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In cartoons, kids are portrayed as being way shorter than adults, even kids who are 7 to 12 years in age. In real life, 7-year-olds are on average 4 feet tall and even 2-year-olds average 50% of their adult height, but in cartoons, 8- to 11-year-olds are often drawn to be only half adult height. Although children are rather small before they talk, it doesn't stay this way for long in real life (unless, e.g., they have dwarfism, but that's another story entirely), especially when puberty sets in and they outgrow clothes faster than they get new ones. In some cartoons, however, it's much more exaggerated. Even 10- and 11-year-olds only appear 2 feet tall, meaning they'd be towered over by the average 2-year-old.

Usually, this is done as an exaggeration and to play around for fun with. Because children often feel overpowered by their parents and other adults, they're drawn much shorter. Especially when it's told from their point of view. Sometimes, all that's visible of their parents are their legs. Bully and jock characters tend to be shown at heights that are more realistic for their age, however.

This trope is not quite omnipresent; sometimes children are scaled to a more realistic size. Still, it's prevalent enough that averting the trope may lead to the audience being confused about how old a child character is actually supposed to be. And sometimes it's even justified by the Super-Deformed art style of a work.

Short Teens, Tall Adults refers to simply having most teens be identified by being shorter than adults, especially in Dawson Casting. This applies to 4- to 12-year-old children being ridiculously small for their age, to the point that they are only as tall as toddlers. Classic cartoons often invert this trope and Short Teens, Tall Adults for laughs.

This is seen to a much smaller degree in live-action, where smaller actors may be chosen instead of a taller actor.

Related to Animation Anatomy Aging. Short Teens, Tall Adults is the teenage version. Compare Miniature Senior Citizens. Contrast Small Parent, Huge Child. Also see Tiny Schoolboy which shows the types of preteen/teenage boys that suffer through this trope.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku of Dragon Ball is stated to be 12 at the beginning of the series, but he looks about 6. There's even a point when Bulma expresses surprise at his age, saying she thought he was the same age as her...when she was twice his height. When he fights in the World Martial Arts Tournament for the second time, he's 15, but has barely grown any taller. It's only after the next Time Skip, when he hits 18, that he reaches his final height. In Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, it is stated that Saiyans have long childhoods, staying young and cute looking, until they reached adulthood and grow to their full size.
    • Also true for Krillin who is stated to be a year older than Goku, but shorter. He still remains short at adulthood.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • The main character in the anime, Ash Ketchum, is 10 but younger kids can be about half as tall he is.
    • Lillie in the games is taller than her vaguely 12-15 year old brother Gladion. In the anime, she is noticeably shorter than him. However, her height seemed to be an oversight in the games, which was later officially rectified in Pokémon Masters.
  • Leon, Rebecca, and Mokuba on Yu-Gi-Oh!. And Yugi... except he's 16, and the same age as the rest of the characters.
  • Case Closed comes to mind. The title character is biologically six years old and comes up to the knees of most adults, as does most of his classmates. Particularly funny since Genta, who is around the size of an ACTUAL kid that age, looks like a giant in comparison...
  • Yachiru and Nel in Bleach are drawn like this. Yachiru seems even smaller than she is because she hangs out with Kenpachi, who is very large.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Simon is 14 at the start of the series, but looks like he's 10. Other characters his age have more realistic heights. He just has stunted growth.
  • 9-year-old Mamoru and his friends on GaoGaiGar are lucky if they come up to an adult's waist.
  • 10 year old Chiyo-chan in Azumanga Daioh was often so much shorter compared to the other girls (who were 15), her head was barely visible in the frame. This was relaxed later in the series, though whether it was due to Art Evolution or just her growing taller is debatable.
  • Saint Seiya is weird subversion for this one. Anyone who is at least 10 looks like an adult. Everyone in this world gets a giant growth spurt when they become 10, it seems.
  • The 14 year old characters of Your Lie in April look their age, but an 11-year-old Kousei in flashbacks is drawn more like a 6 or 8 year old. He's almost half as tall as he is currently.
  • Ririka, Seiya, and the other fourth graders in Nurse Angel Ririka SOS are almost half the size of the adults despite being ten years old.
  • Chris from Sonic X is 12 but his canonical height is only 140cm (4'7 feet).
  • The toddler-aged kids at the daycare in Gakuen Babysitters are tiny in comparison to the older characters, and they look more like Super-Deformed characters than actual children.
  • Naota and the other twelve year olds in FLCL are short for their age. In Naota's case, it helps emphasise the contrast between him wanting to be mature and his actual age.

    Comic Books 
  • De Kiekeboes: Konstantinopel has this height.
  • Nero: Adhemar and Clo-Clo, who are presumably toddlers, have this height, while Petoetje and Petatje, who are slightly older teens, are a bit taller than them.
  • ORPHANIMO!!: The kids are roughly half the size of the adult characters, besides clearly being somewhere between 8 to 12 years old.
  • Puerto Rico Strong: In the story A Taino's Tale, the school-aged kids are all stylized so that they don't even come up to their teacher's waist.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes Calvin, despite being 6 years old, is shown as being only about 2 feet tall, about as tall as a toddler, and his parents are both normal height. Just about every one of his peers except Moe (the school bully) are also about as tall as he is. Amusingly, Hobbes (when he's not a plushie) is taller than Calvin is. Calvin even mentions in one strip that short pants touch his feet, and another when he follows the wrong woman around the Zoo that "From the knees down, she looks just like [Mother]".
  • The kids in The Family Circus are all disproportionately tiny. They're 7, 5, 3 and an infant and all the same height.
  • Averted in For Better or for Worse, which not only had the kids grow up in real time but portrayed them as being closer to the adults in terms of size as of age 10.
  • In Baby Blues, Zoë and Hammie are absurdly small for preschoolers.
  • In Hi and Lois, The 8-year-old twins Ditto and Dot are the exact same size as Trixie, a realistic-sized baby. Trixie only looks shorter because she's always sitting down or crawling on her knees.

    Fan Works 
  • This is justified in Kill la Kill AU, due to the chibi-esque art-style (most of it being done in walfas create.swf), in which case, the kids can be told apart from the adults if they were smaller, although, how small depends on the scenes.

    Films — Animation 
  • The kids, including Lilo, in the four Lilo & Stitch movies. Lilo is five in the first film but is shorter than the norm. She barely gets any taller in the sequels despite aging several years.
  • Young Tiana, Charlotte, and Naveen's kid brother at the end of The Princess and the Frog.
  • From Wreck-It Ralph, all the kid characters in the Fictional Video Game Sugar Rush are like this because of the chibi-esque art style of the game. The only reason Vanellope von Schweetz comes up even as far as Gentle Giant Ralph's waist is because his stylised character design gives him tiny legs and an oversized torso.

  • The Berenstain Bears: One of the books shows Sister as being small enough to cling to Papa Bear's head. And as usual, the leader of the bully squad, Too-Tall, is even a hanging lampshade.
  • Constance from The Mysterious Benedict Society is the youngest child. The others are height appropriate for their age, however Constance is so small that she can fit inside a suitcase. Subverted when it's revealed that Constance is an ordinary height for her age, which is two.
  • The kits in Warrior Cats are often presented as too small for their age. Kits that are four or five moons old aren't much bigger than three months olds. Real kittens at five months can be half as big as their mothers or even almost adult-size. There are some exceptions, though, such as when some apprentices are carrying around older kits and find them surprisingly heavy.
  • Klaus from A Series of Unfortunate Events is twelve but only reaches the shoulder of his fourteen year old sister, Violet. Subverted in the film and series live action adaptations, where he's either the same height as her or is taller than her.
  • The kids in Captain Underpants are portrayed like this. To the point where the average child doesn't even stand half as tall as an adult.

    Video Games 
  • The Last of Us: Joel's daughter Sarah is 12, but barely reaches Joel's armpit (For reference, Joel is 182 cm, or approximately six feet tall, which would make Sarah about four-and-a-half feet tall).
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Link is only 12 years old and comes up to the waist of most human adults. The Bomber Kids, however, only come up to his waist. How they manage to form a working club that helps people, when realistically they shouldn't even be able to talk yet, is anybody's guess.
  • The protagonist of Pokémon Sun and Moon is explicitly eleven but is shorter than a typical eleven year old. It's even more pronounced with younger NPCs like Youngsters, who look 6-8 but reach your shoulder and need to be crouched down to talk with.
  • Exaggerated and Played for Horror in Little Nightmares. Six and the various other children are extremely small, to the point of where the world is a Mouse World to them. On the opposite side of the spectrum, every adult towers over the children in a David Versus Goliath type of scenario. Admittedly, this is more symbolic than anything, as it represents how the adults have made a world the children literally don't belong in.
  • Psychonauts's Raz and Lili barely reach the waist of most of the adult characters despite their official heights of 4'4" and 4'1". And while some of the adult characters are inhumanly tall (Sasha and Milla are both listed as 7'2", for example), none of them are nearly as tall as they'd need to be for the numbers to line up.

    Web Animation 
  • Nine-year-old Mikayla Van Buren from The Most Popular Girls in School doesn't even reach up to the teenagers hips. In fact, neither do all the kids in this show.

  • In Homestuck, some adult characters are as much as twice as tall as the standard "kid" size. Possibly even more exaggerated for trolls, which seem to have a larger size range. The characters do have a "Hero Mode" where they're shown much more realistically proportioned. Lampshaded when Aradia and the young Handmaid are first shown in this mode, before switching to the stockier, traditional "Sprite Mode" in the next page. The backgrounds, objects, and other characters were not adjusted to the new scale.
  • In Ozy and Millie, all underage characters are much smaller than grown-ups except for maybe Jeremy and the other bullies. Lampshaded several times:
    • When Ozy and Millie try to use the drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant because Millie can't look over the counter.
    • Or when Millie tries to play an electric guitar that's longer than herself, and she cannot even reach the strings with her right hand.
    • Or when Timulty needs a ladder to get onto a bike, and even then he can reach neither the handlebar nor the pedals.

    Western Animation 
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks:
    • The boys (and beginning in the '80s their love interests and female counterparts, the Chipettes) are an interesting case. For one thing they are anthropomorphic, human-like chipmunks, and chipmunks aren't very big.
    • In both the 60s series and the 80s/90s series, they are the size of young human children and are said to be 8 years old. Yet they are still noticeably shorter than their human friends. They only go up to about Dave and the other adults' knees if not slightly over (particularly in Simon's case). The human children in their age group however, will almost always be taller, with some nearly twice their size. It should also be noted that the boys' biological mom and another adult chipmunk claiming to be their uncle have appeared in some episodes. If their height is any indication, Alvin and his brothers won't get too much bigger in adulthood.
    • In the 2015 series, they are a bit bigger (and much more human-like) than their live-action film counterparts, but are much, much, much smaller than their 80s versions. They are only about a foot or so tall!
  • Most of the Funny Animal students attending Elmore Junior High in The Amazing World of Gumball exhibit this trope is some form or another:
    • Gumball, Darwin, Penny, and Tobias play this straight, as they're all 12, but only about half the height of their human-sized parents.
    • Banana Joe and Anton are a very strange version of this: they're both the size of an actual banana and piece of toast, respectively, but their parents are just slightly shorter than adult humans.
    • Hector and Tina are a similar case: They are gigantic by normal standards, with the former being a giant at least 50 feet tall and the latter being a full-sized Tyrannosaurus rex. Their fathers are (or are implied to be) much bigger: Tina's dad seems at least twice her height (when his face appeared in shadow, he seemed even larger than that). Hector describes his dad as being so huge people can get lost in his belly-button.
  • The titular character of Atomic Betty is 12 years old and barely taller than her parents' waists. Kids this age have generally just about caught up to their parents height wise.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the main protagonists range from age 12 (Aang and Toph) to 16 (Zuko) and yet even the oldest male is seen as significantly shorter than adults who aren't portrayed as extremely short.
  • Rallo Tubbs from The Cleveland Show is five years old, yet is about the same height as one-year-old Stewie, minus his large afro.
  • Children in Dexter's Laboratory are almost all very small. Since Dexter is clearly supposed to be smaller than even his peers, he isn't even the height of an adult's knee despite being eight years old. Deedee looks very tall compared to Dexter, but even she's shorter than is realistic for a middle-schooler. In a truly bizarre extension of this, "LABretto" shows Dexter advancing in age from infancy to the present, growing hair and eventually changing from diapers to his Labcoat of Science and Medicine, but never actually getting any bigger.
  • Used really, really weirdly in Dragon Tales, where the parents are never shown above knee height as a result of their giant-like stature. In fact, every adult dragon except Quetzal is freakishly tall.
  • DuckTales (2017): All of the preteen kids are shown as being about half the height of Scrooge and Donald except for Lena, who's slightly taller than the others. Though seeing as Lena is Magica DeSpell's sentient shadow, she's likely an example of Really 700 Years Old.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: The main kids are supposedly around 12-13 years old (except Jimmy & Sarah, who are obviously younger; Rolf and Nazz are older), so you'd think they'd be catching up to their invisible parents by now (Ed, the largest character besides Eddy's brother, claims to be 5′9″)...except looking at their offscreen parents' arms in "Mission Ed-Possible", one would think the adults were 4 to 5 METERS tall!
  • Timmy (and most of his peers) in The Fairly OddParents! obviously fits this. Despite being about 10 years old, he probably isn't that much taller than most adults' knees. It's to the point where Timmy has been shown able to sit in the palms of his parents' hands. His babysitter, Vicky, is tall enough to worry about tripping over him even. Many argue that this more or less symbolizes how little he feels compared to all the adults. This was lampshaded as early as the Oh Yeah! shorts, where Timmy is asked his weight and proudly says he's forty-five pounds—which is an average weight for a six year old.
  • In Familia Tipo, the children don't even reach the knees of the adults.
  • In Family Guy, a baby like Stewie is compared to 5- and 9-year-olds, and they are the exact same height.
  • Mac from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is eight and goes up to the waist of an average adult, and is about the same height as Bloo if not slightly taller.
  • Max and PJ of Goof Troop are remarkably shorter than their parents. Not that they catch up anytime soon: At high school (A Goofy Movie) and even in college (An Extremely Goofy Movie), they're still shorter than older characters.
  • In Gravity Falls, Mabel and Dipper (nearly 13) are almost a full head shorter than Wendy (15) and so much smaller than their Grunkle Stan that they regularly perch on his shoulders.
  • All the fourth-grader characters in Hey Arnold! are just above waist-height compared to regular adults. Wolfgang's gang of fifth graders seem ridiculously oversized by comparison, but this actually makes them more realistically-sized. Other fifth and sixth graders, mostly girls, seems barely taller than the fourth graders. Bizarrely, Harold is the largest fourth-grader because he's supposed to actually be thirteen, but still much smaller than any fifth grader, even though he should be two or three years older than any of them.
  • Most of the kids in Invader Zim. Gaz is small enough to sit on her father's shoulders.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Twelve-year-old Jade Chan is measured at a little over three feet tall in the episode "Little Valmont, Big Jade". Paco is only a little bit taller than Jade.
  • In The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, 8 year old Ray Ray is only about half as tall as his 11 year old sister June, who has a more realistic height.
  • The kids, including Lilo, in Lilo & Stitch: The Series, barely reach up to most of the grown-ups' waists.
  • Inverted in The Little Rascals episode "The Zero Hero": The bank robbers are presumably adults, but they're only about half as tall as Darla.
  • Inverted in the Looney Tunes cartoons by Chuck Jones that show the Three Bears, where Junior is twice the size of his pint-sized father.
  • Tucker from My Life as a Teenage Robot is as tall as his 16-year-old brother Brad's head.
  • My Little Pony:
    • In Real Life, newborn horse foals are a lot more than half as tall as their mothers, once they are able to stand properly, with 90% of an adult's leg length. The colts and fillies of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, while being old enough to go to school and run around independently, are shorter, proportionally, than newborn foals would be.
    • The "baby ponies" of My Little Pony 'n Friends are similarly tiny.
    • Subverted in My Little Pony (G3). Rarity is more-or-less the same size as the adults.
  • Ned from Ned's Newt. He's supposed to be 9 but is the height of an average 4 year old.
  • Most kids on Rated "A" for Awesome are like this. While Les and Thera play it straight, Lars and Noam have more realistic heights. Noam is treated as freakishly tall. In contrast, the middle school seniors look like they should be in high school.
  • A lot of kids in The Simpsons fit this trope. The school bullies except for Nelson seem realistically tall, but that seems to just be because they were Held Back in School a lot (Kearney is sometimes shown to be a fully grown adult with his own kids). The most noticeable example is Bart, who is ten years old (the median American male height at that age is 4'6) yet almost exactly half of his dad's height, a figure more consistent with a toddler. In one episode, Homer even points this out by noting that Bart's hands are too small to even fit around his neck. Ralph Wiggum even makes fun of this in one of the comics.
    Ralph: He looked like every grown-up does! LEGS!
  • Just about every kid in South Park probably goes up to most adults' thigh level in terms of height.
  • The titular character of Steven Universe is 12-14; however, he usually seems at least a foot, if not two, shorter than his father and sometimes only comes up to the height of a doorknob. Connie and Peedee, the other kids who seem to be about his age, are of similar height. Onion and his friends are even shorter. Steven specifically is supposed to be Older Than He Looks, but none of the other kids have such a justification, such as the 12-going-on-13 Connie.
  • In Time Squad, 8 year old Otto is about a third the height of adult Tuddrussel. Interestingly, in one episode, he and his teammates meet elderly future versions of themselves, and his future self is no taller.
  • Chloe from We Bare Bears is ten, but she's smaller compared to adult humans than most five year olds are in real life.