In the ’80s and ’90s, a lot of things were turned into cartoons. We saw a long list of animated shows based on live-action movies and more than a few that existed simply to sell toys. One interesting subgenre you might not remember, though, is when an animated series would age down an established set of fictional characters. All of a sudden, characters you were used to seeing as adults were portrayed as children on another show.
It happened more often than you may think and, honestly, some of the properties that did this to squeeze a little extra money out of their intellectual property may surprise you. At the end of the day, they all had something that made them entertaining enough to stick to the back of our minds.
Let’s jump in the time machine and revisit 18 of the absolute best animated shows that age-flipped characters you knew and love–and maybe a couple you were downright terrified of. Also, make sure to check out our list of movies that were based on beloved cartoons. He-Man, eat your heart out.
1. The Tom and Jerry Kids Show
It’s not that Tom and Jerry Kids was a bad show, it was actually pretty good. However, the most memorable thing about it is its fantastic theme song. The series also included a kid version of Droopy Dog, in addition to little Tom and Jerry.
2. Muppet Babies
This is easily the most beloved and iconic example of this trend. Jim Henson’s Muppets were portrayed as babies when they became a cartoon–complete with onesies, baby talk, and a parental figure named Nanny that was only ever shown from the legs down. Muppet Babies is hands-down one of the best cartoons of the 1980s. What’s more, the recent reboot on Disney Channel is also quite fun, even if it doesn’t cast tiny versions of your favorite Muppets in movie franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
3. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo
This was another show with a very memorable theme, though it’s a confusing one. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo first debuted in 1988, and yet its theme sounds like a doo-wop song from the ’50s. Regardless, this show is a blast as a young Scooby gang hunts monsters and solves mysteries, and of course, feeds the titular dog Scooby Snacks to keep him motivated.
4. Flintstone Kids
Flintstone Kids was good, but what makes this entry on the list special is the show-within-the-show. Captain Caveman and Son were shorts that aired as part of Flintstone Kids. Originally, Captain Caveman was a character that debuted in the 1977 animated series Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels. On Flintstone Kids, he teamed with his son Cavey Jr. to fight the forces of evil. As for the little Flintstone gang themselves, that part of the show was also very fun, though you might remember it most for the public service announcements that aired during the episodes.
5. Tiny Toon Adventures
This one is, admittedly, a bit of a cheat. The kids on Tiny Toons weren’t actually the kid versions of Bugs, Daffy, Taz, and the rest of the gang. It doesn’t get much closer, though. Baby and Buster were clearly a younger take on the different sides of Bugs Bunny, while Plucky Duck has Daffy’s temper, Dizzy was the spitting image of Taz, and Hampton was so close to Porky Pig it was scary. What’s more, sometimes the classic Looney Tunes characters made appearances on Tiny Toons, seeing them team up with their younger proteges.
6. James Bond Jr.
This is another one that sort of works, but only if you stretch the premise a bit. James Bond Jr. was the nephew of James Bond and a spy-in-training and, along with his prep school friends, was fighting the forces of evil just like his infamous uncle. What you may not know, though, is James Bond Jr. has his own novels. The Adventures of James Bond Junior 003½ was first released in 1967, written by an author under the pseudonym R. D. Mascott. Interestingly, the actual author of the book has never been officially revealed, though several names have been theorized.
7. Baby Looney Tunes
First debuting in 2001, this is a much newer series than Tiny Toons. What’s more, it actually delivers what you might have been looking for in that show–this is the actual Looney Tunes characters as babies, in case the title of the series didn’t hint at it enough. This series essentially Muppet Babies, but with Bugs Bunny and friends. What’s not to love?
8. Yo Yogi!
If you’ve actually heard of this one, congratulations. You’re as nerdy as we are. Yo Yogi! debuted in 1991 and only lasted for 12 episodes. It was the most over-the-top version of the ’90s you could expect, complete with a neon-colored makeover of Yogi’s clothes. The series casts the bear and his pals–Boo-Boo, Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, Cindy Bear–as 14-year-old crime fighters. What else would you expect these animated teen animals to be?
9. Jungle Cubs
Yes, Disney’s The Jungle Book for the kid treatment, even though the main character in the movie is already a kid. This version doesn’t feature Mowgli at all. Instead, the animals are all kids, living it up in the jungle. They aren’t crime fighters of ghostbusters or anything like that. Instead, they’re just friends hanging out. Oh, and we have to mention the theme song, a hip-hop version of “The Bare Necessities.”
10. Clifford’s Puppy Days
If you were a kid in the early-aughts, you might remember Clifford’s Puppy Days. Before he was Clifford the Big Red Dog, he was Clifford the normal-sized puppy that wasn’t a menace to keep and maintain.
11. The New Archies
Before Riverdale turned Archie and his friends into a Twin Peeks-flavored murder party of teenage angst, The New Archies made them little kids. The gang is in junior high and, well, not much else has changed. It lasted 13 episodes and was still the incredibly wholesome Archie Comics you knew back then before it went full-CW.
12. Sabrina: The Animated Series
The animated Sabrina series was a spin-off of the live-action version starring Melissa Joan Hart and featured the titular teen as a 12-year-old. She was still learning her magical ways and getting into all sorts of trouble with her spells. In this series, Sabrina is voiced by Hart’s little sister, Emily Hart. However, the original Sabrina does play a role, voicing Sabrina’s aunts Hilda and Zelda.
13. Camp WWE
What if WWE did its own take on South Park? That’s Camp WWE, an animated series that’s definitely meant for adults. All of your favorite WWE superstars, including “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, and The Undertaker, are little kids at a summer camp run by Vince McMahon, his teen daughter Stephania, and her boyfriend Triple H? That’s all you need to know about WWE. It pokes fun at WWE and professional wrestling as a whole, is filled with more adult language than you’d find on Raw or Smackdown, and it actually one of the most entertaining WWE Network originals.
Yes, this is real. There’s honestly no telling how old the Ewoks are in Return of the Jedi. But who cares? In this Star Wars animated series, viewers follow a younger version of Wicket and his friends before the events of A New Hope and, for some reason, they speak English now. Originally, this series aired with the half-hour show Droids for The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour, otherwise known as the coolest one-hour block of TV you’ll ever experience.
15. Iron Man: Armored Adventures
This is the most recent series on the list, but need to be pointed out. Iron Man: Armored Adventures followed Tony Stark as a teen Iron Man, alongside a similarly-aged Pepper Potts and Rhodey. If you thought Stark might have less of an ego as a teenager, guess again. Still, this take on Iron Man was entertaining and it managed to introduce a long list of popular Marvel characters–from Black Panther to MODOK.
16. The Mini-Monsters
So, The Mini-Monsters wasn’t a show. It was, however, a segment within the animated series The Comic Strip. The segment featured the children of the classic Universal monsters, including Frankenstein’s son Franky and the Invisible Man’s son Blanko. It’s utterly ridiculous, with a premise of a pair of siblings (one of which is voiced by Seth Green) being sent to a summer camp filled with the children of actual horror villains for a year. This is the oddest entry on the list, but one of the best.
17. The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show
While this is a list of cartoons that turned adult characters into children, it didn’t always work out that way. In some cases, the process goes backward, and this is a perfect example of that. On The Flintstones, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm were the kids of Fred and Barney, respectively. That series ended in 1966, though, with The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show following in 1971. In that series, the two titular characters were teenagers, attending high school together and starting a band. What was the band called, you ask? The Bedrock Rockers. This sequel series only lasted 16 episodes, but it remains a cool idea that most cartoons won’t dare touch. Bart Simpson has been in elementary school for three decades, and chances are that won’t be changing anytime soon.
18. All Grown Up
This series also aged up popular baby characters. All Grown Up revisited the world of Rugrats. This time, though, Tommy Pickles and his friends were preteens and had more fleshed out personalities. It lasted five seasons on Nickelodeon, airing between 2003 and 2008.