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Token Adult

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"And my other goal is to make you youngsters go crazy before I reach 40."
Jade Curtiss, Tales of the Abyss

A story that centers around a group made up of children, teenagers, or just younger adults, introduces an older character who decides they wants to join the youngsters. They're the oldest character in the group. That's the Token Adult.

In adventure stories especially in video games or Role Playing Game Verses the group is often made up of children or teenagers with one "adult" exclusively allied to them. Their age could be anywhere from being old enough to drink (if the other group members are just kids) to someone who is middle aged or over 50. Also sometimes TV shows will have older characters help the heroes once per episode, or for only one episode.

In stories directed at older audiences, where it's more common for this character to be the elder to a group of younger adults, a Cool Old Guy or The Mentor can fill this role when his Competence Zone is shifted upward compared to the rest of the group. This can be done by making the youngsters New Meat, Man Children, or Bunny Ears Lawyers. Take note, that the rest of the group don't necessarily need to be "adults" to count, they just have to be noticeably younger than the Token Adult. Also occasionally the Token Adult will stick out in a group of adults because they're a Bunny-Ears Lawyer. See Si from Duck Dynasty in the examples.

They may be a stranger that joins because they happen to have the same or a similar goal as the heroes. Or an experienced veteran who joins the group. Could also be intended as an aversion, or subversion to There Are No Adults by the author, by making the character a substitute parent that acts as the team's guardian in their parent's absence. They may even literally be a trusted friend or relative of one of the team member's parents, or a team member's teacher. Often times they're also The Mentor, or just a wiser grownup in non-action works who guides the characters in the right direction, or Mr. Exposition, who, because they're older and more experienced, explains how the world works.

Tends to be The Big Guy, because they're older, taller, and stronger, at least in the beginning. They could also be The Smart Guy based on their years of experience. You can expect Years Too Early comments in either case. If they're a badass most of the time they're a Cool Old Guy but they could be a Colonel Bad Ass or The Captain depending on the setting, or a Bad Ass Bookworm. If they were The Leader of The Team at one point, but isn't The Hero, they're probably the Big Good. If they're the Foil to the The Hero they might end up becoming The Lancer. If played for comedic effect, they might be a Dead Pan Snarker who employs Insult humor on their younger peers. They could also be One of the Kids, might be a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, or if Adults really are useless they may be used by the author to drive that point home.

If employed to the Token Adult because of job politics, the group may have been Reassigned to Antarctica.

Sometimes, they start out as their adult in the beginning of the story, and more older characters are included in the group later, in which case, the original character who took up the role still counts.

Other stories have the Token Adult separated from the group, and replaced by another older character. In that case both characters count.

If hurting their friends is their Berserk Button, expect them to be the Papa Wolf or the Mama Bear.

Contrast Tagalong Kid and Token Mini-Moe, this trope's opposite. Compare The Mentor, Adults Are Useless and There Are No Adults.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed
    • Middle-aged Detective Kogoro Mouro (Richard Moore in the dub) is an adult watching over Kid Hero Conan. Except he's kind of a Jerkass, and he's not good at his job either. Since he's an adult, people are more willing to listen to him than Conan, who uses Kogoru's adult status, solves the crimes for him, and lets him take the credit for it on almost every case. Since he's an on and off ally to Conan it's a Zig-Zagging Trope.
    • Professor Agasa generally serves this for the Detective Boys, since he's the only adult who supervises them on a regular basis and has created gadgets for them. It helps that he's one of the few people who knows about Conan's and Haibara's secret identities.
  • Highschool of the Dead: At 27 year old, Shizuka is the only adult among the main cast. Despite this, and her medcal expertise as a School Nurse, she mainly serves as the group's driver, since Takashi is the leader while Saya is the brains. So it's the kids who keep her (and Alice) safeguarded, while they handle the planning and the fighting.
  • K-On!: Sawako Yamanaka is the teacher in charge of their high school's light music club. Fitting in that she was a rocker in the past too. She's more for comic relief though, and she doesn't use her authority as a teacher very often. Naturally the rest of the characters are high school students.
  • Naruto has this institutionalized in that their school's ninja teams begin as three twelve-year-olds with one adult teacher assigned to guide them.
  • Pokémon: The Series has one adult that helps out almost every episode. Sometimes it's Officer Jenny or Nurse Joy, but there's a whole list of others they come across depending on the episode. The main characters never age past their teen years.
  • Some Pretty Cure seasons give the Cures an adult friend who they often hang out with, and who occasionally helps them out.
    • Futari wa Pretty Cure: The 14-year-old Cures are good friends with Akane Fujita, an alumna of their school who now runs a food truck. In the Sequel Series, Akane gets a spotlight boost as she becomes the guardian of Hikari.
    • Fresh Pretty Cure!: Like the Futari wa Cures, the teenage Fresh! Cures are good friends with an adult food truck owner, this time being a male donut maker named Kaoru.
    • HeartCatch Pretty Cure!: Of Tsubomi's allies, there are 14 year olds Erika and Itsuki, 17 year old Yuri, the young fairies Chypre and Coffret, the baby fairy Potpourri, and then her 70s-age grandmother Kaoruko, who served as Cure Flower in her youth.
    • Doki Doki! PreCure: The teenage Cures (and one preteen) are helped by the adult Joe, a former knight of the Trump Kingdom.
    • Toyed with in Star★Twinkle Pretty Cure: Lala is thirteen like all the other Cures, but claims that on her planet, thirteen is considered adult-age.
    • Healin' Good♡Pretty Cure: Halfway through the series, an Earth spirit takes on the form of a human named Asumi, who is physically twenty years old, making her technically an adult among the other Cures despite being chronologically a newborn.
    • Delicious Party♡Pretty Cure: Of the six main teammates, all are 13-14 except for Rosemary, whom was specifically designed to be a Token Adult to show that adults could indeed help Cures with their missions.
    • Hirogaru Sky! Pretty Cure: At eighteen years old, Ageha Hijiri/Cure Butterfly is the oldest character to become a Cure (not counting Asumi above due to technicalities), and is the only adult among 14 year old Sora and Mashiro and 12 year old Tsubasa.
  • Tetsuichiro Kurumada from Future GPX Cyber Formula is this and a Team Dad for team Sugo before his retirement. As the team manager in the first 3 series, he acts the authority figure to his racing team.
  • Though most enemies and secondary characters in One Piece are adults, for a while Nico Robin was the only one of the main protagonists who was more than 19 years old - 28 years to be exact. Later, 34-year-old Franky and 88-year-old Brook join, but since they're both Man Children of dimensions, Robin still keeps her place as the only Straw Hat who is both adult and acts like an adult. Following the Time Skip, however, the Straw-Hats are joined by Fishman and former Warlord Jinbe, 46, who acts his age.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: When CGS is taken over and renamed Tekkadan, most of its members are teenaged to child boys. Since the adults were the ones abusing (and even enslaving in some cases) them, they are all ousted from the organization. There are only two exceptions: Nadi, the head mechanic, because he was always friendly with the boys, and Dexter, the accountant, whom they only keep around because none of the boys are well-versed in mathematics and they're smart enough to know they're going to need someone around who can manage the finances.
  • Gravion: The titular robot is a six-man piloted and five of them are piloted by teenagers. The last pilot is Mizuki Tachibana, an adult woman and a complete Ms. Fanservice with a huge chest to match. She's also a spy from the EFA, a job that only adults like her could undertake.
  • The main adult colleague on Senku's team Dr. STONE is Kaseki, an elder craftsman that gets excited about building the technology from the 21st century, up to having his clothes burst off from his bulging muscles.
  • In Yuri is My Job!, most of the staff at Liebe Girls' Academy Salon are teenagers, but Mai is significantly older than most of them, as she is older than Nene, who was 18 at the time of the salon's founding two years prior to the start of the story.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Defied in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Lupin asks the Power Trio if he can be Sixth Ranger to them, but Harry tells him rather bluntly that he needs to stay with his wife and their unborn child instead.
  • The Outsiders: Everyone in the gang is a teenager, mostly 16-17 with one Tagalong Kid at 14. The one outlier is Darry, who is 20 and the leader.
  • Wedge Antilles in the X-Wing Series novels, particularly the Wraith Squadron trilogy, isn't chronologically that much older than his pilots — but he's vastly more experienced and way more emotionally stable than the Dysfunction Junction that is Wraith Squadron (to say nothing of his Bunny Ears XO, Janson). He directly compares the squadron to his children several times, and his much-put-upon lament that "Wes, they're doing it to me again..." becomes a notable running gag.
    Wedge: I'm leading children, and I'm getting them killed.
    Janson: That's true.
    Wedge: What did you say?
    Janson: It's true. [shrugs] Wedge, you asked for misfits. You had to know that even with the ones that made the grade, they were going to take losses that were heavier than in a normal unit. So many of them are carrying around these weights of emotional problems. It makes it tougher for them to hop in the right direction at the right time.
  • In The ColSec Trilogy, thirty-something Bren Lathan becomes a Sixth Ranger for a central cast with an average age of about seventeen otherwise.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero: For once in The Camp Half-Blood Series, the trio of heroes this time get a tagalong guardian, 100-year old Coach Gleason Hedge, to supervise them on a journey that most half-bloods die screaming in failure. Unfortunately, his persona in the mortal world is an "Aluminum Bat" abusive coach and his real persona is an inattentive, gluttonous hippie. He does have his uses.
  • In Hawksmaid, Friar Tuck is the token adult in Robin Hood's otherwise teenaged outlaw band.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is an adult leader working for the Watchers, who watch over the Slayers. He acts as a father figure to Buffy and mentor to their team, sometimes, but is usually not part of the action himself. This counts before the main characters become competent adults themselves.
  • Duck Dynasty: Uncle Si is the only person his age (in his 60s) working at the duck call business. He's a Bunny-Ears Lawyer, who frequently takes naps, snack, hunting, and basketball "breaks", and plenty of other hijinks with the younger guys at work. As much as he'd like to, since no-one else will take his job, Willie just can't get rid of him.
  • Henry Danger: Ray/Captain Man was this by a technicality through most of the show’s run, as Schwoz never got added to the opening credits until Season 5.
  • iCarly: Spencer often gets involved in the teenage Power Trio's antics, despite being a good ten-fifteen years older than them.
  • Donald Davenport, played by Hal Sparks, from Lab Rats, is the only adult credited as a lead on the show, though you could argue Maile Flanagan as Perry is unofficially a lead character.
  • Mickey Mouse Club had two adults, Jimmie Dodd and Roy Williams, who regularly interacted with the cast of children who were the Mouseketeers.
  • Horace Diaz from Mighty Med is the only main adult character on the show (though technically he never made it past guest star status), unless you count Wallace and Clyde in the first season.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide only credits Gordy as a main character amongst the faculty (although Mr. Monroe got starring credits in the first season).
  • NCIS: Gibbs is the local Cool Old Guy in charge of the major case team. The rest of the cast often being distracted by various things or being held back by their character flaws, and never reaching his place in the Competence Zone.
  • Power Rangers: Dino Thunder: Tommy Oliver is the only one of the Dino Rangers who isn't a teenager. As this is not his first time battling the forces of evil, he is the perfect mentor for the team and can understand what they are going through more than anyone else. It also helps he is their high school teacher.
  • Power Rangers Mystic Force: Daggeron is the Sixth Ranger but also a full adult compared to the young adults making up the core team. As such he also becomes a secondary mentor to them alongside Udonna.
  • Psych: Henry Spencer, is hired by the Chief of Police to be Shawn and Gus's adult in later seasons. Because they're immature and use questionable methods of solving crimes that get them into trouble, hiring Henry minimizes risk. He was already Shawn's mentor, and his Dad, so it works out.
  • Saved by the Bell has Mr. Belding, the only adult to be credited as a main character (except Max in the first season). The rest of the adults appear in only a few episodes at most, but Mr. Belding appears in nearly every episode. He occasionally even hangs around the 6 main students.
  • Square Pegs: In two episodes Johnny's band "Open 24 Hours" performs. It includes himself on lead vocal, some other teens as backup singers/guitar/etc., and John Densmore from The Doors on drums (age about 38).
  • Mr. Moseby from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody became this for On Deck after Carey left the show.
  • Whenever Atticus has successfully joined the gang in Todd and the Book of Pure Evil he tries to fill this role. His complete lack of maturity makes him a poor fit for it, though.
  • Victorious has a few episodes where Sikowitz, the gang's acting teacher, will join in with the group's daily adventure.

  • Descendents first formed when guitarist Frank Navetta, drummer Bill Stevenson, and later singer Milo Auckerman were all in the range of 15 to 17 years old. Bassist Tony Lombardo, meanwhile, was in his mid-thirties.
  • The Offspring provide a downplayed example; guitarist Noodles was only two years older than the other members of the band and was a janitor at the high school that the other members went to, but joined because the small age gap meant he was the only person who could buy everyone beer.
  • The Rolling Stones: Their former bassist Bill Wyman is 7-10 years older than the rest of the band. After he "retired" they didn't officially add another bassist.
    • The band's long-time pianist/road manager Ian Stewart was the same way, older than the other guys but not quite as old a Bill Wyman. He also looked noticeably older and beefier than the others, which was why he was demoted to an unofficial member of the band.

    Video Games 
  • Atelier Rorona: Most of the playable characters are in their teens. Then there's the 28-year old Sterk. And later we also get Cool Old Guy Gio, who's in his forties. Both of them are considered the most powerful party members.
  • Digimon Survive: Among the humans trapped in the digital world, the Professor is the only adult, while the rest are around elementary or middle school age.
  • Disgaea
  • Final Fantasy V: Galuf is a token grandpa among a team of people in their early 20s. He eventually gets replaced with his 14-year old granddaughter, Krile.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
    • A downplayed example with Hubert von Vestra if playing as the Black Eagles. Hubert is 20 at the start of the game, while the rest of the Black Eagles are in their teens. It's downplayed because Dorothea is 18 at the start, while Ferdinand and Edelgard turn 18 early into the story.
    • In the Blue Lions, Mercedes is 22 at the start of the game, and is older than all of her fellow Blue Lions.
  • Golden Sun
    • Kraden, a 70 year old scholar who goes on a journey with a party consisting of 3 teens and someone who is implied to be Really 700 Years Old but looks to be in his early twenties, in the second game, Golden Sun: The Lost Age. Which by the end of the game has become seven teens and the probably-Really 700 Years Old guy. He's not actually a playable character, though, instead serving as Mr. Exposition.
    • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
      • 30 years later, Kraden reprises his role, with the teen-aged descendants of the cast of the first game, Golden Sun. He still isn't a playable character.
      • Eoleo, who is in his early thirties (as he was seen as a toddler in the previous game), joins the playable cast this time around.
      • Hou Zan might also count, being an elderly man traveling with his grandchildren who turns out to be quite the Badass Normal.
  • Mother
    • EarthBound Beginnings: Most of the main characters aren't over 12 except for Teddy who is about or over 20 years old.
    • Mother 3: Duster is most likely at least in his mid-20s, while Lucas is about 13 and Kumatora's around 17.
  • Persona 2:
    • During the Innocent Sin half of the duology, both Maya Amano (23) and Yukino Mayuzumi (20) fight alongside high schoolers Tatsuya (18), Lisa (17), and Eikichi (16). While Yukino more or less plays this straight, Maya, while clearly acting as an upbeat sister type to the rest of the group (all too fitting when it's revealed that she babysat them a number of years prior when they were children), can also be very immature at times, occasionally even more so than the teens. This gets emphasized more when Yukino leaves them and is replaced by another teenager, Jun (17).
    • This gets inverted in Eternal Punishment, which is the only installment to date to feature a party of adults: Maya leads this time around, accompanied by her roommate Ulala (24), Tatsuya's cop brother Katsuya (25), extortionist Baofu (32), and - depending on a rumor you spread - either Kei Nanjo or Eriko Kirishima (both 20). Late in the game, Tatsuya joins in place of either Eriko or Kei as the sole underage party member.
  • Persona 4:
    • The game has the protagonist's uncle's partner, Adachi, who isn't in on the secret (as the police were in 3), but works as a Friend on the Force for the investigation team, who are all high school students. Until he turns out to be the one behind the murders. Said uncle ends up serving the role (again, without finding out about the supernatural aspects).
    • Igor, the old man who serves as the proprietor of the Velvet Room, and appears in every Persona game to date, to contract with the protagonist, and aid him via Persona fusion to obtain more powerful Personas. He also serves as Mr. Exposition, to explain the mechanics of Personas. He's essentially been the Big Good of the Persona series ever since Philemon departed after Persona 2. He's the, first, and most important ally the protagonist has.
  • Persona 5 Strikers has Zenkichi Hasegawa, an adult assistant police inspector who teams up with the teenage Phantom Thieves to solve the latest crisis. The Phantom Thieves repeatedly poke fun at his age as a Running Gag.
  • Psychic 5 is an old arcade game where the titular ESPer playable characters are four kids and an 80-something man called Genzoh.
  • Devil Summoner (1995) has an interesting aversion with Demon Hunter Kyouji, who could have been this to the protagonist, and his girlfriend, who are both college students. Except, shortly after they meet in the beginning, Kyouji dies under suspicious circumstances.
  • Skies of Arcadia: All three of the rotating party members, though Drachma (pictured above) is the first and most prominent example. A bitter old sailor who lost his family to an arcwhale, he saves Vyse and company when their ship capsizes. Although he's not very happy to accept help from a bunch of youngsters (all three are 17), he does reluctantly agree to let them stay on his ship as long as they pull their weight, and they get sailing experience in exchange. That is until they get separated. Then Gilder replaces him for a while, but Drachma's notable because his story arc is developed a lot more than Gilder's. After Gilder comes Enrique, who's on the fuzzier end of the trope: he's 25, but his sheltered upbringing and youthful features don't make him stand out as much against the three leads.
  • Tales Series
    • Jade Curtiss of Tales of the Abyss, who is in his 30's. All his teammates are no older than 18, the only exception being Guy (age 21) who is one of the last members to join after Jade and Anise. Guy doesn't take up much of a leading role either preferring to crack jokes with (and at) Luke and company instead.
    • Claus F. Lester from Tales of Phantasia is the only adult in a team where nobody else is older than 18.
    • Raven is frequently referred to as the group's "old man" in Tales of Vesperia.
    • In fact, this is a staple of the Tales series— nearly every game has at least one main party member over the age of 21.
    • Tales of Symphonia averts this, as approximately half of its playable cast is over 20.
  • Wild ARMs
    • Wild ARMs: Jack Van Burace. A 27 year old treasure hunter, and expert swordsman, amidst a team of teenagers, trying to save a dying world. His main reason for tagging along is he hopes to find an item called the "guardian blade" while traveling with them so that he can become powerful.
      • Jack's Wind Mouse companion, Hanpan, might be older than anyone on the team, but the game never explains what a "Wind Mouse" is in the first place.
    • Wild ARMs 2: Brad Evans is 31 years old, and a war veteran from a revolution years before the story starts. The only other playable character in the party that's technically older than he is is the Immortal, Vampire, Marivel Armitage, but she's an optional character. Kanon, seems to be around the same age as Ashley, but we never learn her actual age. The rest of the party are known to be over a decade younger than Brad.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Detective Akasaka plays this role to the teenage main cast by returning to Hinamizawa on a hunch and ending up protecting them from Takano and the Yamainu who murder many people, and are out to get Rika too. Ooishi would have been this but he is too aloof and often antagonizes the kids.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: Yasuhiro Hagakure, Ultimate Clairvoyant, is 20 years old (edited to 21 in the game's localization) compared to the other cast members implicitly being around 16-17. In a cast exclusively composed of high school students. He's ironically one of the least mature cast members, though he does have his moments of trying to act his age or encourage others (the one that stands out being in the third chapter, where he's unique among the cast for putting in a genuine effort to reach out during Ishimaru's Heroic BSoD), and shakily starts to move past the worst of it with Character Development that continues after his survival into the other series installments he appears in.
  • Kindred Spirits on the Roof has Tsukuyo Sonou, a 24-year-old teacher who's the oldest regularly appearing character(not counting the ghosts), even if she doesn't look the part.

    Web Comics 
  • Zachary in Bittersweet Candy Bowl during their vacation arc. He's in his early 20's, while the other characters are in their freshman to junior years in high school. He helps the group out multiple times, in a crisis.
  • Characters in Cucumber Quest have intentionally vague ages. But third member to join, Sir Carrot, is confirmed to be an Adult by Gigi. While "Cucumber and the rest are just kids". Carrot is also a Knight, that's vowed to rescue his Princess Parfait, who is trapped in Caketown Castle. Cucumber's quest to find the dreamsword, and defeat the Nightmare Knight just happens coincide with Carrot's goal.
  • Paranatural has Mr. Spender as a club adviser, assigned to supervise their club. The rest of the activity club being about 12.

    Web Original 
  • Jun Kim of Galactiquest feels like this, being nearly a decade older than most of their crewmates, including the captains. However, they're still pretty young for their mission being only 27, and two of their friends on the crew are closer in age. But those two aren't really typical adults.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, Jake the Dog is the closest thing to this in the show, being in a serious relationship, which makes him more of an adult than Finn is, and being old enough to give Finn advice about growing up. Being a dog his age goes by dog years so he matures faster than Finn does. Them being technically adoptive brothers also gives Finn a reason to trust him with a lot of things.
  • American Dad!: Parodied in the episode "American Dream Factory" where Steve forms a band consisting of his school friends and a coke-snorting Jaded Washout for their drummer. He is eventually replaced by the similarly older Roger.
    Barry: We told you, no drugs!
    Gerry: And I told you if I was responsible, I wouldn't be in a band with a bunch of 14-year-olds!
  • Arthur: Francine's band "U Stink" consists of her and several of her 3rd grade friends, plus 60-something Mrs. MacGrady on keyboard.
  • Ben 10 has Grandpa Max, an authority figure to Ben and Gwen on their trip, and an Old Soldier since he was a member of "The Plumbers" who even Big Bad Vilgax is scared of.
  • Bravest Warriors has the Emotion Lord as the Token Adult often tagging along with a group of teenagers. He wants to help and be part of the team, but Chris keeps telling him to go away because he is too old. Although the Emotion Lord is actually Chris from the future.
  • Carmen Sandiego has a downplayed example with Shadow-San, a former member of VILE's high command who joins Carmen's crew of young adults after he betrays the organization. It helps that he used to be one of Carmen's teachers and is an Old Soldier, so he's able to divulge information on VILE's inner workings that Carmen simply doesn't have.
  • Class of 3000 has Sunny Bridges, who is the only adult of the main eight characters, the other seven being in the 12-13 bracket. It's justified, as he's a teacher and they're students.
  • The Funny Company was a group of children—and a Native American man in a stereotypical feather headdress called Super Chief, who sounded like a train horn when he opened his mouth ("Super Chief" was the name of a well-known train that used Native American themes).
  • Gravity Falls: While Grunkle Stan is Dipper and Mabel's guardian for the summer, his feigned ignorance of the supernatural activities in Gravity Falls means that Soos, the Mystery Shack's handyman is the only adult consistently tagging along for Dipper and Mabel's adventures.
  • Kid Cosmic: Papa G is the sole adult of the team. The rest of the team consists of a toddler, a teenager, a young child and a cat.
  • The Magic School Bus has Ms. Valerie Frizzle, who takes her class of elementary school students on exotic field trips. Her age is vague, but it's clear that she's an adult, even if she doesn't always act like one.
  • Storm Hawks: While not quite as extreme as some of the age gaps on this page, Airborne Aircraft Carrier pilot Stork is a 20-year-old on a squadron of 14-year-olds.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splinter, in all incarnations, is the Turtles' Old Master and Parental Substitute who teaches them the art of the ninja, and stealth to hide from the cold eyes of the world. The Turtles are always teenagers.
  • In Wakfu Ruel Stroud, an elder to the rest of the team, joins because he's asked to watch over Yugo by his old friend Alibert who is Yugo's adoptive father. He agrees since he's become fond of Yugo. All of the other characters are younger than 19. Yugo is 12.
  • The Wild Thornberrys. In an episode called "The Dragon and the Professor", Eliza Thornberry is dying to see a komodo dragon, but her plans are halted by her tutor who wants her to do homework. The solution? She does it anyway, and her tutor becomes her adult as he tags along with her to find it.