"Of course, I was much taller in those days... six foot three..."Something about aging shrinks people. Maybe it's the effect of old age on posture, or cartilage compression, or maybe it's just how kids these days shoot up like beanpoles with how much they eat. Either way, most senior citizens — especially the skilled, powerful ones that can kick the crap out of younger folk — are rarely over three or four feet tall. In real life, there is basis for shrinking in scientific lore. Some people develop hunchbacks due to severe arthritis, a lifetime of malnutrition, or other medical problems. Except in cases of severe osteoporosis, however, most healthy people will only lose a couple of inches from their tallest height over their lifetime. Note, however, that each generation has been, on average, taller than the last throughout the 20th century even in the West thanks to heartier diets rich in protein that their peasant ancestors could not enjoy, while Japan in particular (and Asia in general) is currently going through an accelerated version of this phenomenon since the end of World War II. Taller people tend to have shorter lifespans, which accounts for elder characters in general being shorter, but not individual height loss. Since this tends not to be noted as anything peculiar by younger characters, it's also an instance of Cartoonish Companions. See also Pint-Sized Kid and Teens Are Short for when people on the opposite end of the age spectrum have their size difference exaggerated.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Most of the more famous examples come from Rumiko Takahashi's work:
- Cherry from Urusei Yatsura.
- Yukari Godai from Maison Ikkoku.
- Cologne and Happ˘sai from Ranma One Half. Lampshaded in a flashback which showed that Cologne was normal height in the past but Happ˘sai was a younger version of what he looks like now. In Cologne's flashback, anyway. In Happ˘sai's flashback, he was tall and extremely pretty. Although it's much easier to believe Cologne than Happ˘sai.
- The anime lampshades this in a different way; one episode has them travel to the past when Happ˘sai and Cologne were teens themselves. Happ˘sai tries to claim to have been a tall, blond Bishōnen, but nobody believes him and, to nobody's surprise, the 18-year-old Happ˘sai turns out to be an ugly little dwarf. Cologne then claims that a beautiful, dark blue-haired girl sweeping in the village is her past self. Ranma outright tells her to make her lies more believable, and Cologne promptly proves that, yes, that really is her younger self. In the English dub, this nets a dumbfounded "Oh my god!" from all of the others present, even Shampoo herself.
- Lampshaded again when Happ˘sai explains why he can't hit the pressure points on Hinako to nullify her Energy Absorption power: it involves hitting points on her front and back simultaneously and his arms are too short to do that.
- As well as Cologne and Happ˘sai, Ranma Ż has other Miniature Senior Citizens as well. The manga has Happ˘sai's old partner/rival Lukkosai, who has managed to get himself a Jusenky˘ Spring of Drowned Child curse. The anime has Happ˘sai's old friend Chingensai, who basically looks like Happ˘sai with a massive head of brown hair that, coupled with his thick beard/moustach, covers his whole head, and a trio of unnamed others who show up in an early seventh season episode.
- Finally, a Filler episode in the first season gives us Kin Ono, the diminutive mother of Dr. T˘fű Ono. Unlike these others, she's only a "normal" old person, about 60 or so, but she seems to have been fairly tiny even when she was a young girl.
- Also lampshaded in InuYasha, in which Miyoga is smaller than the younger characters for a reason — he's a flea. Kikyo's sister Kaede and Kagome's grandfather are also both shorter than most of the rest of the cast, although with somewhat more realistic proportions.
- Slayers has, in at least Slayers NEXT (the second season of the anime), Auntie Aqua, a little old woman who's barely waist-high on Amelia. She turns out to be the last remaining fragment of the soul of the Water Dragon King, one of the five gods who serve the Dragon God Ceiphied.
- An elderly woman from an episode of Burn Up Excess plays this trope straight, all while harassing Rio.
- Grandma Hina in Love Hina.
- Sana's grandmother in Kodomo no Omocha.
- Winry's grandmother, Pinako, in Fullmetal Alchemist seems to barely come up to most character's waists. Nonetheless, she still makes fun of Ed for being short. Notably, when one character recalls Pinako as a young woman, she's a great deal taller than she is when we see her in the show's present; whether she really was that tall or the character recalling her is exaggerating (he's terrified by the mention of her name) is not made clear.
- It should be noted that a young Pinako appears in a photograph with Hohenheim and really is a great deal taller.
- In a Fullmetal Alchemist artbook, Arakawa draws Ed going through Animation Anatomy Aging. As Ed matures, she draws him like his father, but once he reaches an elderly age, she draws him as tiny as Pinako.
- Rei's grandfather from Sailor Moon is highly diminutive, but only in the anime (he's shown to be quite dapper in the manga).
- Samurai 7's village elder, and Kirara's grandmother, are both Miniature Senior Citizens.
- Torogai in Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.
- Genkai in YuYu Hakusho (Although like Yoda, she is seen in flashbacks to have always been that height.)
- Libra Dohko, the Hermit Guru in Saint Seiya. He's about 140 cm tall and purple when we first meet him. Considering he's 261 years old, it's understandable that over time he's managed to shrink, turn purple, lose all his hair and gain elf ears. But as we find out later on, he really was quite a looker when he was younger. Also, he's awesome.
- Yugi's grandpa in Yu-Gi-Oh!. It should be noted, however, that Yugi's not much taller.
- Onoki, the current Tsuchikage in Naruto is an old man so tiny that he's only about 1.5 times as tall as his Kage head piece is long. It turns out that Onoki was always tiny, though.
- Sabu is also pretty tiny, especially compared to his giant raccoon and his giant axe.
- Akino Ametsuchi a.k.a. Grandma from ARIA, who shrunk considerably compared to the fairly tall, lean woman we see in flashbacks of her.
- Joey's grandma in Heroman; that woman cannot be taller than 2 feet.
- Elmore Tenjuin of Psyren.
- Pryce in Pokemon Special, who is confined to a wheelchair to boot. Agatha and Bertha are lighter examples.
- Averted in the games, where Pryce is taller than the player. Also averted with Professor Oak, Professor Rowan, Blaine, Wattson, Drayden, and Alder. Agatha and Bertha are still somewhat short in the games, though definitely not miniature.
- Black Butler: Most of the time, Tanaka is this way, unless he's doing exposition.
- Master Makarov of the eponymous mage guild Fairy Tail. Ironically, one of his more used magic abilities, Titan, lets him turn into a giant. A flashback in the anime show he was short even in his youth and another in the manga showed he was short by the time he was about forty, but neither was as short as he was in the present.
- The same can be said of his former companion, Yajima.
- Hikari's grandmother in Amanchu is a mild case, but she's still quite a bit smaller than Hikari, who isn't that tall herself.
- Fuu's grandmother in Tamayura certainly counts.
- Touhou Fuhai from Rosario To Vampire is a subversion. He looks like one at first, but that's only his Sleep-Mode Size body. He's actually a Really 700 Years Old Bishōnen.
- Shiho's grandfather Jin from Mai Hime is almost as short as she is.
- Ueda's mother in Japan, Inc..
- Enya Geil from Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure. She's seen in a photograph carrying the Bow and Arrow; the bow in question is a normal-sized recurve bow, but she has to put her body through the curve to carry it, because it's as tall as she is.
- Shibiretta from Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GO!GO! and Majorina from Smile Pretty Cure! are evil old ladies who are less than half the size of her younger fellow villains. The latter can eventually transform into a younger, taller, more attractive form of herself.
- Elderly people are depicted in this way in Servant Î Service.
- Doctor Torataro Shima in Paprika is noticeably shorter than most of the other characters.
- Inverted in Swedish children's comic Bamse. Title character Bamse is a family man (OK, anthropomorphic bear) with four children. Three of them are half his height, very reasonable since they are supposed to be around eight years old, and the fourth is a toddler. Bamse's parents are one head taller than him, and his grandmother is again one head taller, meaning that Bamse just about reaches granny's waist, and Bamse's toddler daughter is shorter than granny's foot is long!
- This is interestingly true for more or less every single family in the series. Despite Bamse's friends Ola, Mickelina and Annika being well into their twenties, they are about a head shorter than their parents.
- Geriatrix in AstÚrix is even shorter than Asterix himself, and about half the height of his hot wife.
- Ma Dalton in Lucky Luke.
- In the German comic Werner: The unnamed old lady who provides Werner and his buddies the opportunity to brew their own beer; Werner's grandma from the movie
- Sonia Hobbs, the title character in the newspaper strip Momma, who seems to have very little in the way of legs or torso. Just about all parental figures in the strip are drawn like this.
- The Noob comics generally have the size of gaming avatars proportional to the avatar's level, sometimes adjusted for the player's actual talent. The only elder among the players is implied to be on the higher end of the scale (and confirmed to be there in All There in the Manual), yet is drawn as much shorter than younger players of similar level; the only other characters with similar proportions are the avatars of players just getting started and the two less talented players among the protagonists.
- Douwe Dabbert - a very old and very short man. It should be noted that he stands out among other characters from the comic - most other old people are depicted as having normal length.
Films — Animation
- Disney examples
- Mr. Fredrickson in Up was always pretty short; not much shorter than or the same height as his wife, and significantly taller than a large 8-year old, but his large head makes his shortness more prominent. Other adult characters seem to tower over him.
- The Incredibles: Edna Mode, supersuit fashion designer, may be tiny but her personality is BIG.
- She's probably always been short, since she doesn't seem to be that old (late fifties, maybe).
- Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda, due to him being a red panda.
- Grandma Fa in Mulan.
- The titular old lady in The Old Lady and the Pigeons.
Films — Live-Action
- Yoda from Star Wars. He's 900 years old, and his species features many standard traits of human aging, such as whispy white hair, large ears, a wrinkled face, and a small, stooped stature.
- In the prequel trilogy, Yoda loses the white hair and stands slightly more upright, but he's still tiny and wrinkled and he still carries a cane.
- In David Lynch's Mulholland Dr., Diane Selwyn is attacked by literally miniaturized old people. They're about three inches tall.
- Benjamin Button from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was born a baby-sized old man (not a spoiler) and gets younger as the story progresses. In the original story, he might be the size of an aged adult (he's explicitly described as too big for the crib). Don't think too much about the birth.
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
- Rule One, according to Lu Tze, is "Do not act incautiously when confronting a little bald wrinkly smiling man!"
- Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde are the bent-over variant.
- A very extreme example: ┌rsula Iguarßn from One Hundred Years of Solitude lives to be 120 years old, and by that time she has shriveled to the size of a fetus.
- In The House of the Spirits the viciously evil Esteban becomes convinced he's started getting shorter (no matter what the doctors say). This is deliberately symbolic of what he believes is a loss of power and influence due to age.
- La Menou from Malevil. She's often referred to as a petite skeleton and she is Known Only By Her Nickname which means "tiny".
- The earliest draft versions of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, documented in The Book of Lost Tales, gave elves a very weird version of immortality. Instead of aging as they got older, they shrank. Very old elves degenerated into the tiny fairy people of European folktales. This was the author's attempt to explain how the old Norse concept of the alfar gave rise to tiny Disney-fied fairies. Later, he dropped the idea.
- Professor Flitwick from Harry Potter. Word Of God is that he had a goblin ancestor somewhere in the family, which may have contributed to his height.
- Journey to Chaos: As a three thousand year old mage, Old Man Aaloon has shrunk enough to pogo on his Magic Staff.
- Doctor Who:
- When the Master uses a reversed form of the Lazarus machine on the Doctor it leads to him following this trope.
- The immortal but still ageing Captain Jack Harkness apparently mutates into just a (gigantic) head... maybe.
- In the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, newsman Les Nessman frequently voices concern over his (never seen) aged mother's chronic shrinking.
- Marie in Everybody Loves Raymond.
- The Janitor from Scrubs once said to his girlfriend Lady that he didn't want children — he just wants to adopt a little old man.
- On ER, the term "LOL" was shorthand for "little old lady." Presumably they didn't encounter many six-foot-tall elderly women.
Myths & Religion
- This is Older Than Feudalism, thanks to the Greek myth of Eos, goddess of the dawn, and her mortal lover Tithonus. Granted immortality but not eternal youth, Tithonus eventually degenerated into a cricket according to late Classical writers. Who Wants to Live Forever?, indeed?
- Similar fate befalls the Cumaean Sibyl in Ovid's Metamorphoses. She is granted near-immortality by Apollo, but forgets to ask for eternal youth. In the end, her shriveled body fits inside a jar.
- Kliff in Guilty Gear comes up to the waist of most of the younger cast; he's even a touch shorter than May, the second-youngest character in the game (Dizzy, the actual youngest character, is taller than either). Some of his special moves restore his youth, doubling his height in the process.
- Old man Strago from Final Fantasy VI is 4'11" (1.51 cm), the second shortest character in the game, with his granddaughter Relm being taller than him (5'0").
- Their respective sprites, however, are just as large as the sprites for the other characters. For Relm this is accomplished through a Nice Hat, but Strago makes up for lack of height with an abundance of Mohawk.
- Most of the older characters in Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (such as the bird lady and Jak's uncle) are tiny and reach only to Jak's waist. Samos the Sage is significantly shorter than his daughter Keira, though apparently his younger self was short as well.
- Inverted in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, for the Lilties. Typically small in their prime, the average never going taller than four feet (excepting the princess and those train conductors), Lilties grow much larger as they age; Cid is nearly as tall as Layle and quite wide to boot, and Jegran could easily pass for a basketball player. The elderly Lilties are large enough to toss bystanders aside as they run.
- Chin Gentsai in The King of Fighters is a diminutive man (he's just about as tall as Choi Bounge — himself a midget) well into his eighties, who drinks a lot, and still he can kick your ass and spit fire.
- The twin witches Koume and Kotake in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (where they are boss characters) and Majora's Mask (where they are allies) appear to be hunched and withered, but they still manage to be taller than adult Link.
- Zhang Li in Perfect Dark Zero, until his Graal-induced transformation near the end.
- Dr. Goodall in Megaman Star Force. She's even shorter than Zack (if you don't count her hair), and he's a middle schooler noted to be short for his age.
- Professor Yoolip from Awesomenauts is no taller than his little granddaughter, Ayla.
- A Skewed Paradise has Nick's dad.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Mrs. Primrose is fairly tiny—until she dons her Bubblegum Crisis-styled Powered Armor, which makes her a good deal taller.
- In Sinfest, the coffee shop lady.
- DMFA has Dan's Grandmother Cyra appear this way by choice (shapeshifter)
- Talent agent, Kris Ekdahl from Rhapsodies is barely four feet tall... this doesn't stop her from being able to terrify her clients though.
- Sensei Ito, in the Whateley Universe, is the short, elderly Old Master who teaches aikido at the Superhero School even though he's a baseline. More than once, Phase has thought of him as an evil old midget.
- The Turaga from BIONICLE
- The King of Town, from Homestar Runner
- Demonstrated in The Average Asian Aging Process.
- Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends: Madame Foster is pretty short. A photo album has its pages flipped through, resulting in a flipbook like image of Madame Foster shrinking while Frankie grows taller.
- In The Simpsons, when Bart Simpson tries (and partially succeeds) in growing an inch overnight in order to win a movie role, he's told that he's growing at the same rate that Grandpa is shrinking. Grandpa then wanders by, his hair barely poking up above the table, saying "I'm as tall as I ever was!" (Of course, he's his normal height the next time we see him.)
- Although he does once claim to be only 35, Hans Moleman at least looks elderly and is very short.
- A textbook example of this occurs in the Dexters Laboratory movie Ego Trip, where child Dexter looks about two feet tall, teenage Dexter has a gangly five- or six-foot frame, Future Badass Dexter looks like an eight foot tall, six-foot-wide musclebound gorilla, and elderly Dexter is a wrinkled little senile prune that's shorter than child Dexter.
- Dexter's grandfather isn't much taller than the boy.
- In a particularly strange spin on the trope, Hank's father Cotton in King of the Hill had his legs below the shins surgically removed after a war injury, then had his feet attached to the bottom of his legs. He was tall enough before this (6'4'') that he's still taller (5'0'') than most examples on this page.
- Mr. Magoo
- The Dungeon Master, from the Dungeons & Dragons animated show. Especially when you consider the towering Venger is his son!
- In Wakfu, Old Master Baker Ratafouine and his assistant Chouquette, as one of the show's many Animesque aspect.
- Also Ruel Stroud's grandmother, who is even shorter than Yugo (without her giant afro).
- A time-travel episode of Ben 10 saw that in a couple decades, Max Tennyson aged to about half his height (and width).
- Head dog catcher McLeish's mother Agatha from Pound Puppies (2010).
- Quetzal from Dragon Tales. Despite being one of the oldest dragons in Dragon Land, he is only the same height as a human like most of the younger dragons. The adult dragons are all giants.
- Mumm-Ra from Thunder Cats and Thunder Cats 2011 is this when in Shapeshifter Default Form.
- Subverted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Granny Smith is shorter than Applejack, but a series of flashbacks indicate that she was always small.
- While not as extreme as some of the other example on this page, Lo and Li from Avatar The Last Airbender are still fairly short. A portrait of them painted in their youth, shown in the Beach Episode, shows that they were not always that small. Nor that ugly.
- Played straightish by Iroh, though he was pretty short in flashbacks too.
- The Sequel Series The Legend of Korra also plays this straight with Katara (who has become noticeably shorter than when she was a teenager) and Mako and Bolin's grandmother Yin (who's nearly a head shorter than Korra). While Toph was never particularly tall, age seems to have also taken a bit off her height as well (her habit of stading knnes bent and leaning forward doesn't exactly help).
- American Dragon: Jake Long: Jake's grandfather is so small several people during the Halloween Episode mistook him for a kid dressed like an old Chinese wise man. Then again, it was shown in flashback he wasn't much taller than that during his prime. Jake's Mom should be glad the dragon powers weren't all that skipped her.
- Tweety is by no means elderly (that is, if The Looney Tunes Show has nothing to say about it), but if his size in Baby Looney Tunes is to be believed, it means that he actually shrunk as he got older.
- Zigzagged all-around in Adventure Time. The Old Lady plays it straight, being much shorter than a pre-teen boy, whereas the Ice King averts it, being about as tall as younger adults. Totally inverted with Billy, who is a literal giant.
- Wander over Yonder: Trudi Traveler— no taller than Commander Peepers.