The Brave Little Toaster is a 1987 animated film produced by Hyperion Pictures, distributed by Disney, and based on a children's novel by Thomas M. Disch, which was subtitled, A Fairy-Tale For Appliances.The film centers on five appliances — the eponymous Toaster, Lampy (a desk lamp), Kirby (a vacuum named for a vacumn company), Radio (a radio), and Blanky (an electric blanket) — who live in a old cabin out in the woods. The appliances have been left behind by their Master, a young boy, and have been waiting for him to return for years. When the cabin is put up for sale, the appliances determine to go find the Master (who, unknown to them, is now a young man getting ready for college) by making a journey to the city.It should be noted that some of the people behind this film (such as John Lasseter and Joe Ranft) went on to work for Pixar. (In fact, Lampy may be based on the same lamp used for the design of Pixar's first CGI short - which became the studio's logo!)The original film was followed by two sequels. The first sequel was The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars. The second sequel, The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue, actually takes place between the other two films.
This film contains examples of:
Adaptational Villainy: In the book, the new appliances that Toaster and the others meet in Rob's apartment aren't nearly as mean as they are in the movie. They are actually quite helpful, aiding the old appliances in finding a new owner, and even a little guilty about their part in the replacement of the old appliances.
Adaptation Induced Plot Hole: The balloons in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars seemed like a giant Big Lipped Alligator Moment, right? In the book, they actually served a purpose: The balloons helped push the laundry-basket spacecraft to Mars, and one mylar balloon, who became friends with Toaster because they were both reflective, decided to accompany the group to Mars and proved to be a reasonably competent navigator.
Ambiguous Gender: The Toaster. In the book Toaster is explicitly without gender, in films Toaster is referred to as "he"/"him" but director Jerry Rees and Toaster's own voice actress, Deanna Oliver, refer to Toaster as "she" and "her" here starting at 53:30.
Argument of Contradictions: Blanky accusing Lampy of stepping on him triggers a back-and-forth chorus of "Did not!" "Did too!" between Lampy and the rest of the group. Even Kirby the vacuum cleaner gets in on the action.
Art Evolution: The sequels look somewhat different to the original. Switching over to another studio from Wang and being made over a decade after the first one also made this rather noticeable.
The idea of anthropomorphic electronics sharing a world with humans is Deconstructed with themes of materialism and abandonment.
During the "Worthless" scene, set in a junk yard, there's a huge magnet seeking out the toaster and crew, to throw them all into a compactor - essentially attempting to murder them as they run away from it and hide in fear for their lives. Meanwhile, it actually is throwing cars into the compactor. The cars are singing a song about how helpless and worthless they feel. Some attempt to escape the magnet, which is pretty horrifying in itself, but even more disturbing is others convey that they want to die and fully understand the concept of death, even though they are objects.
Personified hearse: I took a man to a graveyard. I beg your pardon, it's quite hard enough just living with the stuff I have learned.
Be Careful What You Wish For: Kirby eventually loses patience with the other appliances and flat out tells them he'd be better off without them. In the next scene Toaster, Blanky, Lampy, and the Radio fall into the waterfall, leaving Kirby all alone.
Berserk Button: Don't remind the air conditioner that he's stuck in a wall.
Toaster within the first movie: at first, he too isn't above putting Blanky down about what a wimpy crybaby he can be, but he starts sticking up for Blanky, and takes on an almost parental role towards him. Lampy even finds this odd at first, but Toaster explains he just felt like he needed to be nicer to Blanky, and it made himself feel better.
In the first movie, Kirby is quite the grouch, who is annoyed by the mere coexistence of the others - even going so far as to say they're a bunch of dead weight he'd be better off without; he maintains this attitude for the most part until the very end, where he finally lightens up. In the sequels, while not exactly an upbeat character, is far more considerably mellow, and any traces of his grumpiness are virtually non-existent.
Coincidental Broadcast: Subverted, mostly in the way the TV tries to get Rob and Chris's attention to direct them to the appliances' whereabouts by inventing commercials and breaking news reports while on in the background.
Cool Car: The red car (people are split as to whether its a Corvette or a Plymouth Superbird that's been rear-ended) during "Worthless".
Corrupt Hick: The toaster oven during "Cutting Edge". She has a southern accent, and offers a bit of back-handed "Southern Hospitality" to Toaster in the form of some muffins, while flaunting how much more advanced she is and zaps him a second later.
Could Have Avoided This Plot: If the appliances had simply stayed at the cottage, the Master would've come back to get them for college. They never learn that though.
Fridge Brilliance: It's better that they don't. Until they go on this journey, they're constantly bickering. Enduring the journey helps them see each other's true colors and helps them to bond as a family. If they took the easy way out, they'd be with The Master, but they'd still hate each other.
Covers Always Lie: Do. They. Ever. If you think the one above is bad, another cover for the DVD shows the main five characters and the younger master skipping down a yellow road surrounded by twinkling stars.
Dark Is Not Evil: The appliances in Elmo Saint Peter's parts shop may be broken, tinkered with, and twisted by the events they have seen, but they are by no means evil. You COULD say that they're resigned to their fate in a fairly unhealthy, EXTREMELY macabre way, however...
Actually, their sense of humour on the situation is similar to the way Real Life comedians use misery as a source for their jokes. Notably, a lot of Real Life comedians star in this film. As for whether catharsis is healthy or not, that's largely a matter of personal opinion. The existence of the Catharsis Factor trope at least shows lots of people do the same to feel better about painful experiences.
There is one scene when the poor little flower realizes that it was loving its own reflection on Toaster after he runs away (or at least is upset that the "other" flower is gone), and as he peeks into the bushes, he notices that the flower is losing its petals as it dies emotionally alone and brokenhearted. So disturbing... and heart-breaking!
Both the "It's a B-Movie" and "Worthless" numbers. And in a particularly horrific scene, Rob just misses being added to this list.
The air conditioner getting worked up to the point of aneurysm, and dying... on camera.
Blanky: Poor Air Conditioner...
Toaster: I didn't think he'd take it so hard.
Kirby: Eh, he was a jerk anyway.
He got better.
Toaster jumps into the gears of the crusher to save Rob. They fully show him being crushed and horribly bent out of shape as the gears grind him up.
We also get to see a blender, shown as sentient and fearing for its life, before the parts shop owner literally rips it apart, yanking off its cord and cutting out the motor (the electronic equivalent of a human heart).
The most logical reason for why the lamp, the only appliance in the junk shop not clearly abused/reassembled, is as insane as the rest. He got to help with most or all of the other ones. And he's a light, so he had a good view...
A quite probable explanation for the cynicism of the cars in the song "Worthless." Since most of them are in no condition to start, let alone move, all they can do is sit where they are as they are crushed one by one.
Humans Are Special / Humans Are the Real Monsters: One of the main themes throughout the films. Some humans use machines well and treat them kindly, but others are willing to toss out faithful ones in pursuit of newer models. Comes to a head in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars.
Hypocritical Humor: In the third movie, when arguing about what the hearing aid is useful for, this exchange occurs:
Lampy: Yeah, none of us needs a hearing aid.
Kirby: What did you say?
Lampy: I said none of us needs a hearing aid!
Improvised Lightning Rod: Lampy uses himself as a lightning rod to recharge the battery the appliances are using to keep alive.
Elmo St. Peters, after the radio hides, says "What did it do? Just get up and walk away?"
After the appliances' journey, it is revealed that Rob/The Master actually was coming back for them. Kirby suggested that they just stay in the cottage. Only that someone will buy the cottage and have a new master.
It is ironic that Lampy, who is physically bright, is not that bright mentally. And yet it is he who figures out a way to save Radio's life.
In the first movie, Radio almost gets his tube taken out at Elmo's and barely gets saved before that can happen. In To The Rescue,it does get taken out.
Karma Houdini: The electromagnetic crane. It shows no compunctions against killing a human just so it can finally eliminate a few very evasive appliances, and suffers no visible consequences for doing so.
Meaningful Name: The appliance shop owner is named Elmo St. Peters—as in "Saint Peter", as in "the guy you see shortly after your death". Fitting for a man who runs a store where everything's on its last legs, and alluded to in "B Movie Show" ("You just tell St. Pete/That you got cold feet"). Also, "St. Elmo's fire" is an electrical aura that sometimes appears around pointed objects (like ships' masts) in stormy weather. So "Elmo" is a meaningful name for an electrician.
The air conditioner (a Jack Nicholson sound-alike) and the hanging lamp (a Peter Lorre sound-alike). Of course, what did you expect, what with impressionist extraordinaire Phil Hartman doing their voices?
The can opener/lamp/shaver is an obvious Joan Rivers sound-alike, so it's only appropriate that it makes a self-deprecating quip. The reel-to-reel player is also an obvious Mae West caricature.
No Name Given: The radio's name is never revealed nor is he addressed by any name in the first movie. However, in the sequels, he has been addressed by the other appliances as "Radio".
Not so Above It All: In the opening "whistle while you work" montage where the appliances clean the cabin to Little Richard's Tutti Fruiti, Kirby, who'd been haranguing the others about working, finds a quiet spot to dance where no one can see him. Lampy comes upon him, and starts dancing with him. Kirby doesn't notice at first, but when he does, he's shocked and embarrassed to be caught in the act and saunters off. To Lampy's credit, he doesn't care. He keeps dancing and enjoys the fact that Kirby let his "hair" down too.
Nothing Is Scarier: During the "Its a B-Movie" sequence, there are disembodied cords that drag characters away into the darkness.
Ominous Pipe Organ: The one used in the intro for "It's A B-movie", an homage to the classic monster movies.
Out of Order: To the Rescue was produced in 1997, and Goes to Mars in 1998; To the Rescue was, indeed, released in 1997... in all but North America, for whatever reason, where its release was delayed for two years. Goes to Mars was still released everywhere, including North America, in 1998. This, understandably, results in confusion among people as to the timeline of the trilogy, as to why the events of what seemed like the third installment took place before the events of what was assumed to be the second installment.
Product Placement: In the first movie, during the scene when the appliances are first seen within the city, a large TDK billboard can be seen.note TDK is a well-known Japanese electronics company that manufactures recordable media and electrical components. Pretty fitting, considering what happens later in the film.
Put on a Bus: A very Literal-Minded example of this is the green pickup truck in the "Worthless" scene. He has literally been Put on a Bus (as in literally sitting on top of a bus) and left to rot, even though he is still in perfect working order (his engine is already running when the magnet comes for him, and he drives himself away, only for the camera to cut to him sitting on the Conveyor Belt-O-Doom, not even trying to struggle despite being perfectly capable of out-running the magnet, implying he committed suicide, averting the trope, but still implying it).
Rainbow Motif: The five main characters are primarily colored red (Radio), orange (Lampy), yellow (Blanky), green (Kirby) and blue (Toaster).
Recycled IN SPACE!: The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars is The Brave Little Toaster... ON MARS!
Refrain from Assuming: The song sung by the modern appliances is called "The Cutting Edge", its common for fans to think it's called "More" or "More More More".
Regional Bonus: A very rare movie example — the PAL transfer is far cleaner than the NTSC version, lacking the very noticeable wobble at the beginning of the movie and having much less film grain. One has to wonder why this transfer has never been used on later American releases.
At the start of the first one, the characters are miserable after being stuck in a cabin in the middle of nowhere for who-knows how long just waiting for their master to return. They've got cabin fever! Subverted in that it's actually important to the plot.
Take That: "The Cutting Edge" scene is an absolutely scathing satire on the then-current glorification of money and mass consumption in 1980s: the appliances overbearingly boast about their many, many state-of-the-art features and how they represent "an ultra-nylon life of ease" (in other words, "a synthetic world of instant gratification"). They also scoff at our heroes (all presumably made between the '40s and '50s) being "old stuff," which tells us that they know this.
Taps: Radio starts playing it when one day they see someone hammering a "For Sale" sign into the ground in front of their house, making them realize that any hopes for the Master's return just died.
Tears of Joy: Air conditioner after the Master fixed him. AC recognized the Master and realized he was wrong about him and really does care. Also that the Master can finally use him after all those years.
Technology Marches On: The computers, telephones, etc. that brag about their features now sound horribly dated a decade-and-a-half later. Yet the main characters who are demeaned as 'outdated' would still all be fairly useful today.
The Air Conditioner becomes hot-tempered literally and figuratively, as he irately turns red after the other appliances offend him with mentioning that he's incapable of mobility unlike the others, and he becomes so heated he breaks down.
The Giant Magnet from the junkyard turns gold (or yellow) with fury rather than the normal red, trying to attract and collect the appliances.
Seems more likely to be an Italian-American stereotype, especially with the gangster-esque nickname and mob-like conspiring with the entertainment center. Either way...
Undying Loyalty: Rob's appliances, and how. Blanky is by far the most attached, since s/he was literally the closest to him, every night.
Unintentional Period Piece: Mostly averted in the first movie; however, several of the Cutting-Edge Appliances featured at Rob's apartment probably wouldn't be considered quite as cutting-edge nowadays in the years since the film's release, though this doesn't necessarily hold true for all of them.
Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Can be observed with Lampy. Near the beginning of the film, he explains his ideas of how they can travel before they're implemented, with hilarious (but failed) results. When they're trying to come up with a plan to save Radio from having his tube taken out, he simply says he has a plan — which then works. Earlier, due to the group being distracted, Lampy didn't tell anyone he was going to use himself as a lightning rod. He just did it. And it worked.
While they aren't exactly villains, the insane machines in "Like A Movie" (aka "It's a B-Movie") do a wonderful job of showing the horror of waiting to be taken apart for spares. And they aren't bad shadow puppeteers either.
A more directly evil example is "Cutting Edge", where the new appliances sing an egotistic preview of their superiority to the main characters.
Wasn't That Fun?: Kirby throws out a sarcastic quip as the entire party is sinking helplessly into a mud puddle, with him being the first to go.
Kirby: "Oh, this is great fun! Let's make these outings a regular thing!"
What he does to the appliances is justified since he's unaware they're sentient but he is still is shown as not being very ethical at least as a businessman. He lies to customers and rips them off, telling them that he receives shipments of new appliance parts when he's really just taking used parts out of abandoned appliances he finds in the wilderness.
You're Insane!: Invoked by Kirby when Radio hints at leaving the cabin to find The Master. He adds "You're all insane!" when the others start agreeing with him.
You're Just Jealous: The air conditioner ridicules Toaster and the others for their optimism that their Master/Rob will come back one day. Toaster thinks its just a defense mechanism to hid the fact he's jealous of them because the Master never gave him much love as them. At first he denies it, but when Kirby points out he's stuck in a wall, his repressed rage kills him. (He's repaired later in the movie, though.) His real repressed rage was that The Master never played with him because he was too high on the wall. What Do You Mean It's Not Symbolic?
Averted with the main characters, who are based on contemporary designs of the 50's. Despite their age, they are perfectly functional and have not been made obsolete, even as of 2012 (mostly). These two factors make the main characters somewhat timeless.
Played straight with the appliances in the apartment Rob lives in. Though some of them are functionally timeless, their 1980's designs have a more zeerust feel by modern standards. They are currently in the uncanny valley of design, essentially. It doesn't help their case that they chant about being on the cutting-edge. In song, no less!