Western Animation: Action League NOW!
Originally a segment on Nickelodeon
's live-action TV series All That
and then on its Animated Anthology KaBlam!
, Action League NOW!
centered on the crudely stop-motion-animated adventures of four superhero toys, who were forever going off on missions that were either ill-defined or just plain weird, and nearly always involved trying to stop the corrupt "The Mayor" in some zany scheme of his. What made it distinct was that the toys were all shown in their "natural state" of being 6 inches tall in a human world, seldom even moving on their own (unless being thrown or the like, which is why the show was sometimes described as being filmed in "Chuck-imation").
Our heroes were The Flesh (a Conan The Adventurer
doll modified to replace his hips/loincloth with a Ken type bulge who was described as "super-strong and super-naked"), Thunder Girl (a superheroine with a [Sindy] doll head who just flew around and complained about how stupid her teammates were, even though she could be just as clueless as the others), Stinky Diver (a loose cannon with a thick British accent and perpetual body odor, and is made from a G.I. Joe
Shipwreck action figure) and Melt-Man (a not-too-bright melted GI Joe-like
figurine "with the power to... melt!
"). They tended to suffer horrible injuries. They were accompanied by The Chief, who would often shout "BLAST IT!" and berate the team for their screw-ups; Justice the Dog, and Bill the Lab Guy, who spoke in monotone, and often made strange inventions and devices to help the League, though these would often be stolen or otherwise used to harm the League.
As an anthology segment, the series lasted from 1996 to 2000. Their spin-off show consisted of combinations of their old shorts into longer episodes.
This series provides examples of:
- Action Figure Speech: Justified since most of the cast are action figures.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: This exchange in "Voice of Treason" as a garage door is about to crush the League.
Announcer: With a door closing on any hope, the league has one last card to play...
Thunder Girl: No please!
Stinky: Don't hurt us!
Meltman: We'll be your best friend!
Announcer: ..The wuss card.
- And Call Him George
- Animation Bump: Rock-a-Big Baby (the theatrical short that played in front of Good Burger) had considerably more stop motion animated scenes than the rest of the series.
- "Science Fiction Parody" and "Testimony of Terror" also have considerably more stop motion than other episodes.
- Anti-Villain: Hodge Podge. Can't blame a guy for wanting to destroy the League (especially Bill the Lab Guy) when they basically ruined his life.
- Badass Normal: For a guy who's the leader of a League of Superheroes despite having no form of superpowers, the Chief has to count.
- Stinky Diver as well, despite his claims that "firing [his] harpoon gun" counts as a superpower. Many episodes are revolved by Stinky simply harpooning whatever the Monster of the Week is.
- He was also previously in the Navy, so that might have something to do with it.
- Balloon Belly: The Chief after being cursed to have a huge appetite by a fortune teller. Eventually, he looks like a bowling ball with a head and limbs. Remember, he's a plastic toy when this happens.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: The Flesh, being an action figure, doesn't have genitalia.
- Bloodless Carnage: With so many instances of people being run over by cars, decapitated by fans, crushed by various objects and all other sorts of violence which would never be allowed on Nickelodeon if it was a hand-drawn cartoon, it's pretty much clear that this show's use of this trope is justified.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
Announcer: Will his dishonor get away with his fine china chicanery?
The Mayor: I'd tell you, but they won't show me the script!
- Butt Monkey: Meltman.
- Considering the type of humor in the series, pretty much every member of the main cast probably counts as a Butt Monkey. Meltman just happens to take the brunt of the punishment.
- Catch Phrase:
- Characterization Marches On: The League started out as pretty effective heroes, but became more inept with each episode.
- The League also started out as being highly respected by the townspeople. Cue "Stink or Swim", where a person is actually unhappy that the League has come to save him from being flushed down the toilet.
- Comically Missing the Point: In one episode, Stinky Diver was feeling down. He told the League how his mother betrayed him some years ago, resulting him getting his signature odor.
Meltman: So that's why he stinks. (the League look at him) What?
- Content Warnings: Played for Laughs at the beginning of the episode, "In the Whine of Fire":
Narrator: "Warning! The following very special Action League Now special contains scenes of Action Mayhem (AMH), Action Love (ALV), and Action Action (AA). It may be too intense for older viewers. Oh, and did we mention, somebody's naked (NKD) for the whole show?"
- Cousin Oliver: Quarky, Bill the Lab Guy's daughter.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Smarty Pants, who was probably the greatest threat the League ever faced off against because he's this trope.
- The Mayor had his moments.
- The very few episodes Hodge Podge was in, he displayed this with his tactics on how to crush the League. It makes sense, since he used to work for them, but then again, you don't really need much sense to beat the League.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Stinky Diver had two events that haunted him.
- The Ditz: The Flesh is by far the least intelligent character on the show, often being this.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The ending of "Science Fiction Parody".
- Everybody Laughs Ending: Happens in almost every episode.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Justice, in "Hey! Who Stole My Face!" Not very suprising, really, given it was just The Mayor with The Chief's face...
- Explosive Breeder: The chicks that The Mayor illegally imports.
- Faceless Masses: In the KISS episode, various toys were used to fill the crowd.
- Failed a Spot Check: Meltman in "Melty's Girl", when he's sent to scout out the villain's lair for booby traps. Made more humorous when the League just follows along with it anyways.
"Hmm, a large, heavy dangerous object, rigged to fall on anyone standing on that bullseye...At least there's no booby traps! All clear!"
- Failure Montage: In a Clip Show involving the Action League standing before council to see whether they should retain their hero status or be declared a danger to the public for their incompetence. Each of the Leaguers' flashback to their past exploits don't really help their case, but the icing on the cake is Flesh's recollections which are presented in such a montage of how his clumsiness or carelessness only did more harm than good to the people he was trying to help.
- Faux Affably Evil: The Mayor. Half of the humor from him is because of him being this.
- Flowers for Algernon Syndrome: The Flesh, in one episode. His hyperintelligence gets removed by a blow to the head from one of Smarty Pants's chess pieces The Flesh wins the chess game anyway. Subverted in that the rest of the league is thankful to have the old Flesh back... and promptly reconsider that when he drops a pile of books on them again.
- For the Evulz: Lightning Lady is revealed to be the Mayor. Reason? Because he's evil.
The Flesh: Why did you do it, Mayor?
Mayor: Why? Because I'm evil!
- Fourth Wall Mail Slot: The "Ask The League" segments. As said by the Lemony Narrator:
"And now it's time for Ask The League, where real children ask real questions to fake superheroes."
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: Kinda. The Chief and The Mayor end up switching faces thanks to a botched operation by Bill. Of course, everyone simply assumes Chief-With-Mayor's-Face is The Mayor and vice versa, so it works in the same way. Hilarious when you remember that The Chief is black and The Mayor is white, yet they still can't figure it out.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: The Action League accountant, due to The Flesh's idiocy, ended up being wrecked in a blender and subsequently "operated" on by Bill. The result? Hodge Podge.
- Gallows Humor: Obviously done by the Mayor, but the League can be just as bad with it, as seen in the scene after the Cold Opennote of "Incident at Chlorine Lake":
Narrator: We find our heroes in a somber mood, pondering a terrible tragedy.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "You should see me naked! I'm GLORIOUS!!!"
- The sheer violence of the show, but it's okay because they're just action figures!
- An example in "When Pigeons Dare":
Stinky: I don't know Thundergirl, what's the difference between Meltman and a sack of manure?
Thunder Girl: The sack!
- Green-Eyed Monster: Thunder Girl becomes this for most of "Thunder and Lightning" because of the rest of the League ignoring her in favor of Lightning Lady. Her petty behavior is only made more hilarious when she admits it to Thunder Dad.
- Harpoon Gun: Stinky Diver's weapon of choice.
- Hostile Show Takeover: One episode of KaBlam!, "Tastes Like Paper", had The Mayor taking over as director of research to torment Henry & June. And he did it because he wanted to turn the page. When Henry & June bust in on him, he comments: "You were expecting, maybe, Warren Littlefield?" At the end of the episode, H&J get revenge by trampling him with a marching band he hired (which had trampled Henry & June earlier).
- Hypocritical Humor: As noted above, Thundergirl had her fair share of Too Dumb to Live moments even though she always chastised her teammates for being idiots.
- The Mayor counts too. He's always quick to call the League idiots, despite half his Evil Plans being ones that are clearly not well thought out.
- In the episode, "Tears of a Clone", The Chief tells Bill that science shouldn't meddle with nature, just before asking for a heart transplant he promised him.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Stinky Diver's mother betrayed him all those years ago for the money, of course!
- Leitmotif: "Thunder Girl! Flying like thunder! How other people must wonder, what it's like to be me!"
- The Mayor has a cool-sounding theme whenever he appears.
- Jerkass: All of the main characters, really. The Mayor is the biggest example, but there's a very good reason the Action League is bad at being superheroes - they're not only incredibly incompetent, they're lazy and much more willing to slack off and/or watch someone get hurt right in front of them than risk their necks. At least The Chief is only a Jerk Ass to the team.
- Kids Are Cruel: In "Testimony of Terror", the League is tasked with protecting a young witness from The Mayor, who intends to off him. The kid does everything horrible you could possibly imagine to his bodyguards, and by the end the League is rooting for The Mayor to kill him. Of course, The Mayor ends up becoming just another victim.
- "King Kong" Climb: In the episode, "Big Baby", a cranky Big Baby climbs to the top of a coat rack with Quarky in his hand.
- Kirby Dots: Used in transition cards.
- Last Note Nightmare: The music heard at the end of each short.
- Lemony Narrator: Big time. Each episode he just says "THE END", in a deep voice. Other than that, while he doesn't interact with the characters, he makes fun of them and uses Added Alliterative Appeal quite often.
- Literally Shattered Lives: A rare example of it not being a case of being frozen or turned into stone, the characters would quite often be reduced to little plastic pieces after being run over by a car or falling into a blender.
- In one instance, The Chief was power-sanded down to just a fine powder.
- Man Child: The Flesh. The rest of the League sometimes have shades of this too, minus the Chief.
- Missed Him by That Much: After arresting two criminals pretending to be The Flesh's parents, he wonders if he'll ever meet his real parent. Then, his real (naked) parents drive by wondering the same thing, and crushed the Action Mobile.
- My Greatest Failure: Years ago, Stinky Diver's brother fell into a flushing toilet. He was about to jump but was afraid his wallet would get wet. He was too late to save him. That event has haunted him since. He told the League about this after he failed to save someone from a flushing tiolet.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: The action figures used in the show are heavily modified from real ones.
- Opening Monologue: "Action League Now! Starring The Flesh: he's super-strong and super-naked! Thunder Girl: she flies like thunder! Stinky Diver: a former Navy Commando with an attitude as bad as his odor! And Meltman: with the power to...melt!"
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The Mayor uses one in "A Star is Torn". Surprisingly, only Meltman saw through the disguise.
- Everyone gets completely fooled by Robo-Flesh, who is simply just Flesh with a robot voice and bolts sticking out everywhere. The narrator even hangs a lampshade on it.
- Pittsburgh: The voices were all provided by Pittsburgh based Disc Jockeys. The male characters were voiced by Jim Krenn and Scott Paulsen, who co-hosted the WDVE Morning Show for many years together. Cris Winter, the other main cast member, also worked for WDVE. Bill Cowher and Kordell Stewart also appeared.
- Punch Clock Villain: The mayor isn't always evil; in one episode, he opens up a legitimate poolside resort (the League even shows up to enjoy it) and sells hot dogs. Granted, they're fifty dollars each, but he's just trying to make money.
- Recycled Soundtrack: Dog Day Afterschool recycled the theme from, of all things, Britain's ITV News at Ten; titled The Awakening, its' been used since the program's debut in 1967; the version used in the episode was used from 1992 to 1999.
- Running Gag:
- If anyone ever goes out onto the street, expect them to get run over by a car. This has even resolved the plot a few times.
- Thunder Girl constantly forgets that she does not have super strength.
- Heavy objects keep falling on everyone.
- Sea Monster: The giant trophy bass, as a parody of Jaws.
- Shoo Out the New Guy: Bill the Lab Guy's teenage daughter, Quarky. Introduced in KaBlam!!'s second season premier (if we're going by production order), and was in a bunch of episodes from that season. Fans found her rather annoying, and after "The Quarky Syndrome", she never appeared again.
- Something We Forgot: Happens in the episode, "Stink or Swim", when the league tries to rescue a pair of drowning victims.
- Spin-Off: Of KaBlam!!, which itself is a spinoff of All That.