So I'm going to be doing one of my Drunk Disney threads in about twenty minutes. This week because I didn't have two good days to do it on, it's going to be Not Quite Disney - when I did Mr. Boogedy the other week, I hit on the idea of watching couple 80s toyline specials.
As I mentioned then, as a kid I had never realized how short Mr. Boogedy was because Everything Is Feature Length when you're a child still learning about the concept of time.
Which as an adult, it was wild to find out how many of the "movies" my mother had taped off of TV or copied off other cassettes were actually specials that were barely 20 minutes long. Like those classic Charlie Brown holiday specials.
Among the video treasures of my youth there were a few "movies" that had been pilots for toy-line tie-in cartoons that... never quite made it to series, which I guess helped them stand out as being special.

Each one's about 22 minutes...
...and since 44 minutes is about how much I cover in an afternoon of drunk movie analysis, my idea for day two after Mr. Boogedy only took a day was to revisit two of those dubious classics of the genre that happen to be available online.
But that was around when I started really not doing so great with the sleep schedule and focus, so I didn't end up doing it.
If you're trying to guess which toylines/cartoons... probably a lot of the obvious ones popping into your head aren't it, because the obvious ones, the enduring ones, spawned at least one actual ongoing cartoon series.

So it's not Transformers, it's not G.I. Joe.
Our household didn't really put much stock in gendering shows or toys or playtime activities, so the stuff I watched included stuff targeted at both of the genders known to Madison Avenue in the 1980s. Without trying, the stuff I picked included one "boy" show and one "girl" one.
I'm going to get my drinks together, double check that the videos haven't been taken down by a copyright claim from some zombie IP attorney, and I'll get started at around 4:00 PM.
Okay! And a reminder that I provide this little bit of escapist performance art/film criticism as a way of raising money for groceries and household expenses. It's been a lean couple weeks when I wasn't up to doing this, so feel free to tip in.
I tweet for everybody, but today I especially tweet for the people who can hear the Hi-Tops video logo in their heads when they see it.
Recognize this spherical singer? You probably don't. Not only was this particular toy line never turned into an ongoing cartoon series in the 80s, she was never part of it. They had to add women for the cartoon.

Buckle up.

Madballs was this line of creepy cool gross-out toys that were little rubber balls mostly based loosely off public domain monster concepts. Not much in the way of characterization or story or lore to it, really. Just... mad balls.
The cartoon didn't have the budget to depict all that grotesque detail, nor did anyone want to make a kids' show that showed it.

So even one of the more mild ones went from this to this.

Also, they're in a band. That's what animators did when they didn't know what else to do.
Here's the whole band.

Notice there's seven of them including the singer. Each of the other characters in this shot is supposed to be the animated version of those six balls in the first picture.
They're singing their signature (only? From my memory. It's a short movie.) song, which is... what else? Great Balls of Fire. Except too much love drives a *ball* insane.
The toy line didn't really have a deep lore story so it didn't have heroes or villains, either, so they solved this by taking the second series of balls released and making them into Commie-Nazis From Outer Space.

Their motivation is they hate music, is my recollection.
Also the thirty second opening sequence basically shows the entire plot/premise of this short film: they're having a concert, they see the Commie-Nazis From Outer Space and flee to earth, where they have another concert.

That's about how it goes, if I recall.
We get opening narration explaining the premise: the planet Orb has been taken over by BAD Balls, lead by the fearsome Commander Wolfbreath, who has outlawed laughing, bouncing, and singing and is forcing the other balls to build a giant sphinx-like monument to his hubris.
Two of the Mad Balls, who we're told are the last rock band on the planet, are shown among those toiling on the monument. The lead singer and the baseball are carrying a heavy block and she complains that it's ruining her manicure, then lets go to check her nails. Comedy gold!
The baseball, whose name is Screaming Meemie, then explains the plot of the movie we're watching for the third time in two minutes.

They didn't put much trust in their audience.
They're caught malingering by "Bruise Brother, a Bad Ball" (the singer explains, in case the uniform doesn't help).

Between the simplified designs, the arbitrary characterizations, and the uniforms, I don't think as a kid I realized that the Bad Balls were part of the toy line
Like this was my favorite one as a kid.

I don't think I ever connected it to his TV design, here.
Anyway. The lead singer lady, whose only monstrous feature is the slight Bride of Frankenstein streak in her hair, is apparently named "Freakella", as Meemie calls her by name as she starts to go into a berserker rage at the Bad Ball calling her "mophead".
She threatens to flatten him, fold him into a paper airplane ,and throw him into a brick wall.

This is the second instance in the movie of ball-flattening being mentioned as a punishment. Risque for the time?
In addition to adding Freakella, they also made "Dustbrain" the Mummy Madball into "Dusty", whose bandages act like hair. Seen here with what I think is a nameless background ball who more resembles the eye toy more, but canonically the Bad Balls are supposed to be the other toys
It seems to take most of the band plus the eye guy to deliver one stone block and fit it into place on the statue, breaking it in the process. This is accompanied by measurements that serve no apparent purpose. Never let anyone tell you that totalitarianism is efficient.
Meemie explains to the others that Freakella is in a bad mood because they're being forced to labor for a cruel dictator. I mean, his enforcer called her a "*whispers* mophead". The big red horned one repeats the m-word at a normal voice but is cut off by the closing whistle.
Having completed their compulsory labor for the day, they walk off together, discussing their illegal musical gig at an underground club.

The skeleton one is very nervous to hear that their illegal gig is after curfew.
Oh, maybe the eyeball is supposed to be the toy. He's with them, apparently. One of them tells him to "keep your eye peeled for Bad Balls".

I haven't seen this since the 90s and trying to reconcile memories with stuff I learned about it since then is a little bewildering.
And yes, it's from the 80s, but we had this on the same VHS tape as The Transformers: The Movie, so I did see it a few times just because it was easier than trying to fast forward to the start of Transformers. Also younger siblings and daycare kids watching it.
We get a long shot of Bruise Brother pointing out Freakella to General Wolfbreath, reporting her for humming, as "the one with the mop top".

Is... is... I mean, is that what a mop top is? I always heard like Beatles haircuts called that.
I feel like once they settled on the "they're in a band!" and "the bad guys hate music!" angle they went looking for things that anti-rock crusaders had said about rock and/or roll music that could be put into a kid's show, and "mop top"/"mophead" was about it.
And if the script was developed separately from Freakella's look, maybe there was just no time or budget or interest in reconciling this because what do kids know anyway?
Okay, the eye wearing the beret is definitely the toy character. Oculus is his name. I didn't remember that until I heard it. He's a squeaky non-speaking character because of the lack of mouth.
So a weird thing about this movie is they gave the balls arms and legs. But they are retractable.

One thing I never caught watching as a kid: Meemie and Oculus look around and make sure they're alone before ball-forming because bouncing is illegal.
I feel like if you have a planet of balls and you've made it illegal to bounce and roll that is already a better and more rich story than "rock and roll is illegal". Did General Wolfbreath learn that on most planets people walk and he thinks it's modern and forward-thinking?
If I were doing this as a YouTube video nostalgia series or whatever I would definitely make a sound clip of Screaming Meemie saying "A BAD BALL, OH NO!" one of those things I just queue up and repeat over and over again until you're all sick of it. The voice acting.
I feel like they wanted to make Screaming Meemie the main character. He seems to have the most lines so far. Hear me out: you need to make one of them a singer for your story and you want to make some of them girls. You've got one named Screaming Meemie.
I wonder if the pitch started with that and it was decided they can't make Meemie a girl because Boys Like Sports. He's also the most "wholesome" one, as he's based on a ball and not a monster, and they excised the gruesome elements of his design.
Oculus's toy design can be disturbing but when rendered in cartoon form he's just kind of this cute eyeball guy who squeaks and wears a hat. Classic cartoon sidekick.
Apparently the Mad Balls have enough tactical opsec to all go to their gig separately, as individuals or small groups. We go from Meemie and Oculus to Freakella, who is bouncing AND humming AND out after curfew. She spots her reflection in a window and backs up to admire it...
...which is how she catches Bruise Brother following her (and also, Girls Are Vain II: Electric Boogaloo).

It may not be super apparent in that image, but she's hovering at leg-height in ball form. She backed up *mid bounce*. The balls can fly.
I may be remembering wrong but I think in a chase scene there's a bit where they just accelerate mid-air. It's not just that bouncing is more natural to them, they literally don't need to walk.

I want to know more about this.
I don't know if this is intentional or just easier to animate, but when Bruise Brother is chasing her, he starts doing this hopping motion on his legs without really moving them... in other words, he's bouncing on his feet. Hypocritically skirting the law.
Okay, while watching I also searched out the Mad Balls wiki (of course there's one) and learned Oculus *was* a series 1 Mad Ball. I figured he wasn't because he didn't seem to be in the opening sequence with the rest of them.
The one that's marching with the Space Commie-Nazis is apparently this guy, Fist Face, who is even less recognizable as the animated cyclops after they take out all the gross stuff.
So Freakella lures Bruise Brother into an alley, and as soon as he catches sight of her, the person he was chasing, he drops his bat and starts begging. We cut to outside the alley see and hear the standard cartoon signs of a one-sided fight... and she does exactly what she said.
that's him as a paper airplane, if it's not super apparent. The reason it's blue is apparently his helmet is the outer layer he's been flattened into.
We cut from that to two more characters who were in the opening sequence but aren't apparently in the band... the Frankenstein's Creature looking one with a dislocated eyeball and one who has a tiny mouth on his uvula, which is more disturbing than anything else here so far.
They're rooting around in the garbage for a technobabble compressor that will let them finish their spaceship, and this scene... okay, earlier I was going to say that the red Horn Head guy was being established as that terrible cartoon staple of "The Stupid One", but.
The one of the two who knows what they're looking for forgets it right after telling the other, and when asked to describe it, he pulls one out of the dumpster and says "It looks like this" and then throws it over his shoulder, where the other one finds it.
I gather this is supposed to establish why the spaceship they are building out of literal garbage might not fly so great but it's painful to watch.
Freakella seems to be the last one arriving at the club, where we find out that Oculus is the person watching the door. Okay, that much thought went into it. We also see a *different* Bad Ball than her vanquished nemesis successfully tailed her. Also slightly better writing!
Then we see the dumpster divers (Slobulus, and I think Aagh?) finishing their spaceship, basically by driving nails and screws into the broken gizmo they had been searching for and breaking it the rest of the way. I actually kind of like this?
Kind of a Dragonlance gnomes meets Warhammer 40k orks vibe as far as the technology goes. They know the spaceship needs an ionic compressor or whatever so they nail one to it.
Like there are wires coming out of the compressor that are visibly not hooked up to anything
They then hurry off to the Mad Balls concert because this is a short movie and they need to be where the plot is.

At the concert, the Mad Balls are singing another song. It's not Great Balls of Fire. I don't know if it's a real song. I can't quite make out the words.
The secret rock concert is clearly audible from the street, though, when we see General Wolfbreath and his troops approaching from the street.
So of course they raid the nightclub and order everybody to "stop bouncing" (I think only the band itself has anyone in legs mode) and proclaims them under arrest. The crowd scatters, the band makes a break for it.
There's a bit of Cheap Animation Weirdness where Dusty has one of her bandages snagged and goes into an unraveling spin, but her model doesn't change at all, she just a stream of bandage behind her.
And when she gathers it up and starts rolling the loose bandage into a ball, the ball just instantly forms at full size and stays the same size as she keeps winding more bandage into it.
The whole thing happens in like two seconds ,of course, which is how they get away with stuff like that and why they don't spend more effort on it, in a cheap one-off special.
Other than Bruise Brother's enmity with Freakella, none of the other minions of Wolfbreath really seem to have any characterization at all.

The Mad Balls escape by bashing a hole in the wall of the hole in the ground club.
And General Wolfbreath and his minions abandon the pretext of walking to bounce after them (bouncing seems to be faster)... subtle commentary on how the rules he adopted are arbitrary and meant only to bind others to his will?
Slobulus and Aargh rescue the Mad Balls from a dead end with a rope ladder from a manhole (ballhole?) above, comically letting the ladder go right as Wolfbreath reaches the top.
There are introductions all around and in a movie that has explained its own premise and plot over and over again, they waited until the halfway point to do this? I know they were toys first but I kind of doubt even most kids who actually had them knew all their names.
Speaking of being halfway through a very short movie, Meemie very casually asks these two total strangers, "Say, do either of you happen to know a way off this planet?"
When they see the rickety trash ship, Freakella begins to insist there's no way she's going anywhere near it until the Bad Balls show up and then she jumps on the heads (balls?) of the others saying, "A girl can change her mind, can't she?"
There's just nothing like female characters written by women, you know?

In this, I mean.

There's nothing like female characters written by women in this.
Globulus and Argh argue over which button starts the ship and Freakella tells them to just hit the big red button "Because it's ALWAYS the big red button!"

That's a line that stuck with me without conscious recollection of the source.
The rocket totals the unfinished monument to Wolfbreath on the way out of the planet.

The visuals of the solar system... er, baller system... are interesting and maybe the best drawn thing in the show.
Speaking of drawing, I mentioned in my Black Cauldron viewing how animation sometimes uses a very different level of detail when something is part of a background vs. when it's being animated. Hard to believe these are the same ship.

I mean, you can match elements between them.
They start talking about all the fun stuff they can do. Horn Head mentions he can "bounce through walls whenever he feels like", which seems like an ominous pronouncement given they're on a spaceship.
But instead Freakella immediately proclaims she can "SING!" by singing the word "SING" loudly, and that buffets the ship badly, because the girl who is full of herself has to be terrible in every scene she's in.
Globulus and Argh caution her to tone it down "or someone will have to fly this thing", then reveal their frantic control-fiddilng we just watched was somehow them "making parachutes".
The realization that nobody is steering causes the ship to go into a nosedive (in space), and after control is regained, Horn Head finds a TV and picks up a transmission of a rock concert which helpfully mentions it's happening on earth.
Dusty proclaims that everybody on earth is allowed to play music, and when questioned how she knows, we get to the one really kind of solid joke in this so far.

Guess where she heard it. Guess.
They decide to go to earth, which might seem like a superfluous decision since no one knows how to steer, but the ship glances of a planetoid and its death-spiral is now taking it directly towards earth.

(Which had to be close enough for the TV signal to be intelligible, I guess
Down on earth, the concert is turning ugly as the promised headliners have been given the wrong address ("in Alaska... and they're not coming back!", with a dramatic Soap Opera Sting) and the crowd is about to riot.
We're also introduced, two thirds of the way through, to the human characters who I'm sure would have been part of any actual ongoing story about the Mad Balls on earth, a nebbishy concert promoter looking for his big break and I'm gonna say maybe his sister?
I know we've been watching animated semi-humanoid monster balls for the past 17 minutes but these two, this whole scene, it feels like it belongs to a completely different cartoon.

Different style, different use of music.
Also I have to say that the simplified ball design was a gift to the animators as they have a much harder time matching the humans up to the actors' delivery.
Back on the ship, Wolfbreath interrupts a montage of "rock and roll on every channel" by breaking in with a broadcast, asking if they thought they'd gotten away. Answering en masse: "Frankly, we never thought of it."

The writing picked up in the second half, honestly.
The junk ship flies into an asteroid field, which Dusty compliments as a tactical choice by the pilots until being reminded that they have no control over the ship.
The bathtub strapped to the roof of the ship pays off, kind of, when it comes loose and gets lodged in the mouth of Wolfbreath's him-shaped ship. ("They've released a photon bathtub!")
This stops the ship, somehow. Everybody celebrates, except Freakella, who is angry because "I was just about to take a bath!" because she needs to be mad about something pointless and to remind the audience she's vain.

I take back my compliments, Mad Balls writers.
Then the wolf-head ship coughs up the bathtub, propelling itself backwards and the bathtub forwards, which hits the junk ship and dislodges some pipes in a way that fills it with water.

I don't understand the propulsion systems in play here.
Back on earth, Skip the Concert Promoter is trying to keep the crowd happy with chicken jokes. The audience is mostly not impressed, except that redheaded guy who is slightly amused but kind of mad about it.
Because this is a very short movie, the Mad Balls crash land directly on the stage and everybody bounces safely to a stop directly next to their instrument of choice.
I was much more impressed with this as a six or seven year old. I remember wishing they'd get a real cartoon series and come out with toys that could sprout arms and legs.
So we get a kind of mixture of a Scooby-Doo and Marx Bros. chase scene (though worse animated than either of them) as the Bad Balls catch up to them, without interrupting the music performance until the very end.
But just like when Bruise Brother caught Freakella in the alley, all it takes is her getting angry at being called a "mophead" for her to defeat them... this time, all of them at once with a sonic scream of anger that sends them rolling back into their ship.
Which is then hotwired and sent back into space. I know they have to leave the threat open in case they get a sequel or series, but this seems like a five minute solution at most. They can just turn around.
The balls agree to let Skip manage them and Freakella pays off her tacit resemblance to the Bride by showing off her "new do", to which one of the other balls says she now "really looks like a mophead"... which, not remotely?

I mean, it's not even close.
He gets paper-airplaned off screen and then proclaims "That's the last time I give her a compliment." Everybody laughs, roll credits.
That was Mad Balls: Escape From Orb. I got to say of everything I've rewatched for your entertainment, I think this might have held up the worse. Heck, of 80s cartoons I have rewatched as an adult, it held up the worst. He-Man was less of a disappointment.
It's not just that it was thrown together on a shoestring budget to tie-in a toyline... lots of shows were. It's that the source material being adapted (and as I said about She-Ra, the source material for 80s toy cartoons is the toys, not the cartoon) was completely unsuitable.
Mad Balls did get some kind of web cartoon revival in the 21st century, but I know nothing about that.

This cartoon got one follow-up, Mad Balls: Gross Jokes, which I think solved the "we don't really have a story" problem by not telling one. Instead, it told.. well, you get it.
So my other selection for the day is coming up after a quick pit stop. If you've enjoyed this bouncing stroll down memory lane, please throw something in the jar.
And we're back. I have to say, engagement and tips are both higher when I do Disney stuff. I guess name recognition counts for something. Ah, well. Everything I do is an experiment! That means some things turn out better than others.
So my next selection is from the same realm of Toys That fit Up Your Baby Brother's Nose as Polly Pocket or... Polly Pocket But For Boys, whose name I can't remember: teeny tiny little figures that live in jewelry box-style dollhouses.

But these ones had a twist...
See those little loops on their heads? You could wear them on a bracelet or necklace, like a charm. Yes, truly these adorable little people are akin to charms. They are, you might say, The Charmkins.

Remember the Charmkins? They're neither back, nor in pog form.
But their half hour TV special that failed to launch anything IS on YouTube so I'm watching it.
We open with a scene of a parrot teasing a dog with a bone, because the people who made this toyline understood what the best game designers understand today: EVERYBODY WANTS A PET. WE WILL PAY EXTRA TO HAVE PETS.
A very ear-wormy chorus tells us that these are charmkins, we're in charmland, and today is festival day. Seriously, if you hunt this one down, expect to get music stuck in your head. I *still* have these songs in me, like wounds that will never close.
Then a disembodied yet pleasant voice throws me a curveball I absolutely was not expecting:

1. Ben Vereen is in this.
2. He's playing the bad guy.
3. He got star billing for it.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say this had a bigger budget than Mad Balls.

Oh, and another curve. Really didn't see this coming, and yet Poison Ivy's voice has never once left my brain in almost 38 years.
After those surprising revelations we go to BEN VEREEN AS DRAGONWEED, watching the Charmkins through a telescope. His villainous rabble bemoan the fact that they never get invited to flower festivals, despite the fact that weeds flower.
The others immediately decide it's because Skunkweed smells and start laughing at him. Maybe it's because you're jerks, did you ever think of that?
So high concept thing here - the Charmkins in Charmland are apparently all flowers. The only one whose name I remembered was Brown-Eyed Susan, whose name I never forgot for reasons that I'll elaborate on later. The bad guys are weeds.
I'm not sure the bad guys got toys... they're not very "girl toy" in design. Funny thing about 80s cartoons. My Little Pony's first TV movie created a whole bunch of D&D-looking villains and monsters for them to fight, in a setting with no resemblance to the rest of the movie.
And most of the villains that She-Ra fought in her cartoon, including Hordak and the Evil Horde, were part of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe line. She-Ra: Princess of Power didn't have a lot of villain figures and they were mainly portrayed as catty rivals.
So even with this highly gendered toys, stories, and cartoons... they broke the gender lines when dramatizing them, at least when it came to the antagonists.
I could do a whole separate thread or post about that, but I've got to get through this in time to make dinner.
Anyway, Dragenvereen declares he'll have his vengeance on the Charmkins this time, and we cut back to the Charmkins, where a boy named *checks notes* Willy Winkle has a clumsy fall and complains about his luck.
I think he's supposed to be a periwinkle boy? To judge by his coloration. His name is from a nursery rhyme. I guess there aren't a lot of flowers with masculine sounding names.
Anyway. Brown Eyed-Susan cheers him up by singing about how lucky they are to live in Charmland, but the thing that tips him into believing in his luck is that he doesn't live in "gloomy old Thistledown", with the weeds.
Susan, by the way, is played by Aileen Quinn, who the same year she won the "Worst Supporting Actress" Razzie for having played the title role in Annie the year before. I don't know what's the bigger insult, the award or that she wasn't considered the lead.
I don't think they should give Razzies to children, though. I doubt she had much to do with the creative choices behind her performance.
The song ends with them watching a ballet performance, which we then see the villains creeping on through the telescope.

Dragonweed is smitten and declares "she floats like a butterfly."
Thus follows a brief argument where Skunkweed is the only weed-minion who admits to having no idea what a butterfly is, while the others can't describe it. Dragonweed begins fondly recalling having seen one.
Comically, there is a butterfly in the scene that they keep barely missing seeing (at one point it's on the lens of the telescope.) Not particularly vibrant but definitely a butterfly and not a moth, as you can see from the style of antennae and how the wings are held.
Half a second later the butterfly smells that flower in front of him and falls stone dead, so I guess it's not *just* comedic business, but also showing why they don't see many butterflies in these parts.
Here's where we get into the Villains Are Villains For Villainy's Sake stuff - Dragonweed wants to go to the festival, they all do, they all appreciate beauty in the sense that the Charmkins do, Dragonweed longs to see stuff that isn't in his swamp home.

Does he ever leave?
Take the plant metaphor and assume that this is their environment, they flourish here in a way they wouldn't across the river in Charmland. But there's a public festival in Charmland. They keep grousing about not being invited. Do they need one?
Can they not just show up and be "Howdy, neighbor! Heard you're having a shindig."

I gather there is history here because he knows the Charmkins and they know, or know of, him.
But because they're doing elementary grade TV villainy, they don't get into the backstory or the motivations, just he has to live in a gross dark place while simultaneously longing for and despising beautiful things.
And he immediately proclaims he doesn't need butterflies anyway, and we go into a musical number. And Ben Vereen is absolutely killing it as a voice actor here. He's distinctly doing a voice. I don't think I would have picked out this is him without the big credit.
Which I guess he and his people were 100% right to insist on getting an onscreen and spoken credit because he's throwing himself into this.
This song, which I don't know its actual title but it might be "Here's to the Gloomy Swamps", is really really good for a TV animated villain song in both writing and animation.
Immediately after having talked himself and his minions into forgetting about Charmland because their swamp is so awesome, he remembers that he's supposed to have whatever he wants as king and he *does* want the ballet dancer (Ladyslipper, by name) to dance for him.
Like if you *know* this is Ben Vereen you can recognize him under the voice. But I wouldn't have guessed, seriously.
They take some kind of muck catapult to their side of the river, where Ladyslipper is snoozing in a leaf boat that's tied up to the shore. Dragonweed declares he'll have her with a single shot, and doesn't hit the boat or the rope.
Instead, his shot wakes up a snoozing cat in time to see a dog get pasted in the face with swamp mud, causing the cat to laugh, the dog to get mad and chase the cat, knocking the boat free in the process.
Very short, clever cartoon sequence... and Dragonweed's kind of incredulous "It worked!" seems like they were actually subverting the idea of a ridiculously convoluted scheme working by coincidence, like he was trying to knock the boat loose directly and only succeeded by luck.
Oh, yes, two seconds later, it's canon:

"But didn't you miss the vine?"

I guess he specified "One smack of the vine and she's mine." I thought he was talking about the catapult's line.
Brown-Eyed Susan, Willy, all the animals, an actual baby she has with her for some reasons, and maybe some other characters see Ladyslipper asleep and drifting towards Badguyland and all pile into another leaf boat to follow.
I guess the baby's the only other human Charmkin in the boat. The scale is hard to tell in some of the shots.
The rescue party has oars in their boat and are close to rescuing Ladyslipper when a freak windstorm blows up, and not only do they miss her, but it changes her course so she drifts down river faster than across it.
The fact that there's a waterfall right there (like quicksand and lava, SURPRISE WATERFALLS were a thing cartoons taught me to fear every time anyone was near a river for any reason) probably had something to do with it.
I know Dragonweed's not exactly a "planning guy" but trying to abduct someone by hoping they float across the river to you when you're only about fifty feet upstream from a giant waterfall seems ill-thought out.
Willy tries to throw her a rope and she desperately grabs for it after missing the first time... and gets pulled ashore by Dragonweed, who had also thrown a rope. Nicely done sequence.
Also there's clearly stuff on his side of the river that's not Thistledown so if he just wants a change of scenery but there's bad blood with the Charmkins he could just, like, take a walk.
The rescue party consisting of two children, a baby, and their pets walk back upstream and see that a branch blown loose in the storm has ruined their third boat, because they're only leaves. But also they're leaves. You can't find another leaf?
Willy declares that saving Ladyslipper now will be impossible, which prompts Susan to sing about how "There's No Such Thing As Impossible" as she and the parrot improvise a rope bridge.
I had not processed as a child how many of these songs are just Susan lecturing Willy for being pessimistic.
Also I do not know the actual ages of these characters but there were definitely more adult-looking Charmkins at the festival and I feel like there's a step they're skipping before they simply walk a tightrope into Mordor.
Also, this is *EXACTLY* the song you would write for your TV special if you were hiring Little Orphan Annie fresh off her big movie role to sing it.
I unironically love the last line of it,
"and even though our plans may go astray,
it's POSSIBLE... we still might save the day."

A little more measured and nuanced than a "We can do literally anything! We can't fail when our hearts are pure!" song.
Back in Thistledown, Dragonweed is on his throne explaining to Ladyslipper that he wants to watch her dance, with a tone of voice that suggests he's starting to realize that he was already watching her dance before he kidnapped her.
He's very insistent that it has to be FOR HIM, and HERE in Thistledown, though, which might be how he rationalizes the impulse. What he really wanted, I think, was to take something away from the Charmkins.
Ladyslipper says she can't dance for him, because he's "a mean rascally weed who wants to be king of everything!" Which didn't come up at all in any scene where the weeds were talking among themselves. But it fits the weed metaphor, I guess? Weeds spread.
He has her thrown in a cage and has a giant thistle-filled hourglass brought out, telling her she has until they run out to change her mind, "...OR ELSE."
If you're thinking thistles would not make a great substitute for sand in an hourglass, I think the movie is actually there with you, from what I recall.
One reason I think this always seemed "like a movie" in length to me is how many songs they pack into it. We're up three, not counting the opening chorus, and there are at least two more that I remember.
Back with the rescue party, Susan is telling Willie they have to hurry, but he's slowing down to pick flowers, when one of them has a long, unusually strong root that trips him up... because it's a dragon's whisker.

Check out that dragon design. Four arms and I think four legs?
I remember in 90s Shadowrun stuff part of the environmental lore stuff they put into the books was BB discussions about how most awakened creatures still had clear terrestrial roots but dragons were vertebrates with six fully developed limbs and that marked them as otherworldly.
It's always interesting when someone decides to give dragons their own twist, like batwinged wyverns or whatever. Don't think I've ever seen one like this before or since.
Anyway, it's mad as a dragon who had its whisker pulled, and chases them all into a cave... well, not quite all of them. Susan realizes the baby she decided to bring on their journey to the heart of darkness is missing.
The baby, whose name is Tulip, has decided that the dragon' unusual limb arrangement hints that not all is at it seems, or something. And decides to tickle it.
The dragon literally dissolves into giggles, revealing... Sally Struthers as Poison Ivy, THE ITCHY WITCH OF THE WOODLANDS.
Now that he knows it was illusion, Willy wants to see more, but Susan insists on pushing on. Poison Ivy reveals she knows their mission and will help them out... but without using magic, as that makes things too easy.
She then uses magic to teleport around Susan, disorienting her and convincing her that Ivy's only going to mess with them.

I said earlier that Ivy's voice is something that stuck with me over the years. Here we get to why.
She goes into a song cue now.

At any point since I was a toddler if someone put a gun to my head and demanded I recite a line from the Charmkins TV special by memory I could have spat out "Not true, Brown-Eyed Sue! Here's a clue just for you!"


Maybe not.
She conjures a magic wand (which she didn't actually need to do any of the magic we've seen so far, including conjuring the wand, BUT. The theme here is that things aren't what they seem and some things are for show, so well done?)
And she begins singing a song about hocus pocus and "subterfugus" and lots of nonce words and magician patter while using her magic to change the appearance of everybody in the group.
It's a pretty good song and it's got some great lines, including "Even when you're certain, you can certainly misjudge." which I didn't specifically remember from here but my long-time followers know I've apparently been paraphrasing it for my whole life.
While she's doing all this actual magic, like turning Willy into a blender, the lesson she's imparting is a very Pratchettian witch one: a body isn't always what a body seems to be.
The actual reason she appeared to them like this is the same reason when I am DMing I ask "Are you taking any particular measures in particular as you approach the encampment? Any special manner of approach?"

Or to put it another way:

One does not *SIMPLY* walk into Mordor.
Having convinced them it'd be maybe worth their while to make a few Dexterity (Stealth) checks along the way, Poison Ivy departs into the sky and Brown-Eyed Susan immediately shouts "LET'S GO RESCUE LADYSLIPPER!" while heading into what is clearly a more evil-coded neck of woods.
She's definitely a Valor Bard.
I was holding back from saying Lady Slipper could definitely fit through the bars of this cage on the basis that maybe her head is too big but then this happened.

She could totally fit.
...oh, and right after that, she physically leans out through the bars, holding onto them to avoid falling out.

I know she's surrounded and outnumbered but this cage seems more like an affectation.
Skunkweed interrupts to ask what will actually happen when the thistles run out, and we see behind him as the Charmkins have taken Poison Ivy's advice to heart, if not to heart: they are disguised as bright, pretty, flowery bushes of exactly the type thistledown lacks.
By the way, thistle flowers are very pretty. Skunkweed was right to feel that the whole flower/weed divide is a social construct.
Anyway, Skunkweed wants to know "or else what?" on Dragonweed's continued ultimatum to Ladyslipper.

Now comes a real bit of cartoon fun! You can probably think of one or two things that would be the implied threat, but a kid's cartoon can't go either of those places.
So what we get instead is the one and only Ben Vereen lyrically inviting his minions to "Imagine me at my worst..." and then telling them they're being too kind.

This is seriously a top-tier villain song.
As the song ends, two of the minions stumble into the bushes hiding the pets, which they guess to be "dogwood" and "pussy willow" from the sound of it.

The parrot was clutch with the rope bridge but I feel like the cat and the dog are liabilities on this mission.
Through this, the bushes with the baby, the boy, and the cat and dog are caught, but Susan and the parrot manage to stay still and stay back and are still in the mix.
The others get tied up, and when asked what he's going to do with them, Dragonweed says, "I'm not sure yet." Maybe his whole song, as awesome as it was, was to cover for the fact that he's not really an idea guy.
Meanwhile, as the last four thistles slide out, the other bushes make their way over to the muck catapult and take Dragonweed out just after he kicks the last thistle free (there's a reason most people use sand).
Apparently they have a whole line of mud-slinging siege engines and handheld mud weapons? Nobody actually gets hurt in a mudball fight which is convenient for the kind of cartoon this is. The weeds get overwhelmed and the parrot, again in the clutch move with a rope, ties them up
Now caged, Dragonweed tries to play it off as a joke and insists he never wanted to hurt anybody, he just wanted some sunshine... while filing at the bars behind his back.
Susan responds with a song about how you can find a rainbow anywhere (again, they hired Annie for a reason) and while everybody is distracted by the fantasy sequence of Thistledown blossoming, Dragonweed stops hiding his escape attempt.
When he gets loose, the kids run back to the rope bridge... seriously, Thistledown is like five minutes away.

Predictably, the rope bridge is severed by the parrot to dump the weeds into the drink, just upstream from a waterfall.
Back at home, Susan is telling her parents the story and her mother's "My goodness! You're lucky you got away!" response works better if you assume she thinks her daughter has an overactive imagination.
Susan goes into a reprise of the lucky song from the beginning, and that's our show.
This one definitely aged better than Mad Balls, despite being older. I don't want to say money is the only thing that matters but it's a good proxy for a lot of things that matter more, like how much care and attention go into a project.
And you can't get Ben Vereen for Mad Balls money.
I didn't want to dwell on it at the moment because seriously who pauses Ben Vereen, but his second song? Hoo. If you were a child in 1983 and you're a kinky adult today, there just might be some formative stuff in there.

"Use her face as a welcome mat?" is one of the guesses.
And for those of us with very specific interests, "Bake her in your favorite recipe?" is another.
Anyway, I think a big difference between these two is that Charmkins had fun playing with some of the conventions of child-appropriate storytelling (villains who only say "or else" and never make explicit threats) whereas Mad Balls just played mad libs with them.
Although I think Charmkins had better fodder to work with in terms of character and lore, when making an age-appropriate show.
Anyway, that's my thread. If you got something from it, please give something back. I'll keep doing it as long as it pays off.

Next week I'll start aiming for doing this stuff on Monday again.
You can follow @AlexandraErin.
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