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  • In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Spike appears in exactly one scene, where he apes Ace's movements. In the cartoon, he became Ace's full-on sidekick.
  • Cousin Itt is a frequently recurring character in the 1992 Addams Family cartoon when he only appeared on a few occasions in the original live-action show.
  • Huntress Wizard from Adventure Time. She was originally a recurring background character introduced in season 3 until she got an entire episode focused on her in season 7 thanks to her popularity with the fans (and storyboard artist/writer Jesse Moyniham wanting to make an episode focused on her for years before his departure from the show). Following "Flute Spell" she made some cameo appearances during season 8 and became a recurring character during the final season and Finn's final love interest.note 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Billy Parham, Felicity Parham, Louie Watterson, Marvin Finklehimer, Gary Hedges, Hot Dog Guy, Julius Oppenheimer Jr., Sarah G. Lato, Mrs. Jötunheim, Margaret Robinson, Donut Cop, Moonchild Corneille, Patrick Fitzgerald, Jojo Watterson, Alison Sandra Gator, Harold Wilson, and Clare Cooper all started out as minor characters, then became part of the supporting casts later on.
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    • Rob definitively counts as this. He started out as a background extra... and then became the main villain of the show.
  • American Dad!: Principal Lewis was in the eighth season, and Klaus gets a lot more importance starting at about the twelfth season. Jeff becomes part of the main cast later on as well. Characters who appear more often now than in earlier episodes are Tuttle, Parker, Mayor Woodside (although he died in “Railroaded” which may not be canon), Mertz, Snot’s mom, Hooper, Stiles, Coach Trey, and Memphis Stormfront.
  • Noelle Sussman on As Told by Ginger ascended from extra in "And She Was Gone"... and was demoted back to extra after "Wicked Game", and after she and Carl part ways in "No Turning Back", she is not seen at all until the series finale.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Suki appeared in the show's fourth episode as a Girl of the Week for Sokka, but proved popular enough to be upgraded to full Love Interest, appearing in a few episodes of season two and getting upgraded to "Gaang" member in the latter half of season three.
    • Haru originally was a minor character in the first season. However, when the videogame, Avatar: The Last Airbender came around, he became one of the playable characters. This was the only other thing he was a part of before Book 3 was released where he and his father, Tyro, returned to join the attack against the Fire Nation.
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    • Jinora in The Legend of Korra is a minor character in season 1, only really being one of Aang's grandkids. She serves a vitally important role in the season 2 finale and by the end of season 3 is an Airbending master.
    • Kuvira in The Legend of Korra appears sporadically throughout season 3 as one of the guards of Zoafu and one of Suyin's dancers. It's not until near the end of the season, after she saves Tonraq's life that she shares her name and otherwise seems like nothing more then a Mauve Shirt. Come season 4 she is know a conquering war lord trying to unify the fractured Earth Kingdom into the Earth Empire and has been upgraded to Big Bad. Considering that both season 3 and 4 where made back-to-back Kuvira was likely intentionally introduced early to set her up as the final seasons Big Bad.
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  • Jules and Verne, Doc Brown's kids in Back to the Future: The Animated Series, likely qualify for this, since their only appearance in the original films is a brief, non-speaking appearance at the end of Back to the Future Part III.
  • Batman: The Animated Series
    • Harley Quinn was originally just a one-time moll character who made such an impression she became the Joker's pseudo-girlfriend/top henchwoman, then began developing relationships with other characters and got her own spotlight episodes, including a comic tie-in detailing her origins that got adapted into an episode. Then she became a Canon Immigrant into the comic universe and a Breakout Character in general. So she's ascended twice from one-shot to supporting character, from cartoon to comics, in that order.
    • Robin was featured infrequently in the first season, with the series bible even stating that he was not intended to be Batman's full-time partner like in the comics. Thanks to some Executive Meddling, the show was renamed The Adventures of Batman and Robin in its second season, and Robin appeared in nearly every episode.
    • Batgirl also appeared relatively infrequently throughout the original series, but was promoted to lead character status when the show was retooled as The New Batman Adventures. Bruce Timm claims her increased prominence was requested by network executives, who felt adding a woman to the main cast would win over female viewers.
  • Betty Boop was originally an extra from the Talkartoons short "Dizzy Dishes" (starring Bimbo the dog) and was even an anthropomorphic dog back then. After regular reappearances in the cartoons she was eventually turned into a human, given the starring role with her name in the title and Bimbo was demoted into a supporting extra.
  • A stated goal of Beware the Batman is to utilize obscure Batman villains who haven't been as heavily exploited as his A-list rogues. This means unknown (to the general public) villains like Magpie, Anarky, and Professor Pyg are getting their moment in the limelight, with Ra's al Ghul and Killer Croc as the only remotely-recognizable villains who appeared in the show (Harvey Dent also appeared, but was unable to fully become Two-Face before it was cancelled). Katana also gets promoted to Batman's principal sidekick.
  • In the original 1993 Biker Mice from Mars series, Throttle's girlfriend General Carbine and the experienced Martian Freedom Fighter known as Stoker were minor characters who only appeared in a few episodes. In the 2006 revival, however, they are more prominent characters, with the Myth Arc having the Biker Mice answer to Carbine on their mission to retrieve the regenerator, a device Stoker invented that could be used to rehydrate Mars and save it from the drought it suffers.
  • In Bob's Burgers, Teddy, the most loyal customer of the titular restaurant and a friend of the Belcher family, was a recurring character at first, debuting in the second episode "Crawl Space" as the local contractor. His character became much more prominent soon after, appearing in all nine episodes of Season 2. Since Season 3, Teddy is considered part of the main cast and he now appears in almost every episode, even if only in a brief scene. He is on track to appear in every episode of the current seventh season, and was only absent from one episode of Season 6 ("Wag the Hog"). Teddy has also had multiple episodes with him as the central character.
  • In Christmas Carol: The Movie Belle and Old Joe have more to do than in the book. In the present day, Belle is a nurse who helps care for the sick Tiny Tim, and Old Joe is a henchman of Scrooge's who arrests or robs people who owe Scrooge debt.
  • William from Code Lyoko was only a secondary character when he appeared in season 2. In season 3, he became a recurring character, often helping the heroes when they are in critical situations. He later joins the team in the second-to-last episode of the season, only to be brainwashed by XANA in the season finale. In season 4, he's Promoted to Opening Titles and became, albeit unwillingly, XANA's Dragon. His role in that last season is almost as important as Aelita's.
  • Marylin in The Crumpets was only mentioned or appeared in pictures until his first appearance as himself in the thirty-second episode, when he friended Caprice Crumpet. After very few more appearances, he remained a minor character by the end of the show's original run. But viewer feedback was most favorable to the show's neonates and teenagers, the next fifty-two episodes (known as Teen Crumpets) was focused on them, and Marylin became one of the show's leading characters.
  • Valerie Grey originally appeared briefly in the second episode of Danny Phantom, but after her popular life was ruined by ghosts (or rather, unintentionally by Danny), she became one of the most badass humans in the series, as well as one of Danny's toughest antagonists. They also dated for a while, though be wasn't aware of his superhero identity.
  • Daria started as a minor background character on Beavis And Butthead. She's mostly just seen in the classroom and we never meet her family (though her surname Morgendorffer is established and surprisingly remembered by the writers, even if the spelling isn't). The episodes where she speaks can be counted on one hand and even then, no episode revolved around her. Her interaction with the boys was mostly just her snarking at their stupidity and Beavis using his nickname for her, "Diarrhea," before she writes them off as morons and walks off.
  • Loud Howard is a minor, one-note character in the Dilbert comic; Scott Adams was mystified as to why people demanded more of him, since he wasn't clever or interesting, he was just loud. In cartoon, he's a prominent supporting character, since the presence of sound allows for many more jokes.
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • Della Duck, the twin sister of Donald and mother of Huey, Dewie and Louie, never appeared or even got mentioned in the original series or Quack Pack, and only ever made a handful of appearances in the comics, most notably a Dutch 80th anniversary comic. What happened to the character served as one of the central mysteries of the first season, with the season finale revealing that she's still alive on the moon. She's finally able to repair her rocket ship and return home by the middle of the second season, from which point she becomes a main member of the show's ensemble cast. Della was first mentioned in 1938 in the same cartoon that introduced her children, so at eighty years, she may hold the record for how long a character was kept in the background before becoming a main element of a franchise.
    • Magica's shadow was a one-shot antagonist in the original series. Here they not only have a proper name (Lena De Spell, later Lena Sabrewing), but they're a recurring member of the supporting cast.
  • Guaca in The Emperor's New School. Originally just another of the Living Prop students that weren't named Kuzco, Kronk or Malina, note  he only had speaking appearances in two episodes ("Unfit to Print" & "Monster Masquerade"), being named in the latter. Come the second season he began appearing much more frequently, his personality (as a Loony Fan of Kuzco) was developed more and he even had several A Day in the Limelight episodes, including a full half hour one.
  • Fudêncio e Seus Amigos:
    • Peruíbe was created as just another of many filler child characters in the school. Later in the first season, he became part of the Ensemble Cast, got an estabilished voice, personality and catchphrases, and got his own talk show to fill time in shorter episodes. By Seasons 5 and 6, he could be considered the protagonist or deuteragonist, as he appears in all episodes, has a major role in most of them, and has lines in all but one. Even the Title Character Fudêncio, and the deuteragonist Conrado (who had both appeared in every episode from seasons 1-4, and were the centers of the show) were absent or had no lines in multiple episodes.
    • Neguinho as well, but to a lesser extent. He was originally another filler kid and existed mostly to be the center of jokes, but then he became Peruibe's Token Black Friend, and later, joined the main cast as well.
  • Futurama has a few, including Roberto, Lrrr and Ndnd, Smitty and URL, and Hattie McDoogal.
    • Scruffy the Janitor. He shows up to comment on things when all other characters are used up. He's also occasionally featured as being even lazier than Fry, spending all his time in the basement reading porno magazines.
    • A strange case of this occurred with the "Number 9 Guy", who appears in many crowd shots as early as the series pilot, before finally getting a plot relevant role. The writers had always wanted to feature him, but were unable to fit him into an episode plot until "Into the Wild Green Yonder." Originally, he was to have been a part of a futuristic caste system, but this was abandoned early on.
    • The sexy young doctor named Dr. Cahill, (although Fry just called her Dr. Good and Sexy) who, after the first movie, become a regular character in the next seasons.
    • Zapp's Beleaguered Assistant Kif Kroker could also be considered one. Throughout the first two seasons of Futurama, Kif was simply a Satellite Character to Zapp. But from Season 3 onwards, his relationship with Amy gave him a more significant roles in the episodes he appeared in.
    • Hedonismbot was introduced as a throwaway gag in "Crimes of the Hot" ("I love life and its pleasures as much as anyone here, except perhaps you, Hedonismbot") but played a crucial role in the original series finale "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings" and recurred frequently after the revival.
  • The Archmage was introduced in a flashback of an episode of Gargoyles and was originally intended as nothing more- but series creator Greg Weisman fell in love with David Warner's remarkably sinister turn voicing the character, so he was later brought back and much of the series was tied into his master plan.
  • Old Man McGucket in Gravity Falls was initially a comic relief character who popped up occasionally, but it's eventually revealed that he used to be a genius who worked on the interdimensional portal with Ford, but went insane after passing through the portal and seeing Bill Cipher.
  • Cousin Mel, the money-grubbing villain of the Christmas Special Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, is a very minor character in the original song.
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law gives expanded roles to several Birdman villains, including Mentok, Reducto, Birdgirl (who started off brainwashed) and X. All had originally appeared in only one episode each.
  • H 2 O Mermaid Adventures features a minor example. Byron and Miriam do not undergo Chuck Cunningham Syndrome and are thus present the whole series.
  • Infinity Train had this with Atticus. The creator had no plans to make him a main character should the pilot get picked up for a full series, intending him to be one of the many one-off train denizens Tulip would encounter on her travels. However, the fanbase that grew out of said pilot became too attached to the talking corgi for him to ignore, leading him to incorporate him as a second companion for Tulip alongside One-One when the show got greenlit.
  • Ivanhoe: The King's Knight features the mentioned Edwin Turneham as Edwin of Gordale as a one-shot character.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes:
    • Saffi began as one of the show's stock background characters before being promoted to the role of Beezy's girlfriend in "Jimmy Matchmaker" early on in the series. However, she quickly fell Out of Focus afterwards, especially in Season 2 when Beezy breaks up with her to chase after a Girl of the Week.
    • Rudolpho the conman was a One-Shot Character in the first season, only appearing with a small role in the episode "Jimmy Gets a 'Stache". But in the second season, he became a recurring character that Jimmy and his friends usually went to when they had to buy something quickly. He also got a son named Peep, who had a crush on Heloise and assisted his dad in swindling Miseryville.
  • Professor Dementor from Kim Possible. He went from the subject of Cryptic Background References and Noodle Incidents that established him as Drakken's rival in villainy to appearing in episodes where Kim fought him. When the show was uncancelled, he was used as a reason to retire Kim's supersuit and prevent her becoming overpowered.
  • Angel (a.k.a. Experiment 624) from the Lilo & Stitch franchise. Initially meant to be a One-Shot Character in Lilo & Stitch: The Series, Stitch's Distaff Counterpart and Love Interest proved to be so popular that she got another major appearance in the last episode that aired before the finale film Leroy & Stitch, which gave her a small scene. She was later established as one of the major characters of the franchise thanks to the Stitch! anime in Japan giving her a recurring role. Since then, Disney has sold merchandise of her globally, including in the United States where Disney only aired the few first episodes of the anime's English dub very briefly in October 2011 (not even getting to her first major appearance in that show), and she has also made appearances in the mobile games Disney Tsum Tsum and Disney Magic Kingdoms.
  • In Littlest Pet Shop (2012) , Youngmee Song was originally just one of Blythe's friends, but was soon promoted to her best friend when her Aunt Christie opened up Sweet Delights next to Littlest Pet Shop, and became much more involved in her adventures. She's also the only one of Blythe's friends who knows she can talk to animals.
  • The Loud House has two examples:
    • In the first season, Lynn Sr. and Rita Loud were only there to show that the eleven Loud siblings were not Free-Range Children, had their faces obscured, and generally only filled supportive roles in the episodes that featured them. Beginning in the second season, their faces were revealed, played a more central role to the show, and even have several episodes that revolve around them, with their kids serving a support role.
    • Ronnie Anne is an even bigger example. She started as a lovable bully who only made a few sporadic appearances in season 1 and early season 2. Then "The Loudest Mission: Relative Chaos" came around, which focused on her and her family. She then made more appearances, and eventually got to be the lead in her own show, The Casagrandes .
  • Metalocalypse:
    • Charles Foster Ofdensen was just the routinely ignored voice of reason, and general straight man during early episodes. Then came the season 1 finale, where we learn he's a secret asskicker. Since then, he's become one of, it not, the most popular character on the show.
    • Edgar Jomfru initially appeared in one episode and was believed to had been killed offscreen. Season 2 saw him still alive, undergoing a Face–Heel Turn, and joining the Revengencers to get revenge for his brother's death. After being Put on a Bus, he's eventually revealed to have gone back to a Heel–Face Turn, helping Ofdensen find out more about the prophecy, and later tries to convince the rest of Dethklok to go save a kidnapped Toki.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In the first season, Alix Kubdel received very little screentime outside of "Timebreaker", in which she got akumatized. From season two onward, she's established friendships with Marinette and Nathaniel, has more lines (allowing her to show off a serious Deadpan Snarker streak), and is the first classmate outside of the main clusternote  shown to be a Miraculous wielder, albeit in the future.
  • In Moral Orel, there's a fat woman who's often seen at church as well as in the background in many other scenes (including being picketed by Miss Censordoll's group of protesters). One of the last episodes, "Sundays" is all about her (spread out chronologically over the course of the show), revealing that her name is Florence, she's Officer Papermouth's ex-wife and that she has a crush on Reverend Putty.
  • Muppet Babies (1984): While Rowlf, Scooter, and Animal were hardly nobodies in The Muppet Show or any of the original three Muppet movies, for many, it was this show that firmly put them into core character territory with Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie and Gonzo.
  • Muppet Babies (2018): In the original 1984 series, Camilla was a stuffed toy owned by Gonzo. In this series, she's a live chicken and the focus of one or two episodes.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • Derpy Hooves/Ditzy Hooves/Muffins is one of the most interesting examples of this, as she was so unimportant that she almost didn't exist all together. She was nothing more than an unnamed background extra in the first episode, only getting attention due an animation error or a gag by a bored artist (Word of God is unsure which) briefly giving her a wall-eyed and goofy grinned appearance in a "blink and you'll miss it" cutaway shot. Either way, the fans loved her. No, that's an understatement. They adored her, fleshing out her job, her personality, and even how she talked through a slew of fan works.
      Eventually, the show's creators caught on. Derpy slowly gained more acknowledgement throughout Season 1 and the first half of Season 2, first by the animators going back and intentionally derping her eyes in every scene she was in, then by placing her somewhere in the background of every new episode, then by giving her her own Funny Background Events, until finally it climaxed in the fourteenth episode of Season 2, where she was referred to by her Fan Nickname, given a voice actor, and interacted with a main character.note  The character has been a regular background staple of the series since. Not bad for a animation error.
    • Applejack's brother Big Macintosh was a fairly minor character who rarely spoke more than a simple "Eeyup!" or "Nnnope!" and appeared in only a handful of episodes in Season 1, usually as just a cameo whenever Applejack was involved. Once the second season came around, he was given more to do (although he still rarely spoke). By the fifth season, a number episodes had been written with him as the central character.
    • Trixie. She began as a one-shot Villain of the Week, but quickly became a fan favorite. The character eventually returned in Season 3, before reappearing in Season 6 as recurring supporting character. She is also the focus of two story arcs in the comics, while her human counterpart in the Equestria Girls franchise is a recurring supporting character.
    • Discord was likewise just the Big Bad of the season two premiere, with no further plans for him afterwards, with voice actor John de Lancie even going un-credited for those episodes. But thanks to his popularity, he was brought back as a recurring character who tends to gets a focus episode once per season, and sometimes appears in other episodes as well.
    • Bulk Biceps went from a brief gag that may or may not have been a stab at steroid users in "Hurricane Fluttershy" to a supporting character and part of Rainbow Dash's team in "Rainbow Falls". Oh, and he gets a name, too. Before then, fans were calling him "Snowflake" for his coloration.
    • Pinkie Pie's older sister Maud appeared in her self-titled episode in Season 4 as an extremely stoic foil to Pinkie's antics who was obsessed with rocks. In a cast full of quirky Genki Girl types, her utter blandness proved a gold mine of Cringe Comedy that contrasted with everypony else. She was immediately adored by fans and seemingly the staff as well, as she got a surprise cameo in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks and has made occasional appearances since then in both supporting and protagonist roles.
    • Cross-generation, there's Applejack. G1 Applejack was the one who happened to be on the rickety bridge when it broke so the Sea Ponies could be introduced. Appeared once. Was more important in the comics, with her clumsiness and greed for apples giving us the "Who's A Silly Pony" song (and therefore meme), but except for one A Day in the Limelight story, had nothing to her but being a pony who really, really liked apples, at least in the issues currently available online. G3 Applejack was nothing more than a background pony. Being colored lighter than her better-known toy color scheme means you'll have a hard time spotting her few blink-and-miss-it moments. G4 Applejack, however? One of the main characters, part of a huge extended family, and makes the second most episode appearances after series protagonist Twilight Sparkle. Speaking of...
    • Twilight, too, though to a lesser degree than AJ. In the G1 cartoon, she only appeared once, and only had a few moments, but those moments were memorable and one was very important. In the comics, this is magnified: her appearances are not the most frequent, but when she does appear, you remember it.note  There was another Twilight, a pegasus who also appeared once.note  Twilight Sparkle is, of course, the main character of the FIM series, and eventually goes on to become the fourth alicorn princess.
  • Oggy and the Cockroaches: Bob, by Season 4, where he shows up even more frequently than the last three seasons.
  • In the Nickelodeon series Peter Rabbit, Cottentail is a main character and even has a major role in a few episodes.
    • Mittens also becomes a recurring in the series despite her getting the least focus in The Tale of Tom Kitten while her mother and her other siblings (most notably Tom Kitten) aren't seen in the series itself.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Stacy Hirano, Candace's best friend. In the early episodes, she appeared only infrequently, if at all (she was originally just an unheard voice on the other end of Candace's cell phone conversations). As the series progressed, she appeared much more often, and actually played a role in the plot of some episodes ("Put that Putter Away", "Elementary my Dear Stacy", "Phineas & Ferb-busters", "The Lemonade Stand"). By the end of the show, it was almost rare to see a later episode where she doesn't appear, even if it's only for a scene or two.
    • Norm. Started out as one of Doof's inventions (after learning "the enemy of the platypus is man", he built a robot man), and then began making more appearances as Doof's lovable but bungling henchman, and even had three episodes centered around him ("A Real Boy", "Norm Unleashed", and "Love At First Byte").
    • Of the Fireside Girls, Ginger has had noticeably more focus than the others starting in season 4, probably because her relationships with Stacy and Baljeet provide additional dynamics beyond simply being backup support for the title characters.
    • In-Universe(ish?) example: in "Wizard of Odd," the talking tree (played by Jeremy) becomes a major character while the Tin Man is ignored.
  • In 1932, E.C. Segar created a character named "Bluto the Terrible" to serve as Popeye's adversary for a single storyline in the Thimble Theatre strip. After the story ended, Segar discarded the character and never used him again... but when Popeye was adapted to animation a year later, Bluto became the series' main villain.
    • Rumor has it Segar created Bluto at the request of Fleischer Studios so that they'd have a recurring villain to use in the cartoons. And evidently, when creating him, Segar decided he may as well do a story with the character.
    • Popeye himself is perhaps the greatest example of this, actually. The comic strips he starred in began with chronicling the adventures of the Oyl family. Popeye was going to be a one arc gag, but became so popular that he ascended to the main character of the franchise.
  • Purno de Purno has two characters that became Ascended Extras: Sjakie and Kiet. For the show's first three seasons, these two characters would be nothing more than characters that appeared in episodes as either supporting characters or background characters. When the show got Un-Canceled in 2006, however, they became main characters alongside Purno.
  • Dr. Skelley, Sydney's mom in Ready Jet Go!. She was only ever mentioned by Sydney during some episodes of season 1, and appears in the very last episode of said season, but season 2 gives her a lot more screentime and focus.
  • Janine in The Real Ghostbusters. She had several episodes centered around her.
  • Cornchip Girl from Recess started out as a nameless background character. Around season four or five, she became a more prominent member of the cast, and became the unnoficial seventh member of the gang.
    • Miss Grotke, the gang's fourth grade teacher, was only in a few episodes of the first season. Come season two and she's in almost every episode of the season. Though by season five, she got Demoted to Extra and suffered from Chuck Cunningham Syndrome in the final season.
  • Muscle Man from Regular Show was a recurring character in the first season. Then in the second season, he was promoted to being a main character who started getting more episodes that was focused on him.
    • CJ also applies. She began as a one-off character who Mordecai spent time with in Season 3's "Yes Dude Yes" when he mistakenly thought his love interest Margaret had become engaged to another guy. After Margaret left to go to college at the end of Season 4, CJ was reintroduced as a supporting character and became Mordecai's on-and-off girlfriend and Eileen's friend.
    • Eileen definitely applies, as she goes from a minor character whose only real trait was having a crush on Rigby, to a supporting character around the show's fifth season, and finally a main character in the show's final season.
  • The title character of Rex the Runt first appeared as an unnamed dog in the surreal Aardman Animations short Ident.
  • Filburt the turtle was initially a minor recurring character in Rocko's Modern Life who served as a nerdy employee for various jobs. He would go on to become one of Rocko's friends and have larger roles later on in the cartoon.
  • The All Grown Up! character Harold appeared in only two Rugrats episodes ("Preschool Daze" and "Angelica's Assistant"), while the sequel series cements him as one of Angelica's close friends.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Gil Gunderson, who started off as a one-off gag parody of Glengarry Glen Ross, eventually got his own starring episode.
    • This actually applies to many characters on the show. Groundskeeper Willie for example was planned to just be used for a single joke. But Dan Castellaneta gave him such an amusing Scottish accent that he was brought back.
    • Others notable Simpsons promotions include Disco Stu, the Sea Captain, Hans Moleman, and many others. Disco Stu is a particularly obvious case, as he was only introduced for the sake of a single joke, but still pops up every so often.
    • Apu Nahasapeemapetilon started off as a character whose only role was being the local convenience store owner, with little characterisation beyond that. It stayed like this for a bit, being little more than an extra, but soon changed. He's now become one of the most iconic secondary characters, receiving several focus episodes, becoming the only non-Simpsons player character in The Simpsons: Hit & Run, and becoming far more rounded and deep.
    • Bart's best friend Milhouse wasn't even an extra on the show—he was first seen as an unnamed kid on a Simpsons "Butterfinger" commercial.
    • Comic Book Guy first appeared in the late-Season 2 episode "Three Men and a Comic," as a one off character. He didn't appear again for several seasons before starting to becoming more prominent.
    • Shauna was originally a briefly appearing one-off character in the episode "The Good, the Sad, and the Drugly". Since then, however, she had made frequent appearances on the show, including a major role in "Beware My Cheating Bart" and an instigator of the plot of "What To Expect When Bart's Expecting" (which also established her as the daughter of Superintendent Chalmers).
  • South Park has many instances of this, and the show is fairly notable for promoting far more background characters into prominence than introducing new ones altogether. Virtually every member of the boys' class now has an established personality to some degree.
    • Butters in particular started off as a Living Prop before being increasingly used as a supporting background character in seasons 3-5 and eventually becoming the Fifth Ranger. He is now pretty much a main character with more focus than Kenny. This happened around the same time Kenny was more or less Demoted to Extra, though it's hard to say if Butters' rise is the cause or effect of that. Maybe it's just that Butters is capable of talking. Official sources generally list him as a main character with the other four these days, even though he's not usually depicted hanging out with them as a group.
    • Randy Marsh has been promoted to the most prominent adult character, with many episodes dedicated to him whenever he does something stupid. Like Butters he's now listed as a "main character" by the show's website.
    • Jimmy was originally just supposed to be a one-episode rival for Timmy; in his first appearance he wasn't even depicted as a South Park resident. As with Butters, the fact that he can talk normally (m-m-more or less) seems to have helped him pass Timmy in prominence.
    • The girls in particular have been really underdeveloped over the show's run, even as the boys get distinctive personalities; season 20, however, suddenly makes Heidi Turner, who had no real distinguishing characteristics before this, into a major character as she begins a relationship with Cartman.
  • Billy Kincaid in the Spawn TV series. In the original comics, Kincaid was killed off at the end of his very first appearance, while the TV show made him the center of a major subplot that ran throughout the first season.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Plankton and Karen the Computer Wife. Word of God (Plankton's voice actor, Mr. Lawrence) has stated that they were originally intended to be single-episode characters. They were officially promoted to members of the "Main Cast" in the credits of the 2004 movie and have been increasingly important ever since.
    • Fred the Fish. For the first ten seasons, he's been little more than an incidental character with only one consistent trait. It wasn't his colour, or even his name, but his tendency to get injured, resulting in him screaming "MY LEG!". Then in Season 11, he got a Day in the Limelight in the episode entitled "My Leg!", where he had a central role and his leg injuries became the focus of the plot. Since then, he's been a recurring character, and when he's around, legs are probably going to be either talked about or injured.
  • Hotstreak only appeared in several issues of the original Static comics, and was defeated pretty easily due to his Weaksauce Weakness. Static Shock removed said weakness and gave him a much larger role, effectively making him Static's Arch-Enemy.
    • Several minor one-off villains from the comics like Rubberband Man and Puff also had much larger roles in the cartoon than they ever did in the source material.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil has Janna. The character was originally created to serve as a minor obstacle for Marco to deal with in "Mewberty", but the crew liked her enough to give her a more prominent role in the second season, having her befriend Star and serve as a flirtatious trickster towards Marco. In the last two seasons, when the show shifts location from Earth to Mewni, she is the only human character besides Marco that continues to serve a prominent role in the series, with the new intro upgrading her to main character status.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars gives fleshed out expanded roles to a significant amount of peripheral characters that are featured in the theatrical Star Wars films (particularly the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy). A couple of examples include:
    • The members of the Jedi Order who received a small amount of screen time and barely any lines in the Prequel Trilogy are fleshed out and shown to be great and noble warriors with brilliant skills and personalities as a result of result of receiving expanded roles along with a lot more screen time and lines in the installment.
    • The Clone Troopers get names, personalities, and relationships they never had before as a result of receiving expanded roles in the installment. All of this makes the execution of Order 66 a genuine tear-jerker in a way that isn't presented during the third theatrical film in the Prequel Trilogy (Revenge of the Sith) by itself since we have to watch people we care about be forced to kill people we care about.
  • The inmates in Superjail! were mostly interchangeable minor characters, aside from a few that were given distinct designs or personalities. With the second season, some of these inmates had their roles greatly expanded, speaking more often and having more to do with the plots. The third season continued this sort of development. The creators have stated that if they come to like a particular inmate design, they'll do what they can to reuse them.
  • Amanda Waller had more to do with the plot of the Animated Adaptation of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies than her comics counterpart did in the original.
  • Team Umizoomi's Umi Car started out as just transportation for the team that eventually disappears for the rest of the story. Midway through season 1, he gained a face but still didn't ascend from his role as an extra until season 2, where he has gotten several major roles.
  • Leatherhead in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). After being a guest character for the majority of the first and second seasons, he takes on a pivotal role in the second season finale and becomes a recurring character in the third.
  • The "Two-Tone Town" episode of Tiny Toon Adventures reintroduced a trio of obscure Merrie Melodies characters from the black-and-white 1930s shorts: Foxy and Roxy (obvious Mickey and Minnie Mouse ripoffs) and Goopy Geer (who would be an obvious Goofy ripoff if he didn't predate Goofy). They were modernized and given more distinct personalities for their Tiny Toons appearance; most viewers were probably unaware that they were actual characters from the black-and-white era and not just Retraux imitations like the subsequent Warner siblings.
    • Also, Gogo Dodo and his residence of Wackyland are a large part of the show, to the point that Gogo appears in the opening theme. He is based on a character from a single 1938 Porky Pig short, not counting the color remake.
  • Thunder Cats
    • Grune was a minor, though popular, villain, only appearing in three episodes as a ghost. In Thunder Cats 2011 he is Spared by the Adaptation, made more attractive, given an expanded backstory and promoted to The Dragon for the series Big Bad.
    • Likewise Pumyra was a secondary character the writers of the old show just didn't know what to do with most of the time. In the remake she's confirmed to have an expanded role and even has multiple episodes dedicated to her development.
  • In the original U.S. Acres comic strip, Orson's nasty brothers only briefly appeared in the first three weeks, and they didn't have names then. Garfield and Friends turned them into recurring villains and gave them the names Mort, Gort, and Wart.
    • Similarly, Binky the Clown only appeared and/or was referenced in a handful of Garfield comics, but was given a much larger role in the cartoon show.
  • 21 and 24 from The Venture Bros. were minor characters early on in the first season, but became a bit more important as the season went on, and then starting with season 2 they were part of the main cast. Same could probably be said of the Monarch who went from a recurring character to getting equal screen time to the Venture family.
    • 21 and 24's ascension is actually lampshaded a couple times, once by 21 himself ("We're like main characters!") and later by the Monarch ("They have that weird mix of expendable and invulnerable that makes for a perfect henchman."). Later on in the latter episode, 21 and 24 reiterate their status to a new character, claiming he's the Red Shirt on their mission.
    • The creators often mention looking over crowd scenes and attributing characterization to whoever catches their eye, many showing up later in the show as actual characters.
      • Such as Sgt. Hatred. He was initially a throwaway off-screen villain that the 21 & 24 stole equipment from, to being one of the many unnamed villains who became excited at Dr. Venture's Walking Eye in Season 2, he eventually got a big plot upgrade in Season 3 where he eventually became Venture's new Guild arch and became tied to the backstory of why Brock was assigned to the Venture family. As of Season 4, he's become one of the main characters, becoming the new Venture bodyguard!
  • Despite only showing up in one chapter in the books, Sammy gets a much larger role in the Wayside School Animated Adaptation Wayside.
  • Elyon in the animated version of W.I.T.C.H. is an interesting example. While the original comics have her importance clear from the beginning, the adaptation deliberately downplays her role in the story and has her gradually "ascend" to major character status over a dozen or so episodes.
    • Truth be told, a lot of characters in WITCH become ascended extras in the adaptation, the biggest ones being the previous Guardians minus Nerissa - in the comics, Hay Lin's grandmother Yan Lin died halfway through the second issue and becomes a member of the Council, Halinor's been dead, Cassidy was just an exposition ghost and Kadma was just a bitter old lady. In the cartoon, Yan Lin's alive and The Mentor, Halinor's alive and part of the Council, Cassidy actually comes back to life and Kadma becomes ruler of another world.
  • Woody Woodpecker's girlfriend Winnie Woodpecker was only shown in one classic Woody Woodpecker cartoon called Real Gone Woody, but she was mainly shown in comic books as a recurring character. It wasn't until later in The New Woody Woodpecker Show that she became an active member of the series, with a personality similar in silliness to Woody, though showing a more developed sense of dignity.
  • Young Justice:
    • Artemis is based on a D-list (or lower) character in the comics while she is part of a team of young superheroes like Robin, Superboy and Kid Flash for the show. Her supervillain parents and sister become more prominent because of this as well. Said sister isn't even related to her in the comics where she's the most prominent of the lot, but thanks to the writers mixing up DC Comics lore she gets an even larger role as one of the heroes' more prominent adversaries.
    • The second season premiere, "Happy New Year," is a long parade of ascended extras: Bumblebee is one of M'gann's and Conner's friends from high school, Lagoon Boy had a single-line cameo when Kaldur visited his old class in "Downtime," Beast Boy was a character of the day in "Image," and Batgirl had a single-line cameo in "Home Front," plus silent cameos in "Failsafe" and "Misplaced." Mal Duncan actually ascended twice: he's promoted from Conner and M'gann's background high school friend to the team's Mission Control, then from Mission Control to Badass Normal hero.
    • The third season, Outsiders, has Black Lightning. He debuted in the second season, but only appeared in five episodes, and only spoke in his final appearance with maybe a line or two. This season, however, Black Lightning is part of the main cast as a member of the titular Outsiders.
  • The Direct-to-Video version of Once Upon A Potty features The father of Joshua and Prudence (He never appeared in the Original book, Only the mother appears)

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