Most animated children’s TV cartoons these days tend to star either children or teenagers. Presumably, it’s to make the protagonists more relatable to kids watching at home. Amplifying this is the occasional “adults are useless” trope (to quote TV Tropes) appearing, where any adults will be villains, idiots, or merely unconcerned for our pre-teen protagonists. Even if there’s adults in the core cast, the show’s star will still be someone under 18 (see “Steven Universe“).
Cartoons years/decades ago often featured adult stars. The theatrical “Looney Tunes” and “Tom and Jerry” shorts were largely adults. The same for older TV cartoons (“Huckleberry Hound,” “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” etc.).
Still, there are children’s cartoons these days where adults are the main stars. While superhero shows tend to be the most popular candidates for such, there’s other examples, all listed below. I’ve drawn my examples from what’s currently airing (as of this writing, the 2016-2017 TV season) on Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, and PBS Kids. I’m also restricting this list to Western animation, to keep things simpler.
Mickey Mouse (Disney Channel)
The shorts center around Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Minnie, and Daisy. Huey, Dewey, and Louie have appeared in a few of the shorts.
Nature Cat (PBS)
The main cast are all adults. There’s even flashbacks to when Nature Cat was, uh, a Nature Kitten (wearing a similar but smaller costume).
SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodeon)
Yes, SpongeBob’s a childish adult, but an adult nonetheless. Ditto the rest of the cast, save Pearl (Mr. Krabs’ teenage daughter).
The Tom and Jerry Show (Cartoon Network)
The cat and mouse are both adults, along with most of the rest of their supporting cast.
Wabbit (Cartoon Network)
Bugs Bunny is back to outwitting foes in this series.
Regular Show (Cartoon Network)
Like “SpongeBob,” this show features adult talking animals, though mixed in with humans and (for some reason) a sentient, cranky gumball machine.
The pets’ owner is a girl, but the main animal characters (like in the classic children’s book) seem to be adults, from what I’ve seen of the series.
We Bare Bears (Cartoon Network)
From what I’ve seen of the show, the main bear characters are adults living on their own.
Pickle and Peanut (Disney XD)
A show about a sentient talking giant-sized pickle and peanut working at a supermarket. Even if it sounds a lot like “Regular Show,” the leads are apparently adults, so…
Human characters (superheroes)
Justice League Action (Cartoon Network)
The show mostly centers around the adult DC Comics superheroes.
Avengers Assemble (Disney XD)
This series centers mainly around Marvel’s adult superheroes.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Disney XD)
The Guardians are all adults; as of this writing, it doesn’t seem Groot’s met his cinematic version’s fate.
Human characters (non-superheroes)
Uncle Grandpa (Cartoon Network)
Uncle Grandpa interacts with children frequently (including in a “Steven Universe” crossover), but he’s still the star of the show. His cohorts (a talking pizza slice and a Godzilla-esque character) are also adults.
Wild Kratts (PBS)
The Wild Kratts crew interact with kids sometimes (the “Wild Kratts Kids”). However, the main cast and their villains are all adults. One episode (about long-lived animals) has one of the villains, Zach, worried about aging.
Are there any other currently airing shows I missed? Let me know in the comments.