonance and awkwardness with certain shorts. Almost any modern take on the characters, such as Space Jam or The Looney Tunes Show, will be aimed at younger audiences.
  • Samurai Jack was an Cartoon Network series which aired on 2001 to 2004. When the show was revived for a fifth and final season, it aired on sister channel [adult swim]'s Toonami programming block. As the name of the channel implies, this season is aimed towards adult fans who grew up with the series and is by equal turns Darker and Edgier, Bloodier and Gorier, and Hotter and Sexier than the original series.
  • The classic Tom and Jerry shorts were aimed at adults and were at most general audience. Somewhere between the 1960s and 1980s, Tom and Jerry became a children's franchise.
  • The early seasons of Hey Arnold! were more childish in tone than the later ones (though the series was always rated TV-Y7). Once the Uncancelled Grand Finale known as Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie came out in 2017, which was 13 years after the series' original run ended, it got a TV-PG rating. It was far more action-packed than even Hey Arnold! The Movie and had multiple onscreen deaths occur to appease its now adult fanbase. If it weren't for the fact that there was no blood, it may have even gotten a TV-14 rating.

     Real Life 
  • Toonami, originally aired during the daytime on Cartoon Network with programs aimed at kids and pre-teens. When it was Un-Canceled, it received a new placement after the watershed on [adult swim]. Though in a odd twist, at least half of what the midnight block airs is still content that would be suitable for a preteen audience on Cartoon Network (albeit with slight editing for American-Japan Values Dissonance), if not for the fact that action/adventure animation was largely phased out in favor of comedy series children' television networks during The New '10s.