The Madballs were a toyline of rubber balls with grotesque faces and amusing names released by American Greetings back in the 1980's. In 1986, Nelvana
released two animated direct-to-video films about the Madballs, Escape from Orb
and Gross Jokes
. Escape from Orb
was about a rock group known as the Madballs (Screamin' Meemie, Freakella, Dusty, Skull Face, and Horn Head) hoping to escape planet Orb so that they can be free of the tyranny of Commander Wolfbreath. Gross Jokes was a film about the Madballs telling crummy jokes and performing inane skits.
- Adaptational Villainy: The second series Madballs became the Badballs, an evil gang led by Commander Wolfbreath that hate music and fun. Interesting in that the Madballs comic book published by Marvel Comics subsidiary Star Comics depicted them as good guys alongside the first series Madballs, though they did start out as minions of Dr. Frankenbeans.
- The Alleged Spaceship: The spaceship Slobulus and Aargh put together looks like a rusty pile of scrap metal...and it is.
- Aliens Steal Cable: The Madballs are inspired to head to Earth in Escape from Orb after intercepting some TV broadcasts, including a rock concert.
- Animation Bump: Inverted. Gross Jokes has significantly cheaper animation than Escape from Orb.
- Ascended Extra: Bash Brain first appeared in Escape from Orb in a cameo as an inhabitant of the planet Orb being forced to build the monument of Commander Wolfbreath. In the second episode, Gross Jokes, he is made a part of the main cast and even has a speaking role.
- Berserk Button: If you know what's good for you, do not call Freakella a mop head!
- Big Bad: Commander Wolfbreath in Escape from Orb.
- Big Red Button: This is how Freakella starts the spaceship in Escape from Orb. "It's always the big red button!"
- Black Comedy: In Gross Jokes, Aargh tells Slobulus that the easiest way to get to the cemetery is to jump in front of a truck.
- The Cameo: Bash Brain and most of the second series Madballs in Escape from Orb.
- Canon Foreigner/Toyless Toyline Character: Freakella was created specifically for the animated series and was never made into a Madballs toy.
- Cephalothorax: The Madballs are depicted as heads with arms and legs.
- Covers Always Lie: The box art of the video tapes are not consistent with the art style of the show, instead depicting realistic renderings of the Madballs toys with arms and legs.
- Dark Is Not Evil: All the Madballs are based off of various movie monsters, but they're good guys. Averted with the Badballs.
- Dem Bones: Skullface.
- The Dragon: Bruise Brother is Wolf Breath's top enforcer and is also the only Badball other than Wolf Breath to have lines.
- Evil Overlooker: Wolf Breath is depicted this way on the cover of the Escape from Orb VHS.
- Gender Flip: The original toy for Dust Brain was male. In the cartoon, the character was made into a female named Dusty Dustbrain.
- Last of Their Kind: In Escape from Orb, it is explained that the Madballs are the last remaining rock band on Orb, Wolf Breath having eliminated the others due to his hatred for music.
- Make Me Wanna Shout: At the end of Escape From Orb, after being called "mop-head" one time too many by the bad guys, Freakella lets out a scream of rage so loud it sends the Badballs flying, forcing them to retreat.
- Medium Awareness: The Madballs frequently acknowledge that they are in a cartoon in Gross Jokes.
- Modesty Towel: Freakella wears one when she prepares to take a bath in Escape from Orb, only to find that Aargh and Slobulus had mistakenly shot the bathtub out of the spaceship. Fortunately for her, Wolf Breath retaliates by shooting the tub back.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Three inhabitants of Orb seen in Escape from Orb bear a resemblance to The Three Stooges.
- Non-Indicative Name: The A Boring Travelogue segment in Gross Jokes is a travelogue narrated by Dusty, but because of the Madballs' humorous antics, it is hardly boring at all.
- Not Hyperbole: Freakella was being quite literal when she said she'd like to "pound [Bruise Brother] flat, fold him into a paper airplane, and send him flying, hopefully into an open garbage can."
- Oh Crap: The Madballs have one when they find out that Aargh and Slobulus had not been flying the ship, as well as pretty much any time Wolf Breath suddenly finds them. Their manager-to-be Skip also has one when he hears from his sister Sandy that the band planned to play at his studio were unable to make it.
- Self-Deprecation: Freakella constantly uses this trope in Gross Jokes in regard to the skits.
- Straight Woman Freakella's aforementioned Self-Deprecation makes her this in Gross Jokes, although Screamin' Meemie gets a turn at being a straight man in the school sketch.
- Shout-Out: Escape from Orb has a tattered Care Bear among the junk flying when Freakella beats up Bruise Brother. Gross Jokes also has a few nods to Monty Python's Flying Circus as well as a parody of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous called Lifestyles of the Poor and Wretched.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: When the Madballs get into an asteroid field, Dusty congratulates Aargh and Slobulus for using their expert skills to maneuver through the asteroids and lose Wolf Breath, only for Slobulus to say that they have gone out of control. On board the Badballs' ship, Bruise Brother correctly guesses that the Madballs' ship has gone out of control, but Wolf Breath assumes that the Madballs are using their expert skills to maneuver through the asteroid field.
- Those Two Guys: Aargh and Slobulus.
- Too Dumb to Live: When the Madballs were fleeing from their planet in the spaceship Aargh and Slobulus built, they find to their horror that the two were not flying the ship and instead had been making parachutes, something they should have done before getting into the spaceship.
- Two Episode Wonder: Only two episodes were ever made before the show was canned.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Subverted. Oculus Orbus disappears during Escape from Orb after the Madballs decide to use a spaceship to escape to Earth, but he inexplicably returns in Gross Jokes.
- You Don't Look Like You: Bash Brain is present in both episodes, but his appearances are drastically different.