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  • Adventure Time: Marceline started off as a secondary character before the third season began to establish her as part of the main group. Although her episode appearances didn't drastically increase as a result (thanks to the show's penchant for Day in the Limelight episodes developing at the same time), she was treated as a main character and eventually got her own eight-part miniseries exploring her past in the seventh season.
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  • Robotnik's incarnation from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog became the most popular character in the show by a long shot, in no small part thanks to him becoming a staple of YouTube Poop.
  • The Chipettes from Alvin and the Chipmunks. After their first appearance in the '80s cartoon, they have become so popular and get more and more screentime overtime in the series becoming regular characters. Now the Chipettes are integral part of the franchise and appear in all media.
  • Roger from American Dad! originally started out as an alien who lives with the Smith family as well as being forced to stay within the house and didn't have much major importance to the plot. Later in the series, he was more outgoing through the use of disguises and is one of the more prominent characters. Recently, he's the second most prominent character after Stan, and is now one of the most popular characters on the show.
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  • While Animaniacs was always intended to be a series of shorts with many different characters, the incredible popularity of the Pinky and the Brain shorts led to them appearing in significantly more episodes than the other skits. They were also the only ones to spin-off into their own show.
  • Archer has Pam, Krieger and Ray.
    • Pam wasn't even in the opening credits on the beginning, but she quickly became a fan favorite from season 1 to 4, season 5 however, made her The Scrappy, as she held the Idiot Ball and didn't let go, her addiction on cocaine became an Overused Running Gag in the season and even lost her Big Beautiful Woman attributes for a typical Statuesque Stunner. She came back to being a main character with her old personality by season 6.
    • Krieger and Ray were side characters with almost very few lines in season 1, the creator voiced Ray in order to save money on voice acting since he was supposed to be a one-off character, but both became so popular they were added to the main crew.
  • Arthur: Many of of the early episodes that centered around Arthur's 3rd Grade class mostly focused on Arthur, Buster and Francine, but quite a few other characters managed to receive their own episodes.
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    • Binky Barnes was originally conceived as your typical Schoolyard Bully, but his role has greatly been expanded where he's received a number of focus episodes and is now one of Arthur's closest friends.
    • Fern was originally a quiet girl who is very much into literature, but as she opened up and became more social, she also received a few episodes for herself.
    • George was just a largely unnoticed background character, but the writers took a shine to him, so he's also the star of a number of episodes.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Both Sokka and Iroh. During the show's conceptual stages, both were meant to have smaller supporting roles, with Iroh actually becoming a villain. During the course of development, the voice actors and writers did such a good job bringing them to life they got bigger roles than first intended; Iroh in particular.
    • Suki was meant to be a Girl of the Week for Sokka in the first season but thanks to her popularity, she returned in the second season to become a recurring character and Sokka's girlfriend.
  • The Legend of Korra we have Tenzin's Badass Bookworm daughter Jinora. Starting out as a side character in Book One, she was granted an expanded role in Book Two that saw her become Korra's spirit guide and mentor, giving the latter the skills needed to defeat the Big Bad Duumvirate of the season. Book 3 saw her becoming a main character, receiving her own Romance Arc and helping to bring down another Big Bad. The culminates in her being made the youngest airbending master in history, beating out her grandfather, the previous Avatar, by one year).
  • Harley Quinn of Batman: The Animated Series. Joker's Perky Female Minion who was madly in love with him. Despite her sidekick status, she became so popular that she was brought into the main comic continuity, where she her popularity continued to the point where she's now synonymous with the Joker. By her 20th anniversary, she's become one of the most popular characters in the DC roster, appearing in countless comics and other media as a main character, in everything from the Batman: Arkham Series, to Suicide Squad, to Birds of Prey. To say nothing of her own ongoing comic and animated series.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has AQUAMAN, which they even acknowledge in the fourth-wall shattering Grand Finale.
    • "The Music Meister" was popular before the episode officially aired; he even has a trope named in his honour.
  • Bob's Burgers: Tina, the awkward teenage girls who writes erotic fanfiction, likes horses and zombies. Her awkward adorableness as well as her self-confidence in being herself and relatable teenage issues made her become one of the most focused characters later in the show.
  • On Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot, Wonderheart Bear was created for the series, but only had a few episodes where she was actually the main character of focus. At other times, she was just in a supporting role, or mostly background. In Care Bears & Cousins, at least in the first six episodes, she is not only a main character, it's probably fair to say that she is the main character, even more so than any of the cousins.
  • William from Code Lyoko started out as a secondary character in Season 2. Unlike most breakout characters, William started out being considered a pointless piece of ship interference. However, he became more popular in Season 3, where he became a recurring character often helping the heroes. He ends up joining the team... Before being brainwashed in the season finale by XANA. In Season 4, he's been Promoted to Opening Titles, became a main character and XANA's unwilling Dragon. His popularity ends up skyrocketing as a result. His absence (barring flashbacks and a small cameo in the first book) in the Code Lyoko Chronicles novels was noticed (even some of his detractors wished he appeared, if only to replace Eva Skinner). Naturally, his fans rejoiced when he came back in the sequel series Code Lyoko: Evolution, this time as a hero.
  • Numbuh 5 from Codename: Kids Next Door. She went from barely speaking (outside of A Day in the Limelight) in the first season to being pretty much the secondary main character by the time the series ended.
  • Disney, being the world-renowned entertainment company that it is and famous for its animation, has plenty of examples within its many works:
    • Tinker Bell, being practically the second mascot of Disney after Mickey Mouse (appearing in many commercials and in the studio's Vanity Plate), has become a Breakout Character and now stars in a series of her own.
    • If you're a guy, Grumpy's got you covered. It seems the Disney characters with the most attitude tend to be breakout characters.
    • Along with Stitch (as mentioned in Animated Films on the main trope page), the Lilo & Stitch franchise's first animated series had its own breakout character: Angel, which is impressive considering she was in only two episodes, with a cameo in a third episode and only a minor role in the franchise's last film. Since then, the anime that came afterwards featured her much more often, she was made into a costumed character for the Disney Theme Parks (and said costume was later given a redesign to be more inline with the Stitch costume design-wise), and she appears on lots of merchandise, some of which are even sold in America over a decade after the end of Lilo & Stitch: The Series and the peak of the franchise's success there. In fact, Disney even made a dedicated character page for her on the official Disney Store website for the U.S., shopDisney. Not only that, she was even added to mobile games Disney Tsum Tsum and Disney Magic Kingdoms because of her popularity.
    • Donald Duck upon his second appearance, (and his first on a Mickey Mouse cartoon) where he effortlessly steals the picture away from everyone. It wasn't long before he became much more prominent on the cartoons than the Mouse himself, before serving as a the centerpiece for an entire comic book universe that is overwhelmingly adored in Europe.Walt Disney is on record as saying that he never quite understood why people became so attached to the character.
    • Similarly, Goofy. The character started off as an extra in some of Mickey Mouse's cartoons before he went on to get his own series of shorts, his own television series and eventually his own theatrical movie.
    • Darkwing Duck character Morgana Macawber and her weird undead family were introduced as a set of villains who disappeared (for many years, within the context of the episode) when their house vanished at sunrise at the end of the episode. Morgana's family was never seen again, but she herself returned without explanation to play both a villain and later a hero, developing into a series semi-regular and Darkwing's Love Interest.
      • Similarly, villain Negaduck was originally an Evil Twin of Darkwing's who was accidentally created from his own body and was re-absorbed back into him at the end of the episode. Series creator Tad Stones liked the character so much that he was brought back to be Darkwing's Arch-Enemy and was eventually re-established as being another Darkwing from a parallel reality called "the Negaverse". When the writers asked how they should explain Negaduck's return following his "death" in his debut episode, Stones replied, "What do you mean, 'how'? He's back. We did it."
    • Shego from Kim Possible started out as a flat sidekick to Dr. Drakken. Her portrayal by voice actress Nicole Sullivan had the creators add more depth to the character, and her dynamic with Dr. Drakken became so popular that the duo became the most featured (and fleshed out) villains in the series.
    • Gus Griswald from Recess was just another member of the main six, and by the end of the series, he had the second largest amount of episodes focusing on him (with T.J. in the lead)
    • Tigger was a secondary character in the original Winnie-the-Pooh books, appearing only in the second book, The House At Pooh Corner. In the Disney adaptations, he got bigger and bigger roles until he ended up as the franchise's main star apart from Pooh himself. He even gets top billing in My Friends Tigger and Pooh. Not to mention his own movie.
      • Ironically, The Tigger Movie also began the expansion of similarly minor character Roo's role, with him gaining a much larger spotlight in later movies and also his own Direct to DVD movie. Pooh's Heffalump Movie also arguably featured Roo more as the main protagonist than the title character.
    • Thumper proved an endearing foil to Bambi and for a long while Disney considered giving him his own spin off movie. While this never came to be (yet), he still appears on as much merchandise as Bambi himself and even has his own separate toy and storybook line, Disney's Bunnies.
  • Felix the Cat was originally conceived as a One-Shot Character for the film Feline Follies, which was made solely because another animator was tardy with his work for the Paramount Screen Magazine, and Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer agreed to fill in with a cartoon of their own. Felix's debut was so well liked by audiences that it immediately took off as a hit, graduated to his own standalone series and became one of the most iconic and influential cartoon characters of all time.
  • Parodied in the Futurama episode "Bender Should Not Be Allowed On Television", where Bender, nonplussed with his role as a comatose robot due to a horrendous audition, suddenly busts out and begins chewing up the scenery and engaging in all manner of incorrigible behavior. In spite of deviating from the script (not to mention that Calculon never does retakes), the show finds some of its highest ratings ever, and Bender becomes a sensation.
    • That aside, Bender actually is one. He is often cited for stealing the show with the scenes he's in and he is the most exploited character when it comes to merchandise.
  • Helga Pataki in Hey Arnold! started out as a Harmless Villain with a fixation on Arnold before breaking out at some point mid-series. After an amazing amount of character development for her and Arnold became more of a Flat Character, many may argue that by the end, she was the true protagonist. She even had her own spin-off in the works after the show's end, though it didn't pan out.
  • I Am Weasel started out as a supporting cartoon to help complement Cow and Chicken, in same vein as Dexter's Laboratory's "Justice Friends" and "Dial M for Monkey". The characters of Weasel and Baboon were loved enough that the shorts were eventually spun off into an independent series.
    • The Red Guy was so popular on Cow & Chicken, he started appearing on I Am Weasel starting in the second season.
  • GIR in Invader Zim. He is certainly the favorite among the majority of fans, though his voice actor is annoyed when fans ask him to do something like sing the Doom song due to doing the voice straining his throat. And aside from that, Nickelodeon still makes lots of GIR-themed merchandise, and now they've reached the point where they have to make up new quotes just to put on T-shirts.
    • Remarked on in the script reading for unproduced episode The Trial.
    "Back on Earth, mankind has reconstructed the planet. Everything is in GIR's image."
    Richard Horvitz: Just like Hot Topic!
  • A couple of Kablam! examples include Loopy and Prometheus and Bob. Not only have they lasted through the entire show, but Life With Loopy had a Kablam! special dedicated to it, while Prometheus and Bob was planned to be adapted into a film (that was later canceled due to lack of interest). In addition, Action League Now eventually aired in its own timeslot.
  • Looney Tunes has had many breakout characters, including:
    • Porky Pig: The original breakout character. He was intended to be a sidekick to the much-forgotten Beans the Cat. Originally appearing in 1935's I Haven't Got a Hat, Porky proved much more popular than Beans, causing him (along with the rest of his co-stars) to be written out within just one year, while Porky remained prominent for decades to come. However, he was eventually upstaged by...
    • Daffy Duck: First appearing in 1937's Porky's Duck Hunt, Daffy was merely one of the many ducks Porky was hunting. However, he would end becoming even more popular than Porky himself, soon starring in a series of his own shorts. But much like Porky, Daffy would end up being upstaged by...
    • Bugs Bunny: Bugs made his debut in 1940's A Wild Hare (though, his prototype (Happy Rabbit) first appeared in 1938's Porky's Hare Hunt). With his Karmic Trickster personality, he quickly became the franchise's most popular character, and remains the face of Looney Tunes today.
    • Foghorn Leghorn: Originally a supporting character to Henery Hawk who debuted in 1946's Walky Talky Hawk, Foghorn proved more popular to the point he became the main star of his shorts, with Henery as the supporting character instead.
    • Marvin the Martian: Though he only appeared in 5 Golden Age-era shorts (starting with 1948's Haredevil Hare), Marvin became much more popular after the official run, appearing on much of the merchandising, alongside the main characters.
    • Tasmanian Devil: Like Marvin, Taz only appeared in 5 Golden Age-era shorts (starting with 1954's Devil May Hare), but also became much more popular later on through merchandising and even getting his on show in the form of Taz-Mania. It may come to as a surprise to some fans that Marvin and Taz only appeared in 5 of the original shorts.
    • Michigan J. Frog. He appeared exactly only one cartoon — "One Froggy Evening", yet he endeared himself to audiences so much that they convinced himself he appeared more than once. In the 1990's he eventually became one of the starring characters when he came the mascot for The WB Network.
  • The Loud House has a few examples:
    • Luna Loud started off as just one of Lincoln's sisters. However, she quickly gained a ton of fans. Currently, she is the sister that has the most episodes focus on her, including a special.
    • Ronnie Anne became popular when she was formally introduced in "Save The Date" thanks to emphasizing how she's tough yet also has a good heart while also showing her more lovable behavior . Once she moved to the big city to live with her mother extended family, she became more popular, and eventually got a whole 5 episode arc in season 4, and her own show .
      • In a similar vein, the season 4 special "Friended! With The Casagrandes" introduced Sid Chang, who proved to be popular thanks to being lovably eccentric and energetic . She becomes Ronnie Anne's friend and a main character in the spin-off.
  • Metalocalypse: Charles Foster Ofdensen wasn't even in the first episode and remained a relatively minor character for the first few episodes of the show, but slowly became not only a great straight-man foil for the band but became an incredibly popular character in his own right as well as a genuine member of the main cast, leading up to several spotlight moments in Season 2 and culminating in his Heroic Sacrifice at the very end of the S2 finale. He gets better.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Discord first appeared as the Big Bad of the two-parter "Return of Harmony" as essentially a chimeric version of Q, and was so Crazy Awesome that many fans couldn't help but fall in love with him. Although Taken for Granite at the end of his debut, he was revived in season 3 to be successfully redeemed (of sorts) by Fluttershy, and was promoted to recurring character in season 4.
  • By the last few seasons of Rugrats, Angelica Pickles became the most popular character of the franchise. She was the only Rugrats character to make TV Guide's list of Top 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters in 2002, and she and Susie also got their own short-lived spinoff Preschool Daze.
    • Since the show was Vindicated by History in the early 2010's after spending the 2000's being seen as a show that suffered from oversaturation and extreme Seasonal Rot, Reptar has becoming something of an icon of the show more than the babies. Most social media posts prominently feature the green dinosaur character on its own and merchandise of Reptar has been readily available with no indication the character was previously from this show.
  • Princess Sally Acorn, from Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog, had more of a supporting role in early Archie but is arguably as prominent a character as Sonic himself later on. This is even more evident counting her earlier background as a minor captive in the games.
  • Sticks the Badger from Sonic Boom. Her Cloud Cuckoolander Conspiracy Theorist personality made her a popular character and she has since crossed over into mainstream Sonic the Hedgehog-related works, such as Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, despite her status as a character from an Alternate Continuity.
  • Timmy in South Park was initially intended as a one-shot character, but proved so popular that he was brought back again and again, and even made it into the opening in series six, after the departure of Kenny. However, after his brief moment in the sun, he quickly receded into the background again.
    • TIMMY!
    • Butters was a Living Prop in the first seasons, but went to being a Recurring Character and quickly to the fifth most prominent character on the show.
    • Randy Marsh, who went from a geologist simply named "Randy" to "Stan's dad" (thus giving him a recurring role) to arguably being right behind Butters in terms of prominence.
  • Brak was originally a minor character who showed up every once in a while in Space Ghost Coast to Coast. He proved to be so popular that he replaced Moltar in the Cartoon Planet spinoff, and then eventually got his own show.
  • The Simpsons ruthlessly parodied this concept in an episode where Bart accidentally becomes a cast member and breakout star of the Krusty the Clown show. However the Simpsons themselves are breakout characters from The Tracey Ullman Show.
    • The show was initially centered around Bart, but sooner or later, Homer became the central focus of the series.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Patrick basically stole the show in the earlier episodes, that he eventually got tons of episodes centered around him. For most of the SpongeBob memes out there, Patrick has spawned the most out of the other characters.(e.g. The Ugly Barnacle, Surprised Patrick)
  • Super Mario Bros.: Luigi, to the point that he's the only character to appear in every episode of all three shows, and has a speaking role in all but one episode.
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  • Wacky Races villains Dick Dastardly and Muttley became so popular on that show that they got their own, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, a season later. The only female racer, Penelope Pitstop, would get her own show as well.
  • Woody Woodpecker: Woody first debuted in the Andy Panda short "Knock Knock" but ended up becoming so popular that he immediately spawned his own series of shorts, quickly eclipsing the cute little panda in popularity.
  • In a somewhat meta-example, WordGirl originated as one of many shorts and interstitials attached to the second half of Maya & Miguel. The WordGirl shorts wound up popular enough to get their own show, and has since outlasted the largely forgotten Maya & Miguel.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: Raimundo pretty much stole the show from Omi, being the character with the most development, and if anyone still wasn't sure of his status as the new main character, the finale proved them wrong.

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