Here’s another blast from the 1980′s. Remember Madballs? They were these tennis ball sized rubber balls with gross and gruesome faces and were all the rage in 1986! I remember buying one of these back in late 1986. I’ve been looking for Madballs sealed inside their original packaging for quite some time and two months ago I managed to score a complete set of three Madballs Water Squirters still sealed in their original packaging!
Complete set of Madballs Water Squirters (1986) Wonderland
“A Gross-out Hype!”
Madballs came from AmToy, which was a subsidiary of American Greetings Corporation, Inc., who were also responsible for other memorable 1980′s properties like the Get-Along-Gang, the Care Bears, the Popples and Strawberry Shortcake. The original Madballs series came with 8 different Madballs, which are to me the most “memorable” of the bunch. It was expanded a year later with 8 more Madballs and there was even a Madballs vehicle! Lots of third party stuff was released as well. There even was a comic book and a (short lived) cartoon series!
Madballs comic #1 (1986) Star Comics
It might sound strange that such a weird and freaky toy even had its own comic book, but there was definitely a hype going on in 1986 with anything that could gross you out. I know I dug that vibe as an 11-year-old, because I also owned one of those plastic buckets full of green slime (remember those?). Madballs was released around that same time and the toy line was supported with lots of ad campaigns. Here’s a video of the U.S. commercial :
Madballs U.S. commercial
“Madballs in the Low Countries”
I think this same commercial was shown on Dutch television in late 1986, although translated in Dutch. The first series of Madballs was released in the Netherlands by Dutch toy wholesaler Otto Simon. It was featured in the September 1986 issue of Dutch trade magazine Speelgoed & Hobby, which had an article on Otto Simon’s fall line up of that very year.
Apparently Belgium had their own packaging for these same first series Madballs. They were bilingual (Dutch and French) and the funny thing is that the Dutch names for the Madballs on the Belgian cards are often different from the Dutch translation available in the Netherlands! Here’s a list of all the Madballs names of the first series. The first column is the original English name of the Madball, the second column is the Dutch translation as used in the Netherlands and the third column is the Dutch (or Flemish) translation as used in Belgium.
Various Madballs translations (series 1)
Apparently at some point in time three special Water Squirters were made, which added the gimmick of allowing the Madballs to be filled up with water. Kids could then squeeze the ball and make water squirt out the Madball’s mouth. Hilarity would ensue. The three Madballs that got the water squirter treatment were Screamin Meemie, Oculus Orbus and Slobulus.
Madballs – Screamin’ Meemie Water Squirter (1986) Wonderland
I scored this set of three Madballs Water Squirters from a UK seller back in February. They appear to be the European versions of the Water Squirters, because they contain both English and French on the packaging. It’s not a Canadian release, because it explicitly lists a French address in Orly belonging to “Wonderland”, which is probably the company responsible for the distribution of these European packaged Madballs Water Squirters.
Madballs – Slobulus Water Squirter (1986) Wonderland
The copyright blurb on the left side of the card shows that these were manufactured by Arco Toys, Ltd. which is the same company that produced Water Squirters for the North American market. The difference between these European cards and the American cards is that the latter came with English only on the packaging and they also had the “Arco” logo on the top left of the card instead of the Wonderland logo, which is shown on these European cards.
Madballs – Oculus Orbus Water Squirter (1986) Wonderland
I fondly remember owning “Dustbrain” of the first series of Madballs. He was called “Mummie” in the Dutch translation and there was almost no hesitation when I needed to make my pick in my favourite toy store back in 1986. Dustbrain it was!
Meet the lovely Dustbrain
My mom and my sister were grossed out by it, but I loved it. There was something transcendent about his smile that I latched onto for some strange reason. He rocked. For many, many years Dustbrain was always lying around somewhere in my room. Through the good times and through the bad times, there was always Dustbrain in a corner, on the windowsill, under the bed or on my desk… smiling. I think I must have been at least 18 years old before my mom finally got rid of it one day or maybe I threw it away myself. I can’t really recall, but I do know I regret not having that original Madball around anymore. I’d love to find a Madball in Dutch packaging one day, especially if that were to be Dustbrain, a.k.a. Mummie. Here’s hoping. :-)