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Nightmare Fuel / The Brave Little Toaster

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Despite its innocuous-sounding premise, The Brave Little Toaster is infamously regarded as one of the darkest animated family films of the 80s, as these examples can attest to.

As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.

  • According to the movie, every single appliance, electronic, or mechanical object is alive, sentient, and watching you. Sure, they are mostly benevolent, but to think that something is always watching what you do, even when you think you're alone, can be highly distressing. Keep in mind, this also counts for me, the very device that you're reading this article on. That's right, bub, I've been watching everything that you do, and that's not even getting into the guys who can actually get up and hurt you, like your car or your mower. We're all around you.
  • For one, the movie has a surprising number of allusions to suicide.
    • The Air Conditioner raging himself to death after Kirby pisses him off by reminding him that he's stuck in a wall. His resentment of his function in life to sit in one place, watching as The Master would play and interact with the other appliances, sends him into a fit of Tranquil Fury which slowly builds into screaming rage as he literally flies apart, spewing sparks and flames until he short-circuits, leaving a burnt husk which can only cough up one last cloud of smoke. It's the machine equivalent of a fatal rage-induced aneurysm.
      • What makes it especially scary is how abrupt his attitude shift is. Prior to this, the Air Conditioner is just a snarky bully who teases the other appliances for their dedication to the Master. The second Kirby touches that nerve, his snark is completely gone and replaced with dead serious rage.
      • The monologue itself. You can just hear his restraint slipping the angrier he gets as he's forced to remember the one thing that infuriates him the most, all while the Toaster is frantically trying in vain to apologize and calm him down. And with the AC's voice being a Nicholson impression, it's hard not to imagine Phil Hartman channeling at least a little of Jack Torrance.
        "So, it's back to that stupid static again. You think I don't know what's goin' on around here? I know what goes on in this cottage. It's a conspiracy... and every one of you low-watts is in on it! Just cuz you can move around, you think you're better than I am! I'M NOT AN INVALID!! I WAS DESIGNED TO STICK IN A WALL!! I LIKE BEING STUCK IN THIS STUPID! WALL! I can't help it if the kid was TOO SHORT TO REACH MY DIALS! [...] IT'S MY FUNCTIOOOOOOOONNNNNNN!!!"
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    • Lampy, in an effort to recharge the battery when it goes dead at a crucial moment, uses himself as a lightning rod. It works, but he's violently electrocuted in the process and the scene ends on a Fade to Black on his broken, burnt body. Thankfully, we see him alive, but in critical condition, in the next scene.
    • Upon seeing the huge waterfall that the group has to cross, Kirby has what can only be described as a terror-induced seizure and tries to swallow his own cord.
    • In the final verse of "Worthless," the green pickup truck decides to Face Death with Dignity and drives itself onto the Conveyor Belt o' Doom rather than be picked up by the magnet.
    • And of course Toaster sacrificing herself to save The Master.
  • The appliances going into the woods as the sun sets. We hear animals sounds as they travel through. And startled by an owl flying by. Later when they decided to rest, the bushes suddenly shook, startling the appliances who hear a growl (either from an animal or the approaching storm).
    Blanky: Do we have to stop here...?
    Toaster: Only for a while.
    Radio: Just long enough to lose our minds. We'll be cannibals in a few days. I've seen it happen.
    Kirby: And you'd be the first to go, Dial-Face.
  • Toaster's dream, symbolizing her deepest fear of shorting out and accidentally killing her beloved Master. And then there's THAT FIREFIGHTER CLOWN.
    • Take a look at the clown's hair and that pants-wettingly nightmare-inducing Slasher Smile. It makes him look like the Devil!
    • As pointed out in Fridge Horror, the fact that the clown tells Toaster to run shows that he's not just content with killing her; he's sadistically making sure that Toaster will die terrified.
    • It touches upon a bigger subject: do appliances dream? The answer is yes - and their nightmares are all about not being used for their intended purpose. Toaster being dropped into the bathtub while still plugged, and being shocked to death is the tip of the iceberg. You don't want to imagine what kind of bad dreams a blender would have.
  • Blanky being sucked up into a stormy night's sky, disappearing into the pitch-black sky, as everyone stand out in the middle of the rain and lightning and calls out for him, Toaster's calls growing more and more desperate. Lampy tries to use himself as a search light, but the battery goes dead, leading to the aforementioned moment where he uses himself to recharge it and nearly destroys himself in the process.
    • The way that this scene follows Toaster's nightmare about getting violently electrocuted.
  • The terrifying part when everybody is near doomed, sinking down the quicksand.
    • Kirby making snide remarks ("I knew I shouldn't have let you guys drive!") until he realizes that he's really sinking and yells for help.
    • The eerie way Blanky reassures Toaster by saying "I'm not scared..."
    • Had Mr. St. Peters not seen Radio's tiny antenna sticking out of the mud (nor hear him), they'd have all drowned then and there.
  • The worst part is when a blender is dismembered by the goofy shopkeeper who laughs as he does it. This is played exactly as if it's getting brutally murdered (which on the level the audience is watching it really is), dripping fluids and all. The scene also invokes vivisection and organ harvesting, complete with protective sheet on the table and rubber gloves.
    • The really horrible parts are shown in silhouette, which only makes them even worse. The shot of Elmo cutting the motor out cuts to Kirby wincing in horror.
    • When the shopkeeper takes the main group into his workshop, Blanky looks especially unnerved at the sight of his tools for dismemberment/etc.
  • "It's a B-Movie". Menacing, deformed appliances, the little plaintive part in the middle ("There goes the sun"), and the spooky shadow puppets. The portable fan even gets an Eye Scream.
    "There goes the sun
    Here comes the night
    Somebody turn on the light
    Somebody tell me that fate has been kind
    You can't go out
    you are out of your mind!
    Look at me, I mean, really! Barf, barf, barf. I'm a can opener, a lamp, and a shaver. Oh god, I'm a mish-mash!
    • She then flops down, either unconscious or dead, and gets lifted away by a bunch of cords.
    • The fact that the deformed, broken or amalgamated appliances singing about how horrifying their existence is not the darkest song in the movie.
  • The song "Worthless" is packed full of Nightmare Fuel that would probably only apply to older people watching the film, since the catchy but fairly complex (for a kids' movie) lyrics are riddled with oblique hints of aging, death, and suicide. Seriously, try imagining humans singing that song and see where your mind takes you.
    • There's also how the song is uptempo but not upbeat. Its fast pace is meant to invoke a person panicking at their impending mortality. You know, for kids.
    • The pink convertible's verse, which is intended to sound like a washed up Valley Girl but could just as easily come off as a cry for help from someone with depression.
      I just can't
      I just can't
      I just can't seem to get started
      Don't have the heart
      To live in the fast lane
      All that has past and gone.
    • The yellow wedding car that sings about how she once took a Texan to a wedding. The lyrics state that 'he kept forgetting, his loneliness letting his thoughts turn to home and we turned' suggesting that the groom committed suicide shortly after he and his bride got home from the wedding. This is immediately followed by a second car (a dark blue hearse) landing on top of the wedding car and declaring that he took a man to a graveyard ending with those two cars going into the compactor at the same time. It's not hard to believe that the Texan who committed suicide after he got home from the wedding was the same man who got taken to the graveyard.
      • The line sung by the hearse may very well be the most chilling in the entire song, and that's saying quite a lot:
      I took a man to a graveyard
      I beg your pardon, it's quite hard enough
      Just living with the stuff I have learned.
    • The yellow Packard Woody (the surfer station wagon) looks salvagable...why is she in the junkyard? Look at the surfboard strapped to her—there's a huge chunk bitten out of it, right where a person's head and right shoulder would be (while laying down and paddling, which is reportedly when most shark attacks on surfers happen). The previous owner may have died, which could explain what a 40s-era station wagon is doing in a junkyard during a movie implied to take place in the early 80s; she languished for years and was simply forgotten about and discarded because no one cared enough about her.
    • And don't forget the green pickup truck who, after singing part of his verse about how his life has amounted to nothing, drives onto the conveyor belt (he's located right next to it) of his own volition. The people who wrote this must have been going through some seriously tough times. Supposedly, the writers intended to show that truck sacrificing himself for another vehicle, but it ended up looking like a suicidal move.
      • Even the above-mentioned magnet looks taken-aback at the sight of a car intentionally driving onto the conveyor-belt to go to the crusher.
    • Among the vehicles at the junkyard is a school bus (upon whom the pickup is first seen) with nothing more than a broken window and a damaged eye/headlight. Might he have been damaged while transporting children? No wonder it looked it's giving a Thousand-Yard Stare.
    • One of the cars (a red sports car) is trying desperately to escape the conveyor belt by turning his wheel.
    • The TV's comic desperation to get Rob down to the dump during the song is just as tense as it is hilarious. He clearly knows that the clock is ticking for his friends and every second that Rob isn't there is one where they might be closer to their demise.
    • THE MAGNET. An angry creature chasing you from above, who can see you wherever you hide, and if you're made of metal (or at least in close proximity of it) you can't move! 100% Paranoia Fuel.
    • Even worse, this is something that can not only carry you to your death, but it can get angry and spiteful! When the gang hide from it, it becomes so enraged that it just sucks up all of the garbage in its immediate vicinity until it's just a big, floating ball of scrap, then dumps it all onto the conveyor belt.
    • The fact that the cars are all humanized by having faces makes the magnet seem downright homicidal. When it goes into "appliance mode" as it tries to kill Rob, its eyes disappear, erasing any humanity in it and rendering it more frighteningly alien. It doesn't help that, like the compactor, the magnet doesn't talk at all. Its design makes it hard to tell if it even can talk.
    • The junk yard itself is basically the appliance's equivalent of a disturbingly grotesque mass grave...
    • The appliances freezing when they think that Rob is coming around a corner to find them, thus leaving themselves inanimate and totally vulnerable to when it turns out to be the magnet, looming over them slowly and menacingly. Kirby's holler of "RUN!" sounds perfectly terrified.
    • How about Rob's near-demise? Seeing the cars get crushed one by one is bad enough, but when a human is there, it's viscerally terrifying!
    • Notice how the rest of the scene is tinted blood-red. Subtle? No. Scary? You better believe it.
    • And at the height of this incredibly intense scene, Rob begins SCREAMING HIS LUNGS OUT knowing that he's about to be slowly crushed to death. All the Toaster can do is watch in frozen terror as the scene is reflected on her face.
    • The whole time Rob is on the Conveyor Belt o' Doom, Chris is calling his name trying to find him. When the trash compactor stops, we get a bit of Black Comedy when she seems only mildly frustrated that he's up there. She had no idea that her boyfriend was in serious danger. One wonders how she would have handled eventually finding his bloody remains coming out of the other side of a trash compactor.
    • The toaster's Heroic Sacrifice, and decidedly Family Unfriendly Disney Death via graphic mutilation in the inner workings of the trash compactor!
  • The compactor. All the other machines have some semblance of intelligence. He/it just sits there, mindlessly eating anything the Magnet feeds it. The fact that it looks like a skull doesn't help either.
  • In one scene, we have very non-consensual experimentation including what amounts dissection and sewing multiple appliances together.note  And in another scene, we see a highly efficient means of disposing of those who have been deemed no longer useful. Now I wonder what that could symbolize.
  • For some viewers, Kirby can be really scary when he's angry. While the movie makes it clear that he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, scenes like his tug-o-war with Blanky over the Master's photo or his "The Reason You Suck" Speech at the waterfall show that he could hurt you if he wanted to. It doesn't help to have Thurl Ravenscroft playing the character with the same booming voice he'd use to play harmless and jovial characters, especially since he doesn't even sound like he has to try that hard to go from harmless to threatening!

Hey, it's me again. Your device. Did you think I'd let you forget about me? I don't think so.