Kids Cartoons And The "Need" To Focus On Young Characters


Well-Known Member
Jan 5, 2014
So, here's something interesting. We all know how a lot of kids shows will often have to have elements needed to appeal to kids. However, one element that intrigues me is how higher ups think that kids shows should always have kids/teenagers be the main characters (or have older characters act childish and naive), and how it's rare to have adults as the main characters. There are plenty of kids shows that appeal to a wide audience that includes adults, such as Steven Universe and Gravity Falls. However, think back to the 1990s and early 2000s. You could have kids shows that star adult characters, such as Rocko's Modern Life and Samurai Jack. Though their revivals are different given how the Rocko revival movie still appeals to kids and adults while Samurai Jack season 5 aims for more of an adult audience due to airing on Adult Swim. Let me give a few examples.

1. Established Properties

In a tweet about kids shows (both preschool and non-preschool shows), Shea Fontana mentioned how kids shows will usually focus on kids/teenagers as main characters. Shows based on established properties can be more lenient in focusing on an adult character like Batman, but even that's not always the case. The most successful DC properties in the 2010s that keep kids as the target audience are Teen Titans Go, the DC Superhero Girls franchise, and the Lego DC Comics Superheroes DVD movies. The first obviously focuses on teenagers. The second takes characters who are traditionally adult heroes (or in some cases, they become heroes here) and aging them down to teenagers. The third one stars adult characters who are written in a more silly way, and every movie since Attack Of The Legion Of Doom (with focus on Cyborg) will give major focus to a young character or relative newcomer to the League. Some examples include Robin's prominent role in Gotham City Breakout and Batman: Family Matters, Supergirl's prominent role in Cosmic Clash, Jessica Cruz's prominent role in Aquaman: Rage Of Atlantis, and Shazam getting his own movie this year. There are cases of this in other franchises, such as the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons aging down April O'Neil so she's closer in age to the turtles, or the recent Spider-Man cartoons aging down some heroes and villains so they're closer in age to Spider-Man.

2. Royalty

Another element common to kids shows is how, when they star royalty, it's usually either a princess or prince, never a king or queen. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly (go to 11:00), Aimee Carrero said how kids shows don't usually show them being king or queen since it's generally seen as an adult thing. At best, you can end the show with them being king or queen , but not show anything afterwards. Given that she voices two iconic princesses (Elena from Elena Of Avalor and Adora/She Ra on She Ra And The Princesses Of Power), it's not surprising. Some other examples of this include Cleopatra on Cleopatra In Space, Sofia from Sofia The First, and Rapunzel in the Tangled franchise. Probably the one exception is My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, but even still, Twilight is still a princess when she takes over Equestria, and characters who are clearly adults like Celestia and Luna are still princesses.

3. Adult Characters And Mature Stories

So, when you have prominent adult characters and they're involved in more mature stories, it's not surprising if they still have to play off of kids. DuckTales 2017 co-creator Francisco Angones mentioned how it was harder to greenlight stories that focus more on adult characters, particularly in "THE GOLDEN LAGOON OF WHITE AGONY PLAINS!". Even episodes like "The Outlaw Scrooge McDuck" still have him tell the story to Louie, or how many of Della's episodes will focus more on her relationship with her kids. I guess I should also talk about The Owl House here. Eda's story in how she has to struggle with her beastly form and continually drink her medicine seems to be an allegory. Most people tend to think of it as the more interesting aspect of The Owl House. However, she's not the main character. That goes to 14 year old Luz Noceda.

And that's all I have. What do you think about this? Do you think networks tend to have kids shows always focus on young characters?

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