|The Brave Little Toaster|
|Directed by:||Jerry Rees|
|Produced by:|| Donald Kushner|
Thomas L. Wilhite
|Music by:||David Newman|
|Editing by:||Donald W. Ernst|
|Studio:|| The Kushner-Locke Company|
Wang Film Productions
|Distributed by:||Hyperion Pictures|
|Release Date(s):||July 10, 1987|
|Running time:||90 minutes|
|Followed by:||The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars|
The Brave Little Toaster is a 1987 animated adventure film adapted from the 1980 novella of the same name by Thomas M. Disch. The film was directed by Jerry Rees and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film is set in a world where household appliances and other electronics have the ability to speak and move, but pretend to be lifeless in the presence of humans. The story focuses on five appliances— a toaster, a desk lamp, an electric blanket, a vacuum tube radio, and a vacuum cleaner—who altogether go on a quest to search for their original owner.
The film was produced by Hyperion Pictures along with The Kushner-Locke Company. Many of the original members of Pixar Animation Studios were involved with this film, including John Lasseter and Joe Ranft. While the film debuted mainstream on the Disney Channel and thus received only a limited theatrical release, The Brave Little Toaster was popular on home video and managed to garner two direct-to-video sequels a decade later (The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue).
A toaster named Toaster, a blanket named Blanky, a Tensor named Lampy, a radio named Radio, and a Hoover named Kirby awaken to life in a cottage in the woods, carrying out their daily routine of work and play. They hear a car outside and excitedly think it might be their Master who's coming back. When Blanky looks out the window up in the attic he at first really does believe the Master is coming and has a daydream; but then he realizes that the car left, and is obviously not the Master's. Disappointed and weepy, he goes to get a picture of the Master and begins to cry, much to Kirby's annoyance. Kirby tries to grab the picture from Blanky, causing ruckus among all the appliances, and eventually causing the picture frame and glass to break. The picture itself is still intact. The appliances soon come face-to-face with Air Conditioner, who acts sarcastic and cynical, and tells them that the Master isn't coming back, despite their delusions that he is. But when Toaster suspects that Air Conditioner is acting this way because the Master never played with him like he did them, he reacts by ranting furiously and overheating, destroying himself in the process. Soon the gang hears another car approaching, but when they look out the living room window together, they find that it's just a real estate man putting up a "FOR SALE" sign. Now they know that the Master is gone for good. After an intervention of hopeless depression among the appliances, Toaster aggressively decides that they should go to the city and find the Master. The rest of the gang hesitates at first, but soon they agree that together, they can succeed. After some trial and error with different modes of transportation, Toaster use an office chair for Kirby to pull, and a car battery to provide power for himself and the others as they travel.
That night, after journeying a while across the countryside, the appliances camp in a clearing of thick brush, not before arguing amongst one another first. Blanky tries to snuggle up with someone but no one will let him do so, so he eventually goes to sleep by his lonesome self. The next day, the appliances come to a flowery meadow and a lake where they meet a bunch of animals, some of which are fascinated by their reflections in Toaster's chrome. The lake critters then put on a show when trying to capture a meager worm. Afterward, Toaster becomes so overwhelmed by the animals ogling themselves in him that he runs off into a field of tall flowers. He loses them but soon encounters a lone yellow flower. The flower mistakes its reflection in Toaster as another one of its own kind, and despite Toaster's explanation that it's just a reflection, the flower hugs him. Alarmed and confused, Toaster runs away from the flower, only later to find it shedding a petal in sadness. Toaster leaves, feeling guilty. Meanwhile, the animals are frolicking around the other appliances, and Toaster returns. A group of mice, at first seeming to befriend Blanky, try to pull him down into a hole, and try to eat his picture of the Master. Toaster yanks him out of the hole, and he gets his picture back. Shortly afterwards the appliances say goodbye to the animals and continue their journey, soon traveling into a dark forest. When they seek to find shelter, Blanky warmly provides a tent for them. Later in the night, Toaster thanks Blanky for letting them all camp underneth him, and he snuggles with Blanky too. This leads Lampy to have a talk with Toaster about what warm feelings are. Lampy is reminded of the time his bulb burned out and the Master replaced his bulb, leaving Lampy with a "glowing" feeling. When Lampy and Toaster finally go to sleep, Toaster dreams of his memories spent with the Master; but the memories are quickly destroyed by an evil fireman clown who attacks him and makes him fall into bathtub of water, one of his worst fears. Just as he is electrocuted underwater, a violent storm wakes him up in fright, along with the others. Blanky gets blown by the wind up into the trees, and the gang can't see him in the darkness. Lampy tries shining his light, but his bulb goes out. He tries to reenergize himself with the travel battery, but the battery has gone dead, leaving the appliances without a power source. To recharge it, Lampy acts as a lightning rod and allows a bolt of lightning to strike him, thus recharging the battery. But he gets seriously damaged, and his bulb breaks. The next day, the appliances continue to search for Blanky. They find him up in a tall tree nearby. Kirby devises a plan and rescues him, but not without explaining that he only did it so everyone could keep moving. As they continue their journey, they come across a waterfall in their path. Kirby loses his nerve at the sight of it, but the appliances calm him down using "carpet-sweeping therapy." He refuses to admit he needed help, however, and instead of offering his thanks he offers insults. When the appliances try to cross the waterfall's gorge by having Kirby swing Toaster, Lampy, Radio, Blanky and the office chair on his cord, Toaster fails to hold up the cord's far end after experiencing vertigo, and he lets everyone fall. The cords snap off, and Kirby looks down in shock. All alone, he eventually musters up the courage to jump into the waterfall after his friends. One by one, he saves them all. When he brings them ashore, Toaster walks away sadly because he believes it's his fault for getting the gang lost. He stares at his reflection in a pond and splashes it away. He comes back to help pull Kirby along, because the chair and battery are lost. But as they struggle Kirby falls back into a mud hole and starts to sink. He goes under, and Toaster, Blanky and Lampy do too. Just before Radio is about to do the same, he plays a song ("(My) Mammy" (by Al Johnson)), as an S.O.S. signal. A man named Elmo St. Peters heard Radio's signal, then pulls him and the other appliances out and throws them in the back of his big red monster pickup truck. He drives them out of the swamp and takes them to his Parts Shop, where they glimpse the gutted parts of all kinds of appliances before being dropped off in a back room.
Once there, they meet Hanging Lamp who out of pity gives Lampy a new lightbulb. He tells them that St. Peters is quite an amusing fellow, and he chuckles darkly. Later, the gang watches in horror as St. Peters takes a blender apart and sells its motor to a costumer named Zeke. Knowing what their fate will look like, the gang want desperately to escape. St. Peters comes back and tries to take Radio apart to sell his tubes to Zeke, after he bought the blender motor. Using one of Lampy's sudden ideas, the gang manages to scare St. Peters and knock him out, saving Radio. When they see St. Peters knocked out cold, a megaphone calls out a "jailbreak" and a refridgerator breaks down the door and escapes the shop with the other worn-out appliances. St. Peters eventually wakes up and finds his place a mess. Now, Toaster, Lampy, Radio, Blanky, and Kirby are riding their way to the city in a baby carriage they got in the Parts Shop. They see a city of twinkling lights at night, and ride toward it. Meanwhile, Rob, the Master, is living in an apartment in the city with his mom, and is packing his things to go to college. His girlfriend Chris comes by to take him to his old summer cottage and pick up Toaster and his gang so Rob can use them at his college dorm. Shortly afterwards, his appliances arrive at the apartment, but after entering, find that the Master isn't there. So, they decide to wait for him. They also meet up with their old friend, a black-and-white Television, who was taken away from the cottage long ago. The other appliances in the apartment who let them inside are jealous of the Master's choosing the Toaster and his friends over them. After trying to prove how high-tech and cutting-edge they are in comparison, by singing their song, they toss the gang into a dumpster outside, hoping the Master will take them to the dorm instead.
At the cottage, the Master can't find the appliances anywhere and gets flustered. However, he manages to fix Air Conditioner, who comes back to life happily. The Master and his girlfriend sadly return to his mom's apartment in the city; meanwhile his appliances are being carted away in a garbage truck. At Ernie's Disposal, a junkyard, the appliances are dumped off, and they watch in horror as a Giant Magnet picks up old cars and drops them on a conveyor belt headed for a compactor machine, that crushes them to pieces. At the apartment, the Master sees a commercial for Ernie's Disposal, advertised as "Ernie's Amazing Emporium of Total Bargain Madness," on the black-and-white TV, and has Chris drive him over there. Once there, the Master finds the picture of himself that Blanky had dropped. His appliances then see him as they are hanging from the Magnet, and they are determined to escape the conveyor belt and compactor, irritating the Magnet. After a few times of running from the Magnet and just missing the Master, the Master eventually finds Radio, Kirby, Blanky, and Lampy. But just as he's picking them up the Giant Manget picks him and his appliances up and drops them on the conveyor belt. He screams for his girlfriend Chris, who cannot see him. But Toaster can see him. Just as the compactor is about to crush the Master, Toaster jumps into the compactor's gears and manages to stop it. Later, Chris tells Rob he scared her to death, and she carries away some junkyard parts. Back at the apartment, Rob fixes Toaster, against Chris' suggestion that he should just get new appliances. He puts Toaster and the other appliances in Chris' car, and they head off to college. The appliances are happy that they have completed their mission and found the Master, and they can't wait to have more adventures at the Master's college.
- Deanna Oliver as the Toaster, a gallant toaster and inspiring leader of the five appliances.
- Timothy E. Day as Blanky, an electric blanket with an innocent, childlike demeanor.
- Tim Stack as Lampy, an easily-impressed yet slightly irascible gooseneck desktop lamp.
- Jon Lovitz as the Radio, a vacuum-tube-based dial alarm antique radio broadcast receiver whose picked up personality parodies from loudly pretentious radio singers and announcers, including the unseen radio announcer named Walter Winchell, voiced by Jerry Rees.
- Thurl Ravenscroft as the Kirby, a very low-pitched, individualistic upright Kirby vaccuum cleaner who dons a cynical, cantankerous attitude towards the other appliances.
- Wayne Kaatz (Timothy E. Day, young) as Rob ("the Master"), the original human owner of the five appliances. Rob appears as a child in flashbacks for the first half of the film, but it is revealed that he has reached late adolescence and is departing for college. He has his own Sports Car.
- Phil Hartman as the sarcastic, Jack Nicholson-inspired Air Conditioner, who resides in the cabin with the five appliances. He loses his temper in an argument with the appliances and explodes, and is revived by Rob near the end of the film. Hartman also voiced the Peter Lorre-inspired Hanging Lamp, a ceiling lamp who lives in the appliance parts store, who doesn't believe in the Toaster's optimism, after years of having been terrified to watch the death and mutilation of countlessly disabled Junkshop Appliances, but also Blender, whose motor was brought to a person named Zeke.
- Joe Ranft as Elmo St. Peters, one of the major antagonists of the film. He owns a spare parts shop, where he disassembles broken machines and sells the pieces. He has his own Monster Pickup and a dog named Quadreped.
- Colette Savage as Chris ("the Mistress"), Rob's tomboyish girlfriend.
- Jim Jackman as Plugsy, a Kenroy droplet lamp who possibly once lived in the Cottage with the Toaster, the Radio, Lampy, Blanky, the Kirby, the Air Conditioner and the T.V., but now he is second-in-command of Tarry the Apple II Computer (voiced by Randy Bennett) who is the leader of the Cutting-Edge Appliances, who reside in Rob's apartment. While they were benevolent in the original novel, here they are jealous and antagonistic towards the main characters.
- Jonathan Benair as the (Black and White) T.V., a black and white television who once lived in the Cottage with the Toaster, the Radio, Lampy, Blanky, the Kirby, the Air Conditioner and possibly Plugsy, but now he's moved to Rob's apartment and he is an old friend of the five appliances.
- The Crane, Giant Magnet and Crusher are the voiceless final villains, who live at Ernie’s Disposal. They make a career of sending the worn-out Junkyard Cars to their demise. They pursue the Toaster and his fellow appliances and attempt to destroy them.
The film rights to The Brave Little Toaster, the original novel, were bought by the Disney Studios in 1982, two years after its appearance in print. After John Lasseter and Glen Keane had finished a short 2D/3D test film based on the book Where the Wild Things Are, Lasseter and Thomas L. Wilhite decided they wanted to make a whole feature this way. The story they chose was The Brave Little Toaster, but in their enthusiasm, they ran into issues pitching the idea to two high level Disney executives, animation administrator Ed Hansen, and head of Disney studios Ron W. Miller. During Lasseter and Wilhite's pitch, the film was rejected due to the costs of having traditionally animated characters inside expensive computer-generated backgrounds. A few minutes after the meeting, Lasseter received a phone call from Hansen and was asked to come down to his office, where Lasseter was told that his job had been terminated. The development was then transferred to the new Hyperion Pictures, the creation of former Disney employees Wilhite and Willard Carroll, who took the production along with them.
With Disney backing the project, Toaster soon turned into an independent effort; the electronics company TDK and video distributor CBS-Fox soon joined in. In 1986, Hyperion began to work on the story and characters, with Taiwan's Wang Film Productions for the overseas unit. The cost was reduced to $2.3 million as production began. Jerry Rees, a crew member on two previous Disney films, The Fox and the Hound and Tron, and a friend of Lasseter, was chosen to direct the film, and was also a writer on the screenplay along with Joe Ranft. Rees' inspiration for voice casting came from the Groundlings improvisational group, some of whose members (Jon Lovitz, Phil Hartman, Timothy Stack, and Mindy Sterling) voiced characters in the film. Lovitz and Hartman were stars of Saturday Night Live at the time. The color stylist was veteran Disney animator Ken O'Connor, a member of Disney's feature animation department from its establishment.
Halfway through the film, Donald Kushner thought that the nightmare scene should be cut from the film; due to the clown being extremely frightening to younger children. He also stated that the junkyard scene "Worthless" should be cut from the film too, due to one of the cars driving into a crusher on purpose, using a suicide reference. For unknown reasons, the scenes were left in the film.
Release and Reception
The Brave Little Toaster premiered in 1987 at the Los Angeles International Animation Celebration. The following year, it was shown at the 1988 Sundance Film Festival, garnering a Grand Jury Prize nomination. Though the prize went to Rob Nilsson's Heat and Sunlight, before the awards ceremony, Rees was told by several of the judges that they considered Toaster the best film but they couldn't give the award to a cartoon as they considered people wouldn't take the festival seriously afterwards. Ironically, Heat and Sunlight, unlike Toaster, would be forgotten in later years.
Despite being a favorite with festival audiences, the film failed to find a distributor. Disney, who held the video and television rights, withdrew its official theatrical distribution, and elected to showcase it on their new premium cable service instead. The film premiered on The Disney Channel on February 27, 1988. The buzz it generated at Sundance dissipated, and it only received limited theatrical airings through Hyperion, mainly at arthouse facilities across the U.S., and most notably at the Film Forum in New York City, in May 1989.
In July 1991, Disney finally released the film to home video. Throughout the '90s onward, it enjoyed popularity as a rental amongst children as well as a Parent's Choice Award win. The VHS was re-issued in March 1994 in traditional Disney white clamshell packaging, followed by another VHS release in May 1998. A DVD was released in September 2003, to tie in with the film's 15th anniversary. The DVD features an edit made to a frame of the TV holding a picture of a topless woman in his hand; the stars that were originally over her breasts are replaced with a bra. Disney has currently made no official statement on a future Blu-ray release of the film.
The Brave Little Toaster has garnered a 75% rating on the reviews website, Rotten Tomatoes. The Washington Post called it "a kid's film made without condescension", while the staff of Halliwell's Film Guide called it an "odd fantasy of pots and pans with no more than adequate animation."
The film received an Emmy nomination for Best Animated Program in 1988. It was followed by two sequels, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998), also a novella written by Disch, and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue (1999), in which Disch took no part. The two sequels were released out of chronological order; To the Rescue takes place before Goes to Mars.
The Brave Little Toaster was scored and conducted by David Newman and performed by New Japan Philharmonic. The film contains four original songs ("City of Lights", "It's a 'B' Movie", "Cutting Edge", and "Worthless") that were written by Van Dyke Parks. Newman's score for this movie was one of his earlier works and apparently one that he felt very close to. He did not view it as a cheerful one, and decided to give the film a dramatic score to reinforce the serious nature of many of the film's themes.
As was becoming the trend of animated films at the time, The Brave Little Toaster has many dark tones. The graveyard scene contains a depressing song about wrecked cars meeting their fate at the hands of a trash compactor. This compactor nearly kills Rob, but is stopped by Toaster wedging himself in the gears of its mechanism.
Another example is the storm which causes Blanky to be blown away.
Near the beginning of the film, Air Conditioner becomes so angry that he overheats, blows up, and dies.
Toaster has a dream where he is being chased by an evil clown, a popular horror film character. The clown is a fireman, trapping Toaster near a bathtub and throwing metal forks at him, things which are fatal to toasters.
In one scene, a flower mistakes its reflection on Toaster's face for another flower. Toaster tries explaining to the flower that it's just a reflection, and leaves. Upon looking back at the flower, he notices it drooping its head in depression and shedding a petal as if shedding a tear.
- Jon Lovitz, the voice of Radio, and Phil Hartman, the voice of Air Conditioner, both starred on Saturday Night Live during the making of this film.
- "A113", the number that appeared on the Master's Door at his apartment was the number of John Lasseter's room at CAL Arts College. It has since appeared in every Pixar film as a reference to the same studio room.
- Due to "toaster" being masculine and "lamp" being feminine in German, in the German dub, Toaster was voiced by a man and Lampy was voiced by a woman. Both are also voiced by women in the Polish dub.
Differences from the novel
- In the novel, the character of Air Conditioner is only mentioned in passing as having died when it passed its expiration date, while in the film he dies from overheating, and is later repaired and revived.
- Blanky was originally rescued from the tree by two squirrels.
- The vacuum's name was changed from "Hoover" to "Kirby," and was the original leader of the group (rather than Toaster).
- The benevolent appliances in Rob's apartment are antagonistic in the film.
- The appliances originally encounter a river and they find a boat to cross it, while in the film they encounter a waterfall and fail trying to cross.
- Although a character named Ernie the Junkman was planned to be in the film, but never released.
- The original ending was notably different from the film: the appliances find a new owner, rather than Rob, to live with.
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