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- Transformers started as a daily syndicated cartoon based on a line of toys, The '90s brought the Darker and Edgier Beast Wars, and the 2000s-2010s saw the Michael Bay live-action movies, Transformers Animated (a mix of goofy, mature and Continuity Porn), and the mature TV cartoon Transformers Prime and its followup Transformers: Robots in Disguise. It usually ends up being cyclical, being scaled back once it gets too dark and then beginning the climb again.
- BIONICLE, in its original run, went whole-hog with this, especially in the later years. It featured shades of Cosmic Horror Story, named characters dying, and thoughts of nihilism and hopelessness. The series even had the guile to have an ending whereThe Bad Guy Wins, if only temporarily. The intent seemed to be to make stories more mature as the audience inevitably got mature.
Anime and Manga
- Digimon Adventure tri.: While Digimon Adventure was aimed at kids, the films are geared towards an audience that grew up watching the original series, having more mature plotlines and themes.
- While Dragon Ball has always been a children's franchise in Japan, its English localization has grown with the audience. This is due to Japan and America having very different ideas about what is and isn't appropriate for children in media and Funimation's localization attitude changing drastically a few years after Dragon Ball was launched. Originally, Funimation heavily re-versioned the series to reflect western animation of the time and follow strict syndication rules. When syndication ended, the show was edited to be kid-friendly on TV and VHS, but was uncut on DVD. The uncut release (with blood, violence and mild swearing) is now the only version of the series available. Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters and Dragon Ball Super now both premiered on [adult swim], with no kid-friendly version at all.
- The entire American comics industry has fallen into this over the past 20 years or so, with about 90% of title out there right now focusing on the teen/twenty-something demographic.
- J. K. Rowling intentionally wrote the Harry Potter series to encompass more mature and scarier themes as the young readers got a little older for each book. This is also reflected in the other media of the franchise: The film adaptations, from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (where Harry turns 14) onward, would receive 12A/PG-13 ratings instead of PG. Later on, both Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them have adult protagonists and adult conflicts (contrast the depiction of child neglect/abuse in Philosopher's Stone and Fantastic Beasts).
- Alan Garner wrote two fantasy novels in the early nineteen-sixties, aimed at a readership of 12 or above. The fact he didn't like the books very much meant it took him a long time to get around to writing a concluding sequel, Boneland. Fifty years, to be precise. Boneland is as far away as you can possibly get from the certainties and the linear plot of The Moon of Gomrath. The book has a dark, grey, quality to it and follows one of the child-characters from the earlier books into adulthood. Colin, the heroic child who entered Faerie at age twelve, is bewildered, disillusioned, on the brink of the male menopause and fighting mental health issues. He is, quite literally, wondering where the Magic went to. It isn't difficult to suspect Garner is writing an ironic postscript for all those children who devoured the magic of Brisingamen and Gomrath. And then grew up into adults, thinking back to the magical excitement of reading Garner's adventures as kids, and who today....
- Contra: Shattered Soldier, the Bionic Commando sequels, Final Fight Streetwise, and pretty much the entirety of Prince of Persia in the last decade.
- Attempted in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. The games' stories started out in a typical cartoony video game setting with the protagonist fighting Eggman and his army of robots. Then came Sonic Adventure, a Darker and Edgier installment with pointedly more mature themes than any previous game in the series. Sonic Adventure 2 took this even further, dealing with themes such as a corrupt military murdering innocent scientists and weapons of mass destruction. However, when Shadow the Hedgehog took this to ludicrous extents (with whiffs of We're Still Relevant, Dammit!) and Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) was slammed for its overly convoluted plot among other things, a growing backlash towards this trend forced Sega to go back and aim for a younger audience again, especially with Sonic Colors and beyond.
- Similarly to Sonic, the Mega Man franchise rose from humble roots as a series about a robot defending the world from the jealous Dr. Wily. Then came the Mega Man X series, which featured far more intense combat and mechanics on top of a more mature protagonist who just wants the fighting to stop, and as that series made the jump to the PlayStation, it explored the dark implications of building an entire line of fully sentient robots. The Mega Man Zero series went even further by exploring the oppression of Reploids and how Zero and Ciel were working towards human-Reploid equality. And while Mega Man ZX is Lighter and Softer, it still carries much of Zero's mature themes
- Warren Ellis wrote a Darker and Edgier treatment of G.I. Joe called G.I. Joe: Resolute, which premiered as a Web Original series. While hardcore current fans did not really appreciate the changes, It did receive positive reviews from casual fans who had grown up with the series.
- John Kricfalusi tried this with Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon, and didn't exactly get a positive response.
- The first four seasons of Samurai Jack (made in the year 2001) were rated TV-Y7. The fifth season, done 16 years later is rated TV-14 for a good reason, dealing with Bloodier and Gorier levels of violence and darker themes (Such as the main character contemplating the possibility of suicide.)
- Toy Story has been growing with its initial audience through out the entire trilogy, most notable in Toy Story 3 where main-character Andy is set to go to college, and most of the original Toy Story fans, at the time, related to him for that reason.
- The prequel to Monsters, Inc., Monsters University, which focuses on Sulley's and Mike's college days, came out when the audience for the original movie were in college.
- Rugrats fits this trope because when it first aired it was a children's show that focused on the exploits of toddlers. However when the show passed the ten year mark, it was revamped into All Grown Up!, aging the protaganists to the status of pre-teens to appeal to the aging original audience of Rugrats.
- The Legend of Korra with respect to Avatar: The Last Airbender. This example is a bit more literal than most. If a 12-year-old kid watched A:TLA when it was first broadcast in 2005, they would start the first series at the same age as its protagonist, and finish LOK in 2014 at the same age as it's protagonist.
- Adventure Time. Its first season was full of one-off comedic adventure stories, whereas several seasons later as its original audience has grown, the characters have aged and developed, there is ongoing continuity in several serious storylines, and the show routinely deals with more mature themes.
- Steven Universe started out light-hearted yet becoming more plot-driven and mature over the years. However, it still successfully manages to stay child-friendly enough so as not to exclude new audiences.
- This was attempted with Ben 10, with its Darker and Edgier sequels Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. It initially worked really well, with ratings getting to even bigger heights than before. However, by the time the second season of Ultimate Alien hit, the series had lost plenty of its older audience, even though the series kept getting darker and darker with every episode (the mentioned season 2 of Ultimate Alien outright deals with adult themes in some of its episodes). This, combined with the tragically passing of its series runner Dwayne Mcduffie, pushed Cartoon Network to take the decision of backtracking with Ben 10: Omniverse, followed by a reboot of the franchise.
- When Toonami, originally aired during the daytime with programs aimed at kids and pre-teens, was uncanceled, it received a new placement on the [adult swim] watershed hours as its primary audience are now full grown adults.