Since the 1980s, there have been many animated characters
which are either junior versions
(e.g., children, nephews, nieces, or protégés) or younger versions
(i.e., the original characters presented as children) of other well-established characters. An example of a younger character is Scooby-Doo
as a puppy, and an example of a junior character is Scrappy-Doo
, Scooby-Doo's nephew.
This trend, often referred to as the "babyfication" or "juniorization" of shows , was kicked off by the 1984 series Jim Henson's Muppet Babies
, which was based on a sequence in the (live-action) film The Muppets Take Manhattan
. An earlier example of younger versions of existing cartoon characters, however, would be Bugs Bunny
and Elmer Fudd
from the 1944 cartoon The Old Grey Hare
, which features Bugs and Elmer as babies (as well as very old characters) The same concept was used in a cartoon featuring an elderly Foghorn Leghorn
and Barnyard Dawg
who each have a grandson.
Examples from comic books are Superboy, who was introduced in 1944's More Fun Comics #101 as the teenage version of Superman; Superboy would eventually be seen in an animated series in the 1960s. There was also Little Archie, which featured the childhood adventures of Archie Comics character Archie Andrews.
A common trait of many of these spin-offs is their habit of breaking whatever semblance of continuity (however minimal or nonexistent it may be) the previous versions of the characters established; for example, the original Flintstones series stated that Fred and Barney first met Wilma and Betty as young adults while working at a resort, an assertion backed up by several later episodes/spin-offs (as well as the second live-action Flintstones movie, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas). However, The Flintstone Kids shows them all as having known each other as ten-year-olds. Other differences between the two series include the 1980s-equivalent technology (video games, personal computers, etc.) seen in Kids vs. the 1960s-equivalent technology seen in the original series, as well as there being greater racial diversity in Bedrock in Kids (though other Flintstones spin-offs featuring the characters as adults have also shown a presence of minorities in Bedrock). For these reasons, some animation fans consider most of these "younger version" shows either as apocryphal or as having caused all the series with those characters to have "jumped the shark."
Television series featuring younger versions of animation characters include:
- Baby Felix: with the adventures of Felix the Cat as a kitten, and his various friends.
- Baby Looney Tunes (Warner Bros., 2002): based on characters who appeared in the Looney Tunes shorts. The show stars baby version of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety Bird, Taz, Petunia Pig, Melissa Duck, and Lola Bunny (from Space Jam). The show has also featured baby versions of Elmer Fudd (though Elmer has appeared in an episode as slightly older than the others and as a bully, obviously as a reference to the adult version always hunting the adult version of Bugs Bunny), Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Foghorn Leghorn, Pepe Le Pew, and Marvin the Martian in musical segments between stories. See also the earlier "Tiny Toon Adventures" below.
- Clifford's Puppy Days (Scholastic Entertainment, 2004): featuring the adventures of Clifford the Big Red Dog when he was a puppy.
- Drawn Together (Comedy Central, 2007): A third season episode called "Drawn Together Babies" features the characters as toddlers to spoof the theme of younger versions of cartoon characters.
- El Tigre (Nickelodeon/Nicktoons Network, 2007): There is a villain named Dr. Chipotle that has a son, Dr. Chipotle Jr., who is essentially a junior version of him.
- Family Guy (FOX, 2007): In an episode called "Family Guy Viewer Mail 1", the characters are shown in a skit as children in elementary school as a parody of The Little Rascals.
- NG Knight Lamune & 40 (Atastu), (1996): in Ramune, Da Cider Parfiat is Babies get in Change Youth
- The Flintstone Kids (Hanna-Barbera, 1986): featuring the original cast of The Flintstones (Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty) as ten-year olds. In addition, the show also has backup segments:
- Futurama had an episode parodying the basic concept of 'character babyfication' called "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles".
- Gadget Boy & Heather (DiC Entertainment, 1995): featuring Inspector Gadget as his younger self, Gadget Boy. There were significant character replacements in this series; the most important ones are:
- Gadget's niece, Penny, was replaced with his nanny/partner, Heather.
- The dog Brain was replaced with a shape-shifting robot dog called "G-9."
- Finally, the original series' villain Dr. Claw was replaced with Spydra, a pink Spider-Man-esque foe.
- Garfield and Friends briefly parodied the idea in the short "The Automated Animated Adventure", where Mr. Sprocket, a cartoon producer fiddles around with Garfield's appearance, at one point turning him into a baby and saying that it's part of "the newest trend in cartoon shows".
- James Bond Jr. was a 1991 cartoon series that starred junior versions of Bond (his nephew), Leiter (his son), and Q (his grandson).
- Jungle Cubs (Disney, 1996): based on the 1967 feature film The Jungle Book, but set in the youth of the animal characters, such as Baloo, King Louie, and Shere Khan.
- Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks, a feature film featuring The Chipmunks and The Chipettes as pre-schoolers.
- Muppet Babies (Jim Henson Productions, 1984-1990), a spin-off of a scene from The Muppets Take Manhattan. Most of the major Muppets are featured, as is a new female counterpart to Scooter, named "Skeeter."
- The New Archies (DiC Entertainment, 1987): based on the Archie comics, the series reimagined Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Jughead Jones, and most of the other teenage students of Riverdale High School as pre-teens attending junior high.
- The Oz Kids (Paramount), 1996: depicts junior versions of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion from "The Wizard of Oz"
- A Pup Named Scooby Doo (Hanna-Barbera, 1988): featuring Scooby-Doo and the Mystery, Inc. gang's adventures as junior high school students. Continuity was later established with What's New, Scooby-Doo?
- Sabrina, the Animated Series (DiC Entertainment, 1999): a version of the Sabrina, the Teenage Witch comics that featured Sabrina as a 12 year-old attending junior high school. Her best friends in this series include Chloe Flan (a young girl created for this series) and Harvey Kinkle (from the original comics). In this series, Chloe is the only mortal that knows that Sabrina is a witch, and Harvey is still Sabrina's secret crush.
- Smallville (Warner Bros.), is a popular live-action TV drama featuring Clark Kent (who would later become Superman) as a teenager. See also the section on Superboy below.
- Tiny Toon Adventures (Warner Bros., 1990-1994): Featured pre-teenage characters who were somewhat similar to the Looney Tunes characters, including "Buster and Babs Bunny" (whom are students of Bugs Bunny at Acme Looniversity), "Hamton Pig," "Plucky Duck," and others. Many of the other original Looney Tunes characters made frequent cameos as teachers in this series.
- Tom and Jerry Kids (Hanna-Barbera/Turner Entertainment, 1990): featuring Tom and Jerry as children. Other segments on this program include:
- Droopy and Dripple, featuring Droopy Dog and his son Dripple.
- Spike & Tyke, featuring the bulldog Spike, and his son Tyke. Tyke, oddly enough, is the same age here as he is in the conventional "adult" Tom and Jerry shorts.
- Ultraman Kids (Tsuburaya Productions): a kid version of the famous Japanese superhero Ultraman (who was created by Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects genius behind some of the classic Godzilla and Mothra movies). The Ultraman Kids originated in merchandising in the early 1980s, and had their own theatrical featurette in 1984. In 1986, the kids starred in a show that taught various morals. In 1992, the child versions of the Ultraman characters appeared in a second TV series that was slightly more action-oriented.
- Wonder Showzen (Augenblick Studios): the show did an extreme parody of the concept, mostly of Muppet Babies featuring all the major Wonder Showzen puppets, even a disturbing parody of Nanny.
- X-Men: Evolution (Film Roman, Marvel Enterprises, 2000): based on the original X-Men comics, this series featured the X-Men as teenagers and young adults. The series depicts Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Shadowcat and Spyke, a new character, as teenagers attending regular high school in addition to the Xavier Institute. At the latter, Professor X, Storm, Wolverine and, later, Beast were their teachers.
- Yo Yogi! (Hanna-Barbera, 1991): featuring Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, and their friends as teenagers who have various adventures at "Jellystone Mall." Other characters included teenage versions of Ranger Smith, Atom Ant, Magilla Gorilla, and Dick Dastardly.
- Young Robin Hood (Hanna-Barbera/Cinar, 1992): shows his adventures when he, Little John, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marion were teenagers.
Comic books and strips featuring younger versions of animation characters include:
- Captain Marvel Jr., a teenaged apprentice to Fawcett Comics' superhero Captain Marvel, introduced in Whiz Comics in 1941 and later popular in Master Comics and his own self-titled comic book. The character's comic adventures continued until 1953; when DC Comics assumed the rights to the Fawcett characters in 1972, Captain Marvel, Jr. was returned to publication.
- Superboy: featured the adventures of Superman as a teenage superhero defending his home town of Smallville from various threats. Other characters seen in this series include the teenage version of Lana Lang, who made some appearances in the adult Superman stories as well. The series ran from 1944 through 1986, when the traditional version of Superboy was retired. A newer version of Superboy exists in the current Superman comics, but this version is was a younger clone of Superman.
- Little Archie: featured the adventures of the Archie comics gang as elementary school students.
- Spy vs. Spy Jr., a running comic strip in the juvenile-themed Mad Kids (a spin-off of Mad Magazine). Unlike the more familiar version, the junior Spy characters do not attempt to murder one another. Instead, they engage in tit-for-tat pranks and plots (in one episode, a Spy ends up soaked by his own garden hose; in another, a Spy gets splattered by bad-smelling "skunk juice").
- Petey: The Adventures of Peter Parker Long Before He Became Spider-Man, a Fred Hembeck backup feature in Marvel Tales featuring humorous stories of Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, and Betty Brant as children, with Aunt May Parker and Uncle Benjamin Parker. A typical example featured Petey sent by Aunt May to the pharmacy to buy Uncle Ben's medicine and told he can keep the change. not realizing the cost of medicine, he buys sodas for Flash and Betty, only to discover the change from the medicine is a quarter.
- Little Endless: Child versions of the Endless from Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics, originally appearing in the story "A Parliament of Rooks]", illustrated by Jill Thompson, and subsequently in Thompson's graphic novel The Little Endless Storybook
- X-Babies: Several X-Men stories parodied the concept by having younger versions of the cast created by Mojo.
- Wonder Woman : Over the years there have been multiple comics involving a younger version of Wonder Woman. Some have been flashbacks comics of her early days, some have been as a result of her becoming younger and some involved 2 younger versions of herself going into the future and teaming up with her. The two younger versions of her are Wonder Tot and Wonder Girl. When writer Bob Haney, erroneously believing that Wonder Girl was a junior protege of Wonder Woman, used Wonder Girl as a member of the all-protege Teen Titans, the character was re-established as a genuine junior version to explain her presence as a Titan.
There has been one concept album with an accompanying music video DVD
on the subject of younger versions of cartoon characters.
- Comedy Central's Lil' Bush is a spoof of the concept.
- Disney has baby versions of the following characters:
- Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Gus Goose, Fidler Pig, Black Pete, Gyro Gearloose, Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Cinderella, Snow White, Princess Ariel, Belle, Aurora in Disney Babies
- Pocket Fighter this seen characters Street Fighter version young Ken, Ryu, Tessa, Hsien-Ko, Chun Li, Dan Hibiki, Felicia as a kitten, Sakura, Ibuki, Morrigan, Zangief, Akuma, had accidentally turned appearance possible in Battle Figher, and Practice, Survival and Running Battle in Desert Most Capcom characters various Megaman, Rush as a puppy, Roll, Megaman X, Bon Trone, Ryu,
- Final Fantasy was a final fantasy young Chocobo, Moogle,version young series, Chocobo Racing, Chocobo's Dungeon
- On Super Smash Bros. Melee, Link and Young Link are both playable characters.
- Young Sherlock Holmes has Holmes and Watson meeting each other and fighting with Professor Moriarty as teen-agers.