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Western Animation / Madballs

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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, Horn Head, Aargh and Slobulus) 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.

Tropes include:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Their depictions in the cartoon pilot were noticeably a lot less grotesque than the toy likenesses.
  • 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.
  • Agony of the Feet: In the beginning of "Escape from Orb", Freakella hurts Screamin' Meemie's foot by dropping the block they're carrying on it.
  • The Alleged Spaceship: The spaceship Slobulus and Aargh put together looks like a rusty pile of scrap metal...and it is.
  • All Part of the Show: Judging by the audience's cheers during the Madballs' performance at the end of "Escape from Orb", they thought that the Badballs pursuing the Madballs was part of the performance.
  • 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.
  • Anticipatory Breath Spray: Wolf Breath sometimes uses breath spray for comedic effect in 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 is the main villain 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: Quite a few examples in Gross Jokes, including Aargh telling Slobulus that the easiest way to get to the cemetery is to jump in front of a truck and the hospital sketch having the medical incompetence of Dr. Ghastly (portrayed by Screamin' Meemie) played for laughs.
  • Boring Vacation Slideshow: In "Gross Jokes", there is a segment called "A Boring Travelogue", which is about the Madballs doing one of these. However, thanks to the Madballs' humorous antics, it isn't boring at all.
  • The Cameo: Bash Brain and most of the second series Madballs appear as silent background characters 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 videotapes isn't 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, who are as nasty on the inside as they are on the outside.
  • Dem Bones: Skullface is a living skeleton.
  • Distracted by My Own Sexy: Early in "Escape from Orb", Freakella sneaks out to play with the other Madballs at night and stops to admire her reflection on a window. This works to her advantage as she also sees the Badball following her.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Cree Summer sings the theme of Escape From Orb (a cover of Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis) in character as Freakella.
  • 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 as a giant face looking over the Madballs on the cover of the Escape from Orb VHS.
  • Expressive Uvula: Escape from Orb at one point has Aargh revealed to have a mouth on his uvula when he yells at Slobulus while they're trying to find the micro ion compressor they need to finish the spaceship they're working on.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Horn Head. He implies in the school sketch that he tried to eat his book, saying he only didn't finish it because he "wasn't very hungry". And that's not even getting into the weird foods he mentions in "Mr. Horn Head's Big Musical Number."
  • Gale-Force Sound: 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.
  • 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.
  • Meatgrinder Surgery: The subject of the hospital sketch in "Gross Jokes", where Screamin' Meemie portrays an incompetent surgeon named Dr. Ghastly and several cracks are made about his incompetence. For instance, he chooses to go ahead and perform the surgery even though no one is sure if the patient has been anesthetized and he ends up removing the patient's brain under the belief that the brain is the source of the patient's problem.
  • Medium Awareness: The Madballs frequently acknowledge that they are in a cartoon in Gross Jokes.
  • Mirror-Cracking Ugly: During the opening to "Gross Jokes", Freakella is seen admiring her reflection in a mirror and being caught by surprise when it suddenly shatters.
  • Modesty Towel: Freakella wears a towel 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.
  • No Music Allowed: The general premise behind "Escape from Orb" is that Commander Wolfbreath has conquered the planet Orb and made music illegal, with the Madballs being the only rock band left and continuing performances in secret as an act of rebellion.
  • 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.
  • Noodle Incident: After Dusty states that there are 4,563,238 planets the Madballs can live on in "Escape from Orb", Slobulus replies that he put that many pieces of gum in his mouth once. Aargh shortly thereafter explains that Slobulus holds the record for most pieces of gum put in one's mouth, but it still doesn't clarify how or why Slobulus did so.
  • 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 a brick wall."
  • Oh, Crap!: The Madballs have a shocked reaction 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.
  • Old-Timey Cinema Countdown: Gross Jokes starts off with one, with an audience in the background of children shouting "Five! Four! Three! Two! One... Yay!"
  • Photoprotoneutron Torpedo: Parodied in Escape from Orb, when Aargh and Slobulus accidentally launch a photon bathtub at the bad guys to slow them down.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: The confrontation with the Badballs near the end of "Escape from Orb" features the Madballs running through a hallway of doors in highly improbable ways.
  • Self-Deprecation: "Gross Jokes" is quite full of the Madballs making cracks about the film being deplorable, most of the self-inflicted insults coming from Freakella.
  • 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.
  • Snicket Warning Label: The introduction to Gross Jokes.
  • Stock "Yuck!": In the intro sequence, Gross Jokes claims to be "grosser than a mouthful of brussels sprouts, more tasteless than a cube of tofu, and more revolting than mom's latest casserole."
  • Straight Man: 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 by being a teacher having to deal with really dumb students.
  • 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.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: After being introduced in the opening to "Gross Jokes", Horn Head says "That's Mr. Horn Head to you, bub!"
  • Those Two Guys: Aargh and Slobulus are constantly seen together.
  • 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.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Aargh and Slobulus are presumably supposed to be close friends, but they frequently argue about which of them is the Madballs' biggest fan.
  • 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.