Okay, it's time once again to ramble on for a paragraph or two and call it an introduction. The last time we explored the freakishly fun world of the Madballs on Scary-Crayon, we reviewed The Madballs History of the World, one of their many humorous coffee table jokebooks. In the introduction to that article, we briefly noted that the Madballs phenomenon stretched far and wide, making reference to one cartoon in which the origin story of the Madballs cast them as enslaved aliens from a distant planet. And now, we bring that story to you in full as we review Madballs: Escape From Orb! Joy!
Like both of the animated Madballs offerings, things kick off Saturday morning style with a theme song -- here, Jerry Lee Lewis's rock 'n' roll classic, "Great Balls of Fire", sung by a female Madball and accompanied by the other Madballs on various instruments. I'd show you all of the shots now, but you'll see them soon enough since they more/less repeat the same set in the course of the episode, so hold tight 'till then. Suffice it to say that it's weird shit -- you've got Madballs bouncing around and jamming, then they get chased around by a group of Nazi Madball soldiers, then you see a bunch of kids cheering and they fly up into the sky and surround the word "MADBALLS", cackling merrily as it glows a bunch of funky colors. Then, following this particular episode's title screen, the meat of the show begins...
As the narration informs us, "our story begins on the troubled planet of Orb," which appears to be a giant spinning ball of
Take a moment to let that sink in, folks -- they took an armful of balls with grotesque faces and strange names and crafted a lamentable backstory involving slavery and oppression and the outlawing of music. Alright, let's continue.
Anyway, because they really hate music, Wolf Breath and the Badballs have "hunted down and flattened" every single rockin' band on the planet, except for one... THE MADBALLS. Yup. So not only are the Madballs members of an oppressed people, they're also the sole rock 'n' roll band on their downtrodden planet. The original toys didn't even have hands. Oh, and speaking of them, check out the cameos of Crack Head (a.k.a. Bash Brain) and Fist Face. Being from the first set of Madballs released, Crack Head appears as a slave. Since Fist Face didn't show up until round two, he's one of the totalitarian oppressors. I feel kinda bad for him -- "You came second, so, uh, WE'LL MAKE YOU EVIL" -- but eh, at least he got to fight sumo wrestlers for the good of children in the comic. Seriously, that's not a joke.
So now it's time to MEET THE MADBALLS!!! Two of 'em, anyway. Even with the arms and legs and baseball cap, you probably recognize Screamin' Meemie, given that he's pretty much the flagship Madball despite being the least grotesque of the bunch. He's even less gross in the cartoon, what with him generally keeping his tongue inside his mouth and all. Freakella, on the other hand, you probably don't know, since she was created specifically to give some feminine charm to the animated Madball cast and never got a toy. :( Anyway, in the midst of taking a brick of cheese or something to the other Madballs, Freakella and Screamin' are kind enough to stop and let us know what they're doing and, in case we forgot the backstory, gripe about being made into slaves by Wolf Breath. Also, Freakella has to play the typical self-absorbed female role and bitch about how this work is ruining her nails. So for selflessly tarrying to keep us in the loop and put their character traits on display for us, our Madball pals are accosted by Badball Bruise Brother, who, in the course of demanding that they get back to work, calls Freakella a "mop-head."
She really doesn't like that. Screamin' begs her to let it slide, and she does -- for now -- but mutters this
Okay, so it's time to meet more of the Madballs cast. If you're familiar with the Madballs, you should have little trouble recognizing the rest of the bunch. Skull Face seems to have acquired a strange greyish tint from his time in captivity, but aside from the addition of expressive eyebrows is otherwise unchanged. Horn Head, the horn-headed cyclops and one of Sailor Jupiter's many lovers, also appears more/less true to form, and as an indication of his strength is sporting some Popeye-style forearm muscles.
Then we've got Dust Brain -- also known here as "Dusty" -- and Oculus Orbus. Aside from his swank red cap, Oculus is as much a giant eyeball as ever a giant eyeball there was, but Dusty's animated incarnation is more than a little different from her round and rubbery physical form. While the Dust Brain of the Madballs coffee table books -- which stuck pretty closely to the toys, as they didn't have a backstory and not too many liberties were taken with the artwork -- was referred to as a "he" and didn't have any really distinguishing qualities either way (being a shrivelled up green mummy head and all), this Dust Brain is clearly female... which makes Dust Brain the only toy monster ball in all of history to get a sex change in making the leap from 3D to 2D. Well, at least she didn't have to get anything chopped off... 'cause she only had one ball to begin with. And that was her head. So she kept it.
Anyway, Screamin' and Freakella join the others with their block, Horn Head accidentally breaks it, and Freakella scares me once again by noting that she'd "like to do that to a certain Badball." As Screamin' explains what her problem is, Horn Head steps in like an idiot to say, "She does look like a mop-head!" -- but the whistle blows, drowning out his words, saving his ass from Freakella's wrath, and signaling the end of another day o' slavery for the Madballs.
As the gang heads off to prepare for their secret gig -- they're BREAKIN' DA CURFEW and playing tonight -- Bruise Brother reports to Wolf Breath that earlier he heard Freakella humming. OH NO! Cleverly, Wolf Breath assumes that Freakella must be up to something, so he instructs Bruise Brother to follow her, noting that "she might lead them to the others." Never mind that she doesn't have to "lead" them to the others because she's walking off with them right now, because it's time for Wolf Breath to reiterate that the Madballs are the last band standing and that crushing them would be the end of music on the planet of Orb. Y'know, in case you forgot in the last four minutes. And given that Wolf Breath is always happy to perform a service for those whose short-term memories are severely lacking, maybe he's not such a bad guy after all. Y'know, despite the totally Nazi-rific outfit.
Cut to later that evening, with Screamin' Meemie and Oculus Orbus sneaking off to play their rockin' songs. It's basically just an excuse for them to
Meanwhile, Freakella's on her way to the gig as well. She stops to admire her reflection in a window, giving us a shot of Bruise Brother tailing her in the background. Unfortunately for him, she spots him too, and as she turns to bounce away, he shouts, "GOTCHA!" I dunno, kinda blew his cover there, and if he catches her outside he'll never be able to follow her to the band's gig, but at any rate he's about to pay for his mistake. Freakella bounces into an alley; Bruise Brother gives chase... and the next thing you know she's turned the tables and cornered him in the alley.
Okay, now I can understand being startled by this turn of events and dropping your bat, but still, BB, you've got a fucking bat and she's totally unarmed! Me, I'd pick that weapon up and slug the shit out of Freakella. But ah, Bruise Brother's too kind to beat the crap out of a lady, so instead he just gets pummeled, folded into a paper airplane, and flown straight into a brick wall. And to add insult to injury, after colliding with the wall, he unfolds and falls into a trash can. Today's lesson, children? Never call Freakella a mop-head. But as she says, dusting her hands while the beaten Bruise Brother runs off screaming into the night, "Maybe now he'll know how to talk to a lady."
In another alley of Orb, Slobulus and Aargh are rummaging through the trash in search of a micro ion compressor to complete their spaceship. Yep. Now, I've got no idea why they'd be likely to find a micro ion compressor in the freaking garbage -- doesn't seem like the kinda thing someone would throw away, especially if it's in good enough condition to add to a working spacecraft -- but this is a cartoon about enslaved ball-people outlaw heroes who play rock 'n' roll and fold their enemies into paper airplanes in the course of issuing savage beatings here. Anyway, after Aargh yells at Slobulus for being stupid and not knowing what they're looking for, thus revealing the mouth on his
...as Freakella makes her way into the secret sewer hideaway for tonight's gig. Hiding around the corner, Badball Lock Lips sees her go down da hole... thus our heroes have been discovered and their days of playing the underground circuit will soon be at an end. And y'know what? It's entirely Freakella's fault. While Screamin' and Oculus are sneaking around and being as quiet as possible, she's nonchalantly bouncing through the streets after curfew humming as fucking loudly as she can, and if that weren't enough, she has to stop and give off a cutesy feminine giggle before she does anything. We get the message already -- you're a GIRL -- but still, Freakella, this is a bit much. But I guess she has to compensate for her lack of breasts and all. So while Freakella joins the band for their *sniff* last rehearsal on Orb, Slobulus and Aargh complete work on their spaceship before bouncing off to watch the Madballs concert.
So finally it's SHOWTIME and the Madballs start things off with a rousing cover of the 1950s hit "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" by Larry Williams (later covered by The Beatles). As you see, Screamin' mans the drums, Skull Face plays dem piano bones, Horn Head and Dusty are on guitars, and Freakella rocks the mic... er... ice cream cone. And since we all scream for ice cream, the crowd goes apeshit. Unfortunately, above ground, the Badballs prepare for an all-out assault on the last haven of music and fun on Orb. Given that you can hear the music all the way above ground, I'm wondering why it took them so long to discover the place, but eh -- it'll all be over soon.
Oculus hears the tramping of boots, sees 'em coming through the peephole, and warns the band before they start the next set, but sadly he's not quick enough -- the Badballs burst in and chaos ensues. In the confusion, the Madballs are able to give the raiding Badballs the slip and make their way down a sewer tunnel... only to find themselves stopped at a dead end with the Badballs hot on their tails. All hope seems lost, but THEN A LIGHT SHINES DOWN FROM ABOVE!!! Yes, just like in Exodus, God Almighty steps in to deliver the Madballs from their captors and lead them out of the oppressed land of Orb!
Just kidding; it's only Aargh with a rope ladder. So the Madballs climb to safety and, for the time being, evade Wolf Breath's clutches. Introductions are made, and then Screamin' Meemie casually asks, "Say, do you guys know a way off this planet?" as if it seems even remotely conceivable that they would have access to a spacecraft on a downtrodden and oppressed world where a curfew is enforced and even music is outlawed. But of course they do, so everyone bounces off to the newly completed spaceship to beat a hasty retreat from the ol' mudball that is Orb. Never mind those other slaveballs or the fact that their musical stylings were the only thing those poor folks had to look forward to at the end of a hard day -- Screamin' and the gang have had enough of this planet and, with the help of their new friends, they're getting the fuck outta here.
Naturally, the Badballs crash the launch party, with the Madballs taking off just as Wolf Breath and his evil team rush the space ship. Before leaving the planet's airspace, however, they waffle about in an out-of-control moment and accidentally take out the Wolf Breath Monument, reducing it to nothing but a pile of rubble. And hey, check out Wolf Breath's comical reaction! Well, it's good to know that in the absence of the Madballs, the other slaves will have to work twice as hard to rebuild what they wrecked during their escape. Oh, and of course as the space ship disappears into the night sky, it goes without saying that Wolf Breath shakes his fist and shouts after it, "I'LL GET YOU MADBALLS IF IT'S THE LAST THING I DO!!!" 'Cause that's what the bad guys always say.
So as the Madballs fly through space, Dusty consults a map and happily reports that there are 4,563,238 planets that they could live on. Slobulus responds, "That's nothin'!" adding that he once put that many pieces of gum in his mouth at one time. Well, alrighty then. And where in another cartoon the subject would've been quickly changed, the Madballs actually carry on about that information for a bit. Seriously. At first, the other Madballs say nothing, but Freakella spins around and says, "What's the point?!?!?" whereupon Aargh responds that Slobulus holds the record for putting the most pieces of gum in his mouth at once. And suddenly all of the Madballs start gushing in amazement. And since, now that they've escaped, they "can do fun things like that whenever they want," that segues into a sequence during which the Madballs happily talk about all of the stuff they can do with their newfound freedom. You almost envy them, especially Horn Head and his excitement about being able to bounce through walls. I wish I could do that.
As if on cue to change the mood, Slobulus lets it drop that neither he nor Aargh is actually flying the ship. "What have you been doing?!?!?" Freakella asks. Their reply? "Making parachutes!" Well, alrighty then. Never mind that you don't need parachutes in outer space; in a universe where giant Super 8 Motel advertisements represent planets I'm willing to let a lot of things slide. So as if on cue, the spaceship spirals out of control and sends the balls flying madly about the interior in a frightening mesh of skulls and teeth and bugged-out eyeballs until some semblance of control is regained.
Then Horn Head starts fiddling with the television in the back and the Madballs go channel surfing for a bit. First they check out a mummy monster movie, prompting Dusty to note that the monster looks just like one of her cousins. Then the gang cowers in fear during a few moments of an infomercial, and finally they stumble onto a live performance from a band of musicians. Of course, they're all stoked, and when the promoter comes on after the set and proclaims, "In just a little while we'll be presenting the Cartoons... the hottest rock 'n' roll band on Earth!" the decision is made -- they're going to touch down on our humble planet and make it their home.
Down on Earth, the crowd at that show is getting pretty restless -- apparently the Cartoons haven't gone on yet and it's getting hella late. The show's promoter, Skip, who looks and sounds like a twelve-year old kid, goes on about how his career is crumbling before his eyes. And by the way, that girl with him? That's Sandy. She's not too important, but according to IMDb she was voiced by Alyson Court, the woman who went on to give vocal depth to Lydia on the Beetlejuice cartoon and Claire Redfield of Resident Evil fame, among a number of other characters. (Yay Jubilee!) So yeah, they actually got some distinguished voice actors for this. Anyway, Skip suddenly gets a call from the Cartoons, who not only got the wrong address, but are apparently somewhere in Alaska. Obviously, they're not going to make the show, and all seems lost for our poor child promoter. I'm inclined to think that this is a good thing -- after all, a fulltime career would really get in the way of his grade school work -- but you and I both know that the Madballs are going to land at just the nick of time and pacify the savage crowd with their musical stylings.
Anyway, back in space, while flipping through the channels the Madballs come across something unpleasant -- WOLF BREATH TV!!! Yep, apparently he built his own spaceship to follow the Madballs... and he's right behind them! So he blasts away with a few lasers before chasing our rock 'n' rollin' heroes into an asteroid field. Dust Brain comments on the brilliance of this plan -- flying into the field in order to use their expert maneuvering skills in order to skirt the asteroids and lose Wolf Breath -- to which Slobulus calmly responds, "No, we're out of control." Dusty screams in terror. And for the flip side of the joke, in Wolf Breath's ship, Bruise Brother points and laughs, exclaiming, "HA! They're out of control!" Of course, Wolf Breath responds, "No, you idiot! They're obviously flying into that asteroid field in order to use their expert skills to maneuver through it and lose us." Well, there you go then -- those Madballs writers are wits if ever wits there were. And then...
"OH NO!" cries Wolf Breath. "THEY'VE RELEASED A PHOTON BATHTUB!!!" Yep, see for yourself -- in order to get Wolf Breath off their tail, the Madballs team drops a bathtub in his direction. Surprisingly, it does the trick, and everyone's happy... everyone except Freakella, that is. She was just about to take a bath! Ha ha. But then Wolf Breath's ship spits the bathtub back at them, sending it sliding into the ship's interior and causing several water pipes inside to burst! Normally that'd be cause for alarm, but Freakella happily starts to wash up as the ship spirals towards Earth.
And down there, the promoter tries his hand at stand-up comedy to pacify the crowd, but they reply, "Get off the fucking stage or we will tear you to bloody shreds!!!" with their facial expressions. Downright psychotic, these folks are, and they're just about to KILL when suddenly the Madballs crash land smack in the middle of the stage! They all pop out next to familiar instruments, and when the promoter asks, "Who are you...?" Freakella takes the cue and shouts, "WE'RE THE MADBALLS!!! HIT IT, BOYS!!!" And there they go, playing "Great Balls of Fire" to the delight of their first ever human audience. Most of it's pretty standard fare -- flashing lights, closeups of the band members on their instruments -- but here's something that caught my eye. Skull Face is playing some of the keyboards with his foot... and it's a ghoulish three-toed foot. With toenails. So while Skull Face's head is a skull, apparently there's flesh on his body, making him a half-rotten zombie thing. And suddenly Madballs seems a whole lot scarier than it needed to be.
To make matters worse, Wolf Breath and the Badballs touch down in the middle of the set and chase them around for a bit as the song continues. And in one particularly disturbing sequence, Aargh and Slobulus take a page from Bugs Bunny's playbook and, to throw Wolf Breath off their scent, hide in a dressing room and pretend to be ladies. So yep, now you've seen crossdressing Madballs. I dunno what else to say. Anyway, after finally cornering the Madballs, Wolf Breath orders them onto his ship, whereupon they give a crestfallen "awwwww..." and sadly do as they're told... all but Freakella. She tarries for a bit, prompting Wolf Breath to add, "You too, mop-head."
Well, now he done did it. Freakella loses her fucking mind, screaming so loudly and with such force that all of the Badballs are blown back onto their spaceship. Slobulus jumps onto the hood and does a quick rewiring job, sending the bad guys blasting off into space, out of control... FOREVER. So I guess the slaveballs back on Orb will be free after all! Good job, Madballs, good job. The audience cheers wildly for these rock 'n' rollin' liberators, as well they should.
Later, Skip and Sandy congratulate the Madballs on a terrific concert, whereupon they sign the youthful Skip as their new manager. In the midst of their celebration, Freakella comes out sporting a new hairdo... to which Slobulus responds, "Now you really look like a mop-head!" before clapping his hands over his mouth and apologizing profusely.
And, well, you see how that ended. "That's the last time I give her a compliment," says Slobulus, and the show ends with everyone laughing, 'cause I guess witnessing the vicious beating of one of the balls responsible for helping guide you to freedom is somehow funny. So yeah, that does it for Madballs: Escape From Orb! You'll be happy to know that after getting settled on our humble planet, the Madballs decided that they weren't cut out for the music biz and decided to focus their energies on Monty Python-esque sketches involving lots of awful puns and slime and giant crickets. Sure, their new manager was pissed, but he and Sandy got happy endings too -- see, on their way out, the Madballs accidentally knocked over a vat of retromutagen ooze, with which Skip and Sandy came into contact as they attempted to clean it up. Apparently they had most recently been in contact with... CHIPMUNKS... so you know how their story ended. They met up with a few fellow mutanimals and, with the help of a steady supply of helium and Jon Arbuckle's brother Dave for a manager, became huge successes themselves in the music biz. C-H-I-P-M-U-N-K, baby. :D
Just click the image above! Simple, no? ;)