Western Animation / Action League NOW!


Action League NOW!
Starring The Flesh: He's super strong and super naked.
Thunder Girl: She flies like thunder.
Stinky Diver: A former naval commando with an attitude as bad as his odor.
And Meltman: With the power to... melt!

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, 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.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: A part of the Lemony Narrator's speech.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: This exchange in "Voice of Treason".
    (The garage door that Hodge Podge rigged is about to come crashing down on 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.
  • 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. Even though it was an accident, you can't blame a guy for wanting to destroy the League due to the Flesh's clumsiness causing him to be crunched up by a blender. His hate towards Bill the Lab Guy is also very understandable since Bill horribly botched his operation.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • The Mayor counts as one towards the League, as he is the oldest, most frequent recurring antagonist towards the League and the closest thing the show has to a Big Bad. The episode (of the anthology spin-off), "His Dishonor" implies he has a personal reason for hating the League....not that we ever find out.
    Narrator: Consider the Mayor. How did he get so evil? Why does he hate the League so? And what exactly is he the mayor of? The answers are simple: We don't know.
    • Hodge Podge qualifies as one towards the League (since they ruined his life) but he reserves a special hatred towards Bill the Lab Guy for screwing up his operation. He may qualify even better than the Mayor since all of his plans to get back at the League never involve the use or harm of outsiders barring "Hit of Horror".
    • The Red Ninja, towards Stinky Diver.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: From "Yurplastic Park", when the League tries to evade a hungry T-Rex:
    Stinky Diver: Head for the chopper!
    (The T-Rex smashes the chopper with its foot.)
    Stinky: Head away from the chopper!
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever:
    • The titular monster in "The Wrath of Spotzilla", a live border collie.
    • Big Baby. It's only a two-foot tall baby doll but it's enormous compared to the toy-sized citizens.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Non romantic examples. Despite being jerkasses to one another, when the chips are down the League will band together when the situation calls for it.
    • In "The Naked and the Dumb", Thundergirl, Stinky and Meltman voluntarily offer to help The Flesh study after he fails a first grade equivalency test.
    • The Flesh, Thundergirl and Meltman initially object to Stinky fighting The Red Ninja by himself, citing that they're a team. They quickly change their tune once Stinky mentions The Red Ninja is a ruthless killing machine, but to their credit they cheer him on during the fight.
    • Despite constantly ridiculing him and ordering him to get them snacks, when the Chief threatens to fire Meltman for his cowardice in the first half of "In the Whine of Fire", the rest of the League objects. They even plan to secretly help Meltman when he's reassigned as Blandi's bodyguard.
  • Badass Normal: For a guy who's the leader of a team of superheroes despite having no form of superpowers, the Chief has to count. He even saves the day far effectively than the League does whenever possible.
    • Stinky Diver as well, despite his claims that "firing [his] harpoon gun" counts as a superpower. Many episodes are resolved 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.
  • Badly Battered Babysitter: A husband and wife pair of crooks pretend to be The Flesh's parents in order to use his super strength to break into houses. The Flesh, being The Flesh, puts them through so many accidents that the crooks fess up and beg to be put in prison.
  • 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.
  • Black Comedy: Much of the humor in this show came from the League getting dismembered, broken apart, or otherwise destroyed. Of course, since they were toys, there was no blood, but it's still pretty graphic.
  • Blessed with Suck: Meltman. He has the power to... melt. And that's about it. It doesn't help that he's treated as a Butt-Monkey by the rest of the cast. In fact it's even worse because he never uses this ability in the show except in the intro where he's being melted by a magnifying glass, so it's entirely possible he can't even consciously start melting himself, he has to have others do it for him.
  • 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:
    • In "Tears of a Clone":
    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!
    • A pretty good one in "Yurplastic Park":
    Thundergirl: We're trapped!
    Stinky Diver: Blimey! Is the League about to become a buffet for a B-Movie behemoth?!
    The Narrator: ...Er, that's what I was gonna say. Stay tuned for the action-gnawed conclusion of...Action League NOW!
  • Butt-Monkey: Meltman, though 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:
    • Bill the Lab Guy's "There's nothing I can do." The Chief lampshaded it once.
      The Chief: Let me guess; There's nothing you can do!
      Bill the Lab Guy: Bingo.
      • He also had "Oh no! I was afraid of this!"
      • Which was also lampshaded by the Chief, in regard to the entire Action League accidentally being cloned.
        Bill the Lab Guy: "Oh no! I was afraid of this!"
        The Chief: "No you weren't, you pointy-headed geek! I was!"
    • The Chief had "Blast it!" and "YOU MORONS!", the latter used whenever the League screwed up.
    • The Flesh had "Ouchies!"
    • Thunder Girl tended to sing her own theme, even when that wouldn't have been such a good idea.
    • The League itself had "Action League, AWAY!"
    • The Mayor had "I hate Mondays" almost every time he was crushed and "Uh oh, here's trouble..." whenever something bad was about to happen to him
  • Characterization Marches On: The League started out as pretty effective heroes (albeit still stupid), but became more inept with each episode. Come "Stink or Swim", a person is actually unhappy that the League has come to save him from being flushed down the toilet.
  • Clip Show: "And Justice For None". Lampshaded.
    Action League; in deep. High Commissioners; Big creeps. Re-using scenes from old episodes; real cheap.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In one episode, Stinky Diver was feeling down. The Chief told the League how Stinky's mother betrayed him some years ago, resulting him getting his signature odor.
    The Flesh: So that's why he smells so bad. (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.
  • 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. Stinky Diver even uses this to the team's advantage in one episode. As Flesh is fighting Robo-Flesh, Stinky yells out "Hey, stupid!" When Flesh responds with "What?" that's what finally convinces the League that he's the real Flesh.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • In the shorts made for All That, the opening logo and title cards had a different look.
    • The Chief originally had a different voice actor, and wouldn't have his signature No Indoor Voice until "No Fly Zone".
    • "I've Been Workin' On Derailroad" implied that Meltman got his powers through an accident.
    • In "Sinkhole of Doom", the Mayor is revealed to have a son, who the League have to rescue from the garbage disposal. He's never brought up again.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The ending of "Science Fiction Parody", done with a globe actually being blown up.
  • Emergency Impersonation: In "Danger For A Dignitary", the Flesh is forced to take the place of the ambassador (that he injures by accident) in order to sign a peace treaty.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: Happens in almost every episode.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Justice, in "Hey! Who Stole My Face!" Not very surprising, really, given it was just The Mayor with The Chief's face...
  • Evil Knockoff: Robo-Flesh, to the Flesh. The same guy, except with giant metal bolts sticking out of his body. Somehow, the rest of the League can't tell them apart.
  • 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". 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 "And Justice For None", 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.
  • "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: Many, many of the Mayor's evil plans, despite his insistence otherwise.
    The Flesh: Why did you do it, Mayor?
    Mayor: Why? Because I'm evil!
  • Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: The "Ask The League" segments in the spinoff anthology show.
    "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.
    League: *laughs*
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • In "Flesh and Blood":
    Meltman: How come Flesh gets to be on TV?
    Thundergirl: It's only because he's naked!
    Stinky Diver: They 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:
    • The Mayor'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.
  • Idiot Hero: The League constantly screws up, walks into obvious traps, and even cause the problem of several episodes due to their combined idiocy.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Stinky Diver's mother betrayed him all those years ago for the money, of course!
  • Incoming!: Meltman yells this to warn the League of a flying cinder block... after it's already hit them.
  • 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 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.
  • Kill 'em All: The ending to "Science Fiction Parody" where aliens blow up the Earth.
  • "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.
  • Laughably Evil: The Mayor lacks any good qualities to his character and does many horrible things throughout the show, whether it be ransoming two adorable kids for money despite already being rich, injuring football players so he can get a chance to play, murdering top 40 musicians so that his record album can make the charts...and yet he's over the top and cheesy you tend to be more entertained than repulsed by his evil.
  • Last Note Nightmare: The music heard at the end of each short.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lethal Klutz: The Flesh. Super-strength and clumsiness rarely make for a good combination.
  • 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.
  • Made of Plasticine: Everyone. Justified by the fact that they're action figures.
  • Manchild: The Flesh. The rest of the League sometimes have shades of this too, minus the Chief.
  • Mayor Pain: If he's commonly called "his dishonor", then you have to wonder how he even got elected.
    Stinky: Don't look at me, I didn't vote for him.
  • 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.
  • Murder by Remote Control Vehicle: In "Tune-Up of Terror", Hodge Podge plants a remote control device in the Action Mobile to frame Meltman for bad driving and send the rest of the Action League into the road to get run over by a much bigger car.
  • 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 toilet.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The Flesh — by way of Barbie Doll Anatomy — is a constantly-naked (barring one episode) Conan toy, and it's always played for laughs.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The voice of the Mayor originated on WDVE's morning show (see below) as a parody of Pittsburgh's then-mayor Tom Murphy.
  • No Indoor Voice: 90% of the Chief's dialogue is him yelling. Granted, the Action League's bumbling give him a lot to yell about.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The action figures used in the show are heavily modified from real ones.
  • Only Sane Man: The Chief is the only member of the Action League that is not a complete moron and often spurs the Action League to do their jobs when they'd rather be lazy and do something else. Sometimes he's Not So Above It All but he's far more dedicated to the job than his team.
  • Opening Narration: "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.
  • The Psycho Rangers: Inverted with The Danger Society. A rescue team consisting of four average humans....and they're far more competent and heroic than the League. The League deciding to trash their headquarters and intimidate the members only makes this inversion clearer (and the League look even worse than they normally do).
  • 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, was the morning show's newsreader. 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. Though when the giant trophy bass attacked, afraid he'll lose his business the Mayor tried to convince everyone the water is safe, only to get chewed up and spit out.
    • In an earlier episode, he was enjoying a soccer game when Spotzilla attacked. He panicked with the rest of the crowd.
  • 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.
  • Rogues Gallery: A fairly small one — there was The Mayor, Hodge-Podge, Big Baby, and a few one-offs (Spotzilla, Smarty Pants, Danger Society, the Red Ninja).
  • 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.
  • Scantron Picture: In "The Naked and The Dumb", The Flesh gets kicked out of the League because he failed a first grade equivalency test after coloring the dots in the shape of a kitten. The episode ends with him retaking the test and passing, because he colored the dots in the shape of a dog instead.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: Bill the Lab Guy's teenage daughter, Quarky. Introduced in KaBlam!'s second season premiere (if we're going by production order), and was in a bunch of episodes from that season. 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.
  • Super Zeroes: Big time- these guys practically qualify as villains given their constant screw-ups and lack of concern for other people.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: In "Turkey of Terror", The Mayor invites the Action League to his mansion for Thanksgiving dinner to form a truce. Stinky doesn't believe The Mayor has gone good and quits the Action League, and decides to spend Thanksgiving with his own family, who argue with each other when they found out Stinky quit his job. It later turns out that Stinky was right about The Mayor when Justice witnesses the event and brings him his badge, and Stinky decides to save the rest of the League from being cooked in The Mayor's turkey.
  • Team Pet: Justice, the Chief's dog.
  • Toilet Paper Prank: At the beginning of "Flippers of Fury", the Action League find that someone (later revealed to be the Red Ninja) has done this to Action League Headquarters. To add insult to injury, they used Stinky Diver's own private stash to do it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Every character on the show (save for special guests and a one-off villain whose whole schtick was being smart). Yes, even Bill the Lab Guy.
  • Trickster Mentor: Stinky's mentor Master Pu, who borders on being just sadistic. His "training" doesn't even help Stinky, and instead leaves him injured. He gets his comeuppance in the end, however.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: At the end of "Thunder and Lightning, Lightning was unmasked to be The Mayor.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Mayor asks Thunder Girl to join him in ruling the world "as King and Queen". Thunder Girl declines...but not for any heroic reason.
    Thunder Girl: It's taco night!
    The Mayor: You pretty little fool! They'll only give you gas!
  • Weapons That Suck: In "In the Belly of the Beast", The Mayor attempts to suck up the Action League with a vacuum cleaner. He sucks up The Chief, Stinky, and Thunder Girl, but has to break The Flesh apart before he can suck him up. As Meltman evades The Mayor in the bathroom, he gets him to suck up an entire roll of toilet paper, clogging the hose and causing the vacuum to malfunction and explode. When The Chief asks The Mayor why he did this, The Mayor asks him, "Would you believe I'm a neatnik?".
  • With Catlike Tread: What kicks off the conflict in "Caged Thunder". Thunder Girl is sent to spy on a secret missile site owned by the Mayor, and does so by taking pictures and singing her song while doing so. You can guess what the Mayor decided to use as target practice.
  • With Friends Like These...: Part of the reason why the League is so inept is that the fact that they're such Jerkasses to each other. Whenever one member gets captured, the rest of them will find any excuse to use to not rescue them.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Melting Anyway?
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Of the four members of the Action League, The Flesh has Super Strength, Thundergirl has the ability to fly, and Stinky Diver has the ability to shoot with his spear gun. Meltman, however, has the utterly useless ability to melt, and thus the League often assigns him to get them snacks, including sodas, pizza, and donuts.