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The Brave Little Toaster

Theatrical poster
Directed by Jerry Rees
Produced by Donald Kushner
Thomas L. Wilhite
Written by Thomas M. Disch (book and story)
Story Adaptation
Brian McEntee
Joe Ranft
Jerry Rees
Starring Jon Lovitz
Tim Stack
Timothy E. Day
Thurl Ravenscroft
Deanna Oliver
Music by David Newman
Cinematography Joe Ranft
Editing by Donald W. Ernst
Studio Hyperion/Kushner-Locke
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Hyperion Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures
DVD & Video Release
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release date(s) July 10, 1987 (USA)
September 18, 1987 (Brazil)
Running time 90 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$2.3 million[1]
Followed by The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998)

The Brave Little Toaster is a 1987 American animated film directed by Jerry Rees, written by Thomas M. Disch, produced by Hyperion Pictures along with The Kushner-Locke Company, and released by Walt Disney Pictures (who were the original producers). The film is known for its dark and unsettling undertones that are somehow overshadowed by its family-friendly premise. The plot follows five household appliances—the Toaster (a toaster), Lampy (a desk lamp), Blanky (an electric blanket), Radio (a vacuum tube radio), and Kirby (a Kirby vacuum cleaner)—on their quest to find their owner, Rob (also referred to as "The Master").

The film was based on the novel of the same name, written by Disch, which first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1980. Many members of Pixar Animation Studios were involved with this film, including John Lasseter, whose trademark A113 appears on Master's door, and Joe Ranft.

Contents

Plot

Five appliances — a radio (Radio), a lamp (Lampy), an electric blanket (Blanky), a vacuum cleaner (Kirby), and a toaster (Toaster) — wake up and await their "Master", a child whom they have not seen for many years, with a growing sense of abandonment. When a car stops at the cabin and turns out to be a real estate broker placing a "for sale" sign, the appliances spiral into despair. The paranoid air conditioner is provoked into overheating and short-circuits. Unable to accept that the Master would abandon them, Toaster decides to head out and find the Master. The group rigs up a car battery to an office chair pulled by Kirby and set out into the world, following the Radio's signal from the City of Light.

During their travels from the cabin to the big city, the appliances have many harrowing adventures: they come across a colorful meadow where a flower mistakes its reflection in Toaster's chrome plating as another of its kind, then wilts when the Toaster rejects its advances. Toaster has a nightmare in which he is attacked by an evil clown. A violent storm in the middle of the night blows Blanky up into the trees, and Lampy risks his life by using himself as a lightning rod to recharge the group's dead battery. After recovering Blanky, the group tries to cross a waterfall, only to fall in and wash up downstream where they become hopelessly lost.

Having lost the office chair and battery, the group resorts to pulling the disabled vacuum cleaner through the swamp. After almost drowning in quicksand, they are rescued by Elmo St. Peters, the owner of an appliance parts store. At the store they meet a group of partially dismantled or broken appliances, who have given up on hope in favor of B-Movie style horror and insanity. Facing the prospect of being dismantled and sold, the appliances escape and head into the city.

The appliances arrive at the Master's apartment only to discover that they have been replaced by modern Cutting Edge appliances. The group is tossed into the garbage in the hope that the Master will take the newer appliances to college instead. When the Master, who we find out is named Rob, arrives home after failing to find the appliances at the cabin, his black and white television broadcasts advertisements for the garbage dump where the appliances have been taken. Rob decides to go there and buy replacements.

At the dump the appliances watch as several cars, resigned to being Worthless, are picked up by a giant magnetic crane and dropped onto a conveyor belt advancing toward the car crusher, which smashes the cars to death. They attempt to foil the magnetic crane in order to allow Rob to find them. After being thwarted several times, the furious crane picks up Rob himself as well as all of the appliances save Toaster, and drops them on the compactor's conveyor belt. In a climactic act of self-sacrifice, Toaster leaps into the compactor's gears and stops the machine from destroying his friends and Rob. Rob returns to the apartment with all of the appliances in tow, including the now mangled Toaster. Despite his girlfriend Chris' skepticism, he repairs Toaster and takes all of them to college with him.

Cast

  • Toaster (voiced by Deanna Oliver), is a brave, 1950s style, two-slot Sunbeam toaster. The other appliances affectionately give him the nickname "Slots". Toaster has an optimistic and encouraging demeanor which he tries very hard to share with the other appliances. He has aquaphobia, which is an allusion to the "toaster in a bathtub" cliche.
  • Lampy (voiced by Tim Stack), is an orange, flexible neck desktop lamp. Lampy has little patience for the bombastic Radio and the two usually end up fighting. Lampy is the only appliance who is clearly literate, as he was seen reading a phone book. He has no arms, but can use his electric cord and his plug as hands. His moment of glory came when he electrocuted himself during a lightning storm to recharge the group's battery.
  • Radio (voiced by Jon Lovitz) is a red tube-based dial radio. The Radio is the only appliance character without an anthropomorphic face. Drawing qualities from loud and pretentious radio announcers, Radio is prone to exaggeration and boasting, often narrating its own adventures in an over-dramatic style. Radio sounds like an early 20th century news reporter, making repeated references to that era, such as Teddy Roosevelt, Cab Calloway, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and World War II.
  • Blanky (voiced by Timothy E. Day) is a fuzzy yellow electric blanket. It has a very simple, child-like mind and voice, and the others treat him as such. Lampy, Radio, and Kirby tease the blanket mercilessly, while the Toaster is much more affectionate toward him.
  • Kirby (voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft) is an upright vacuum cleaner based on the Kirby Dual Sanitronic 80 from 1969. Seemingly cantankerous and bossy toward the others, it actually cares very much about them and risks its life to save them more than once. However Kirby cannot help but keep up the appearance that he is independent and being held back by the others.
  • Air Conditioner (voiced by Phil Hartman) is a Jack Nicholson-esque appliance who appears at the beginning of the film. He is sarcastic, having lost faith that the master is coming back, and taunts the others for their misguided hope. After Kirby taunts him about being stuck in a wall, he loses his temper and explodes.
  • Elmo St. Peters (voiced by Joe Ranft) is the owner of an appliance shop. He first appears rescuing the protagonists from sinking in the quicksand. He has a pet dog named Quadruped, and drives a truck with abnormally large wheels.
    • Parts Shop Appliances are a collection of appliances, in various states of disrepair, residing in Elmo St. Peters parts shop. All are gleefully fatalistic about their situation to the point of insanity. A hanging lamp resembles Peter Lorre.
  • T.V. (voiced by Jonathan Benair) is an old black-and-white television set which the Master brought with him from the cottage into the city. T.V. is overjoyed to see his old friends from the cabin when they arrive at the Master's apartment. When the Cutting Edge appliances betray his friends, he takes it upon himself to help them in the only way he knows how. In one scene, Plugsy changes his channel to a Spanish station.
  • Plugsy (voiced by Jim Jackman) is a fashionable purple table lamp who seems to be the front man for the Master's Cutting Edge appliances. Plugsy has a deep voice and a large, round bottom lip. Plugsy agrees from the start with his Cutting Edge friends to get rid of Toaster and his friends.
    • Cutting Edge Appliances are the collection of modern, 1980's-era appliances currently residing in the Master's apartment. They are disappointed that the Master plans to bring his old and obsolete appliances with him to college and when the appliances from the cabin arrive unexpectedly, they plot to get rid of them out of jealousy.
  • The Giant Magnet is a voiceless antagonist, appearing near the end of the film at Ernie's Disposal. Although merely performing a job when first introduced, it soon becomes a true villain, persistently stalking the appliances to ensure their destruction.
    • Worthless Cars populate the junkyard where the appliances are taken, each sounding off about the exciting lives they used to have before they arrived at the junkyard.
  • Rob and Chris (voiced by Wayne Kaatz and Colette Savage respectively). Rob is better known as "The Master" and is the owner of the appliances. He has an unusually strong nostalgic attachment to them. Chris is his tomboy girlfriend who accompanies him to Ernie's Disposal.

Production

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 the 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 had issues when they pitched the idea. One of them, animation administrator Ed Hansen disliked it so much that when Lasseter and Wilhite tried to sell the idea to him and Ron Miller, which they at that time were already aware of, they rejected it due to the idea of having traditionally animated characters inside more-costly computer-generated backgrounds.[2] 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.[3]

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.[3] 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.[3]

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Music

The Brave Little Toaster has songs by Van Dyke Parks and a score composed and conducted by David Newman. 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 an overly happy film and decided to give it a dramatic score to go with that idea.[citation needed]

  • "City Of Lights" is sung by the five main appliances as they set off in search of the Master. It becomes a theme for the orchestral score throughout the rest of the film.
  • "It's a 'B' Movie" is performed by the demented parts shop appliances, who have lost their minds after watching Elmo St. Peters dismantle their own kind for spare parts. It features a pipe organ as one of the main instruments is a homage to various famous horror films.
  • "Cutting Edge" is a song with a techno beat composed almost entirely of synthesized instruments, sung by the Cutting Edge appliances in affirmation of their superiority.
  • "Worthless" is sung by the junkyard's broken down cars, each singing a few verses about their life before being smashed and killed by the compactor.

Release

The Brave Little Toaster was initially released on July 10, 1987, and made its way to the Sundance Film Festival the following year. Despite being a favorite with festival audiences, it failed to find a distributor. Disney, who held the video and television rights, withdrew its official theatrical distribution, intending it to be shown on its new premium cable service instead. 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. Disney finally premiered the film on home video in July 1991 and, 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 1994 in traditional Disney white clamshell packaging, followed by another VHS release in 1998. The film was released on DVD in 2002, to tie in with the film's 15th anniversary.

Reception

The film became a cult favorite with audiences. The original film has garnered a 75% rating on the reviews website, Rotten Tomatoes.[4] The Washington Post called the film, "a kid's film made without condescension".[5] The Brave Little Toaster 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 written by Disch, and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue (1999). The two sequels were released out of chronological order; To the Rescue takes place before Goes to Mars.

A dark tone

The Brave Little Toaster is generally darker in tone for a Disney film, despite being made at a time when darker animated features such as The Secret of NIMH and Disney's own The Black Cauldron were common, and caused some controversy upon its home video release where it earned a wider audience than it did with its film festival and television showings.[citation needed] Example scenes include: the air conditioner's enraged attempted suicide (he is later revived by Rob), a nightmare sequence featuring an evil clown, a scene where a blender's motor is fatally removed, and a few instances of mild profanity. As well, during the song Worthless, no fewer than eight speaking automobile characters end up being smashed mercilessly into scrap metal and killed.

Most of its dark tone comes from its undertones about the advancement of technology and the lead group of characters' sense of abandonment leading to near insanity, as well as a surprisingly poignant scene in which nature and technology meet, involving a lonely flower seeing its own reflection in the Toaster's shiny metal chrome and thought it had found a companion, as the Toaster hid behind a bush - he took a peek through the leaves and saw that the flower, now wilted and dying, was bent over in sorrow, rejection and loneliness - a petal dropped to the ground like a tear. While its undertones are open and expanded, they are somehow overshadowed by its family friendly appeal and delightful characters, and its kid-orientation expanded in the later direct-to-video sequels, adding much brighter song sequences and new talking animal characters.

Comparisons to book

  • In the book, the character of Air Conditioner is only mentioned by one of the characters. It mentions that the air conditioner died when it passed its expiration date.
    • In the film, he appears but died by overheating.
  • In the book, The appliances are not depicted as either male or female (to be exact they have no names) in the book. They are individually called "it".
    • In the film, Toaster, Blanky, Lampy, Radio, Kirby, the Air Conditioner, and all the other appliance characters are depicted as males and females, having names.
  • In the book, Blanky is more fully grown, to judge by the book's illustrations of him.
    • In the film, Blanky is depicted as a young child.
  • In the book, Radio is actually a clock-radio and has a face.
    • In the film, the Radio is just a radio with no face.
  • In the book, when Blanky is stuck in a tree after being blown away, Toaster and the others ask two squirrels living in the tree for their help.
    • In the film, they ask Kirby's help.
  • In the book, Kirby is said to be the leader of the group instead of Toaster.
    • In the film, The Toaster is the leader.
  • In the book, his name is "Hoover".
    • In the film, his name is Kirby.
  • In the book, the Cutting Edge appliances are much kinder and help.
    • In the film, they are much meaner.
  • In the book, they come across a river and they find a boat to solve the problem.
    • In the film, they try to cross a waterfall but they fall and end up in a swamp area.
  • In the book, Elmo St. Peters is the junkyard owner.
    • In the film, he is a part shop owner.
  • In the book, Lampy is a tensor lamp.
    • In the film, Lampy is a desk lamp.
  • In the ending of the book, The Toaster and the rest live happily ever after with a new owner.
    • In the ending of the film, they live happily with The Master.

Other Appearances

The main cast of the film have a cameo appearance in the episode "Christmas in Oz" from the TV show The Oz Kids.

See also

References

  1. ^ Datlow and Windling (2001), p. xlv.
  2. ^ Jim Hill : "To Infinity and Beyond!" is an entertaining look back at Pixar's first two decades
  3. ^ a b c Beck (2005), pp. 40-41.
  4. ^ The Brave Little Toaster at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 29, 2007.
  5. ^ Simpson, Paul (2004). The Rough guide to Kid's Movies. Rough Guides. ISBN 1843533464. 

Sources

  • Datlow, Ellen and Windling, Terri (2001). The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. ISBN 0-312-04450-X. St. Martin's Press. Retrieved March 29, 2007.
  • Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. ISBN 1-55652-591-5. Chicago Reader Press. Retrieved March 29, 2007.

External links


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