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Western Animation / The Brave Little Toaster

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"Time flies by in the City of Light,
time stands still in the country!"

"Really, now. Where could I find another toaster like this?"
Rob (Master)

The Brave Little Toaster is an Animated Musical from 1987, based on a children's novella of the same name (with the subtitle A Fairy-Tale for Appliances) by Thomas M. Disch. It was directed by Jerry Rees and produced by Hyperion Pictures and Wang Film Productions (who also handled the animation), with Disney handling distribution.

The film centers on five household appliances — the eponymous Toaster, Lampy (a desk lamp), Kirby (a vacuum named for a vacuum company), Radio (a radio), and Blanky (an electric blanket) — who live in an 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 was followed by two Direct to Video sequels, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars in 1998 and the interquel The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue in 1999, respectively. A CGI remake was proposed in 2006, but never came to be.

This film contains examples of:

  • The '80s: The cutting edge appliances are, indeed, state of the art... by 1987 standards. Their Villain Song even comes complete with characteristically 80s synthesizers and Simmons electronic drums. The mid-20th century is also depicted as having been recent, with the appliances being late 50s/early 60s models and Radio both starting the day with a Little Richard song and making passing remarks about Teddy Roosevelt.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: In the original book, the appliances move onto a new owner, in the film they're reunited with their original owner, as they set out to be.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The appliances aren't as cute looking in the book as they are in the movie. Especially Blanky!
  • 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.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Immediately upon hearing Elmo's customer needs radio tubes, The Radio goes to Toaster and begs, "You gotta help me, gotta hide me! ...Bread! I can get you bread! Mountains of hot-cross buns!"
  • The Alleged Car: "Worthless" — one of the more memorable songs in the movie is sung from the perspective of several of these, singing about how they used to be useful but are now junk headed for the compactor.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Chris. Word of God says that she and Rob are a biracial couple, but her race is deliberately undisclosed. It doesn't help that her skin gets progressively lighter in the sequels, or that their infant son Robbie is as white as his father.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Apparently, Elmo St. Peters' dog is not only smart enough to buckle a seat belt, but also drive a huge truck.
  • Anachronism Stew: The references in Radio's old-timey broadcast schtick are all over the map chronologically, but he has been around for quite a while. However, he keeps making references to Teddy Roosevelt as if he was still president. It's unlikely the man was even still alive when Radio was made. This might be intentional to fit his humorous personality.
  • Analogy Backfire: After Radio tells about how a dog once traveled all the way back to find his master, Toaster states "If a dog can do it, we can do it!". Blanky then points out "But a dog has legs!".
  • Angst Nuke: After Kirby presses his Berserk Button, the Air Conditioner becomes so furious that he literally explodes from pure rage.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • The broken-down cars in the junkyard who sing "Worthless" certainly qualify. While still completely sentient, they're unable to move, forced to do nothing but watch as a giant magnet picks them up one by one to be crushed to death on a conveyor belt. Some of the cars try to escape even as they're dragged to the belt, only to be trapped.
    • The air conditioner before the Master repairs him seems to be stuck in this state. The movie explains that for appliances, nothing is better than working and playing with their owners — but as the Master was a baby when the air conditioner was functional, the poor A/C unit had to sit completely motionless and watch as other appliances became friends with the boy. Is it any wonder he became a little unhinged?
    • That poor blender probably wanted to scream for help as he was being dismantled.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The movie ends on Rob driving off to college with his beloved appliances in tow, all of whom are looking forward to joining him in his new life. The score even ends on a suspended note.
  • And This Is for...: Played for laughs by Radio:
    Lampy: Hey, come over here. I'm gonna...
    Radio: Why, do you dare to cross foils with the greatest Saxon swordsman in the land? Haven't you the slightest idea who you're dealing with?
    Lampy: Precisely -- a total idiot!
    Radio: If your sabre wags as loosely as your Norman tongue, you'll be run through in an instant. Defend yourself, Sir Lampy of Locksley!
    [Radio continually whacks Lampy with his antenna, Blanky falls on them]
    Radio: A blow for Richard! A blow for Marian! A blow for Mario, the garbage man! And for Carl and all the boys at the delicatessen! And here's one for the guys on Fifth Street!
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Type 1. They even provide the page image.
  • Answer Cut: As Rob is looking around his old cottage, wondering where his old appliances are, each appliance he names is getting thrown, in said order, out his apartment's window and into a dumpster.
  • Anthropic Principle: The appliances only needed to wait patiently for a few more days, and Rob would have come to collect them, avoiding the dangerous trip through the wilderness and Junkyard.
  • Anyone Can Die: The aforementioned cars in the song "Worthless." All of them are crushed, and one even commits suicide by driving himself into the crusher.
  • 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 gets in on the action.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: A car battery cannot withstand a lightning strike. It's unlikely that it would have enough juice to run a self-propelled vacuum for nearly two days in the first place, especially since it was sitting idle in an attic for over a decade.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror:
    • 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 junkyard, 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 conveying 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.
  • Bait-and-Switch: After the others fall down the waterfall, Kirby (who had just wished they were gone moments earlier) looks around shiftily and then backs out of view, appearing to flee. But after a pause, reappears at a "sprint" to leap off the edge into the river to rescue them.
  • 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 the Master couldn't play with him because he's stuck in a wall.
  • Big Damn Heroes: A few moments throughout the film.
    • After the other appliances go over the waterfall, Kirby, who moments earlier had told them he was better off without them, dives into the river to save them.
    • When Radio is about to have his tubes pried out by Elmo St. Peters, the other appliances save him by scaring Elmo.
    • After Rob and the other appliances are trapped on the junkyard conveyor belt and are about to be crushed Toaster lives up to the title name by throwing himself into the crusher's gears, disabling it and saving everyone.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Lampy gets a collective "shut up" after the third time he fails to come up with a good method of transportation.
    Radio: Shut up! Shut up!
    Toaster, Kirby, and Blanky: SHUT UP!
  • Big "WHAT?!": Blanky, Lampy, Kirby and Radio when Toaster spontaneously announces that the appliances are going to leave the cottage in search of the Master.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Blanky is the only major character with them. Makes him seem younger than the others.
  • Black Comedy: The entire scene in St. Peters' parts shop. The owner and his customer make quaint, goofy chit-chat while the appliances watch in rapt horror as a blender is mutilated and has its vital parts sold off. In-Universe, this is how the broken appliances in the shop cope, leading to the "It's A B-Movie" song.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Elmo St. Peters is just an electrician doing his job (though his business ethics are questionable)... but from the characters' (and audience's) view, he's... horrifying.
  • Boléro Effect: Used in the more overwhelming scenes. At times, the orchestra sounds like it's practically screaming.
  • Boring, but Practical: The protagonists aren't the flashiest or most up-to-date appliances out there, especially in comparison to the "Cutting Edge" appliances in the city, but they're long-lasting and reliable, which is why Rob wants to take them to the dorm with him.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In a Literal-Minded sense. During "Worthless," a headlight falls on the "screen," breaking it. Turns out to be just a windshield, though, which Lampy then looks through.
  • Breaking Speech: "Cutting Edge" is this in song form, where the new appliances brag about how much better they are and by extension, more useful to the Master while the protagonists are old and no longer capable of serving his needs. It's enough to make them not bother fighting back when they are all booted into a dumpster and resign themselves to their fate in the junkyard.
  • Brick Joke: The introductory scene of Adult Rob ends with his mother telling him to "take a sweater." Later, when he leaves for college, she calls after him "You forgot your sweater!" She even packs his suitcase with two dozen pairs of socks, which Rob complains could serve the entire dorm.
  • Captain Obvious: Lampy, when Air Conditioner denies laughing at them.
    Lampy: I think he was laughing at us.
    AC: You know something, you're a real bright little lamp.
    Lampy: Oh thanks! [Beat] Heeeeeyy....
  • Central Theme: It's the Journey That Counts. Had the appliances remained in the cabin, Rob would have picked them up, but they would have never become close friends instead of basically co-workers.
  • Character Development:
    • Toaster: At first, he too isn't above putting Blanky down about what a wimpy crybaby he can be, but after the flower scene Toaster 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.
    • At first, 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 when he finally lightens up.
    • The appliances' overall relationship receives development as well. Originally, they weren't exactly on a very friendly basis with one another, and were rather prone to bickering and name-calling, sans Blanky and, to a lesser extent, Toaster. Throughout their journey, however, they grow much closer to one another, and their newfound camaraderie carries over to the sequels.
  • 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. Radio subverts this a lot as well, where he will often say he's "picking up" broadcasts that just happen to be about exactly what's going on with them at that very moment. It's usually something he wants to snark about, but sometimes he does it to be encouraging.
  • Cool Car:
    • The red car (people are split as to whether it's a Corvette or a Plymouth Superbird that's been rear-ended) during "Worthless".
    • Chris's convertible, which resembles either an Austin Healey or a Shelby Cobra.
    • Elmo St. Peters drives a literal monster truck that he needs to climb up one of the tires to get aboard.
  • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: Which leads to a crusher that mashes you into a cube.
  • Covers Always Lie: Do. They. Ever. If you think the one above is bad, the original UK VHS cover shows the main five characters and the younger master skipping down a country road surrounded by twinkling stars. About the only thing it does better than the American cover is actually showing pictures from the movie (the ones on the American cover were pretty blatant mock-ups. One of them featured the Toaster high-fiving the master, despite the fact that it's supposed to be a secret that they're living in-universe). The British theatrical poster illustrates the tone of the movie better. Played straight, however, with the international VHS artwork used for the UK and Germany. Plus, the 2001 British VHS re-issue (as well as the 2003 "remastered" DVD) list two minor songs on their covers: "Tutti Frutti" and "April Showers", with Radio only singing a FEW short lines of the latter song at the beginning.
  • Cultural Translation:
    • During the "Worthless" song, the Indy 500 car instead mentions running the Nürburgring in the German dub.
    • In the Icelandic dub for "Worthless", the surfer car mentions being at Heiðmörk, which is a popular recreational area in Iceland.
  • Cute Machines: The appliances. So very much.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The appliances in Elmo St. 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, using Black Comedy as a coping mechanism.
  • Darker and Edgier: The film has a significantly darker tone than the book, which is an interesting inversion to what usually happens to animated adaptations of books.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Much of Lampy's dialogue mostly consists of this.
    Lampy: You can't even hear your own thoughts around here with all the racket around here.
    Lampy: How exactly do you propose we're gonna do this, exactly?
  • Despair Event Horizon: The appliances of Elmo St. Peter's parts shop have been convinced that being able to escape is all a joke. As for the cars of "Worthless," however, the name says it all.
  • Determinator: The magnet crane is a terrifying example of this. He won't stop until our heroes stay put on the conveyor belt.
  • Digital Destruction: The DVD version of the film was taken from a worn-out print used for festival screenings rather than the original negative, resulting in a wobbly picture and lots of film grain during the opening credits sequence.
    • Curiously, though, the PAL version of the movie has a clearer image to it, without the wiggle.
  • Disappeared Dad: Only Rob's mom is heard in the film and there's really no strong evidence suggesting or disproving that his dad is still living with him and his mom or is even alive. Blankie's dream sequence and the Air Conditioner's speech seems to suggest that his dad was around when he was a kid visiting the cottage. Some fans also speculate that the unseen man hammering the "for sale" sign in front of the cottage was Rob's dad and he was simply at work when Rob left for college.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "Cutting Edge (More More More)".
  • Disney Death:
    • The Toaster jumps on the gears of the compactor to save Rob. Not long after, Rob repairs him good as new.
    • Lampy seems to die after using himself as a lighting rod to recharge the battery. On the very next scene, he's alive, but singed and with a broken bulb.
    • The Air Conditioner appears to die after overcharging himself. Until Rob fixes him later.
  • Dissimile:
    Radio: We're trapped here like rats! Small, little rats with no hair and one leg.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • During the Air Conditioner's meltdown, the main characters go from annoyed to completely frightened, and when Toaster pleads, "No, we didn't mean it!", he almost sounds like someone trying to prevent a person from committing suicide.
    • Kirby having to empty his bag is treated like someone having to shit in the woods. The Toaster even bonks Blanky on the head for spying.
  • A Dog Named "Dog":
    • A toaster named Toaster, a lamp named Lampy, etc.
    • Subverted with Kirby, whose name references the real-life brand of vacuum cleaners.
    • Elmo names his dog "Quadruped", which, of course, means "having four feet".
  • Don't Ask, Just Run:
    • During Toaster's nightmare, the Monster Clown only says one word: "Run."
    • In the junkyard, the appliances try to position themselves close to Rob so he can find them. While they were in their inanimate state, the magnet sneaks towards them. Kirby hears the hum and opens one eye, seeing the magnet he shouts "Run!" and the gang scatters.
  • Double Entendre: The below quote speaks for itself. Possibly accidental.
    Air Conditioner: What're you going to do, suck me to death?
  • Down in the Dumps: The setting of "Worthless" is a scrap yard.
  • Dramatic Irony: The gang could've spared themselves quite a bit of Hell if they had stayed put at the cottage just a few more days, as Rob goes back to retrieve them just as they arrived at his apartment in the city. TV very nearly reveals this to them before he's rudely interrupted by the jealous cutting edge appliances.
  • Driven to Suicide: There is a literal example in the original where a green truck drives himself onto the Conveyor Belt o' Doom instead of letting the magnet crane get him.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: When the movie was shown on Polish television, some scenes that were kept in the original release were removed. One of them was the forest scene, which was one of the most crucial ones. It was most likely cut for the possibility of scaring younger audiences; in the TV release, it just cuts to the waterfall scene without explaining at all why Lampy's bulb is broken. Other scenes edited out from the TV version include the Air Conditioner's exploding rage and the appliances catching the "On Sale" sign. For some reason, they also omitted the scene where Lampy tries to think of ways they could try and get out of the house to find the Master. All of these scenes remain intact on the Polish DVD release.
  • Dull Surprise: Elmo St. Peters' lone customer, complete with wrongly-emphasized words. "Oh boy. Heaven sent you to me."
  • Dying Alone:
    • There is one scene when the poor little flower realizes that it was loving its own reflection on Toaster after she runs away (or at least is upset that the "other" flower is gone), and as she peeks into the bushes, she notices that the flower is losing its petals as it dies emotionally alone.
    • The last vehicle to be crushed in the song "Worthless." He worked his tires off on a reservation his entire life, and then was abandoned and called worthless by his owner. It affects him so much that when the crane comes for him, he instead drives right onto the conveyor belt.
  • Electrified Bathtub: Naturally, how Toaster's horrific dream ends, with him hanging over a bathtub filled with water until he loses his grip.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: "You're all a bunch'a junk!"
  • Evil Brit: The ridiculously large entertainment console seen in the apartment and "Cutting Edge" has a somewhat vague British accent, but like all the "Cutting Edge" appliances he is definitely an evil Jerkass.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Blankie is normally the most easily frightened one of the group, but when all the appliances start sinking in the swamp, he calmly tells Toaster that he's not scared.
    • The green truck at the end of "Worthless" decides to drive himself onto the conveyor belt into the compactor instead of being picked up and thrown in by the magnet.
  • Failure Montage: The movie has a montage of the appliances' failed attempts at finding ways of traveling out of the cabin. Turns into a Brick Joke when Rob shows up at the cabin and catches sight of the aftermath of said failures, mistakenly concluding someone must have broken in and trashed the cottage.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • 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.
    • Toaster jumps into the gears of the crusher to save Rob. They fully show her 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 cars in the junkyard getting put in a compactor. As their days of usefulness are long over, they sadly resign themselves to their fate.
    • And in a particularly horrific scene, Rob just misses being added to this list.
  • Fingore: The Master almost goes into the compactor hands first.
  • First Time in the Sun: When the appliances first leave the cabin.
  • Forced to Watch:
    • 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.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble:
    • Toaster (the Optimist), a Determinator and The Heart who gives them something to hope for.
    • Kirby (the Cynic), a Deadpan Snarker who always finds something to criticize or complain about.
    • Lampy (the Realist), can be critical or positive, takes his time before passing judgement.
    • Radio (the Apathetic), an easily distracted Cloudcuckoolander.
    • Blanky (the Conflicted), a cowardly crybaby who just wants to be loved.
  • Freudian Excuse: The Air Conditioner's grouchiness and pessimistic views of the Master are based on the fact that he was stuck mounted on the wall while the young Master played with the other appliances and was too short to reach him. He doesn't take it well when the other appliances point this out.
    A/C: Just because 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 couldn't help it if the kid was too short to reach my dials!
  • Gave Up Too Soon: Or rather, jumped to the Call to Adventure too soon, as after seeing a "For Sale" sign being placed outside the cottage and becoming convinced the Master wasn't coming back for them, the appliances decided to set out and find him. If they had just waited a couple more days, they would've seen him come through the door like they always hoped.
  • Gilligan Cut: When making travel plans, Radio takes over from Lampy in finding a mode of transport on the grounds that he has a better idea. Cut to Radio trying to turn Blanky into a magic carpet.
    • The edited version of the Polish dub cuts out the Air Conditioner's freakout scene, so there's a cleverly-done transition where Toaster tells him, "Well, you can do what you like. We're not gonna give up hope," and then it cuts to them all despondent on the couch after they've just seen the "For Sale" sign, almost like a network created Gilligan Cut.
  • Good Feels Good: Toaster tries to explain to Lampy why he suddenly decided to be nicer to Blanky by saying that it's just something that makes him feel better. Lampy doesn't quite grasp it until Toaster sparks a memory of how he felt when the Master was nice to him, starting his own Character Development.
  • Gossipy Hens: The sewing machine make disparaging comments on the old appliances among themselves. When Blanky approaches, they stop and pretend to be glad to see him.
  • Greed: The song "Cutting Edge" rather viciously skewers the "Greed is good," style-over-substance consumerism culture of the 1980s ("An ultra-nylon life of ease" = "A synthetic, disposable life of instant gratification").
  • Ground by Gears: Toaster commits a Heroic Sacrifice by jumping into the gears of a trash compactor to stop it from killing the Master. Fortunately, the Master is able to repair him good as new.
  • Hammerspace: The appliances' cords tend to disappear when they aren't being used.
  • Happily Ever After: Radio's closing speech of them having to Earn Your Happy Ending:
    Radio: Why listen to this. I'm picking up something. I think it's a news flash: President Roosevelt has declared today a national holiday in honor of those five amazing appliances we've all been hearing about. So lock up the office, take down the top and open that rumble seat. Last one to Coney Island is a party pooper. From the starlight roof high atop the Ritz, we wish our intrepid little friends the best of luck and a fond farewell.
  • Happiness in Slavery: "Slavery" is definitely an exaggeration in this case, though being the kind of movie that it is, it does require more than a little bit of Willing Suspension of Disbelief. The film operates on the internal logic that appliances are happiest when they're being used for their intended purpose and their love for the master stems from how well he took care of them when he was a child. Their greatest fears all involve either being misused, being disposed of/having their working parts used when they're still perfectly functional or not being used at all.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Kirby's seizure, up to and including trying to swallow his own chord, at the sight of the waterfall.
    • After getting them lost in the swamp, Toaster momentarily trudges off in shame.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Toaster stopping the compactor from killing Rob by jumping onto the gears. Hey, there's a reason this movie's called The Brave Little Toaster...
    • Lampy lets himself get hit by lightning to charge the battery and save the others. Subverted in that he actually survives, though his bulb is broken.
  • The Homeward Journey: The Radio gives the trope a lampshade by remembering hearing about a story about a lost dog who trekked a great distance to get back home, and they should do the same.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Downplayed with Elmo St. Peters' parts shop, where he pulls parts out of salvaged appliances and passes them off as new, claiming he gets entire shipments of the things.
  • Hood Hornament: One of the broken down cars in the junkyard during the "Worthless" number is a long-bodied roadster with hood ornaments. It states that it took a Texan to a wedding, one assumes that it was a wealthy Texan if he could afford a car like that.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: The Air Conditioner makes fun of the five main appliances' alleged lack of common sense by saying that they act like they've "just come off the assembly line." It's the machine equivalent of "It's like you were born yesterday."
  • Huddle Shot: The appliances planning how to get away from the Magnet.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Upon returning to his shop, the portly Mr. St. Peters mixes himself a weight loss shake, then chases it with a mouthful of marshmallows.
  • Improvised Lightning Rod: Lampy uses himself as a lightning rod to recharge the battery the appliances are using to keep alive.
  • Insane Proprietor: Done by the TV to get the Master to go to the junkyard.
  • Irony / Ironic Echo:
    • 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.
      • He also knew how to charge the dead battery by using himself as a lightning rod during a thunderstorm.
    • The appliances that sing "Cutting Edge" flaunt all the amazing things they're able to do to the heroes. In actuality, most of them are terribly dated 80s models (especially when compared to now current appliances), and likely to be replaced when the inevitable improved/better-looking versions come out in the future. The most blatant are the Computer, the Projector and the telephone. In comparison, the heroes are all reliable and sturdy with fairly timeless designs.
  • Jerkass Façade: After Kirby saves them from the river, the other appliances thank him, even though he declares he had slipped and fallen in.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kirby. He constantly berates the others for being unrealistic about their hopes, but does care about them as seen when he jumps over the falls into the river to save them.
  • 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.
  • Laser-Guided Broadcast: Justified example. The appliances are thrown in the trash and sent to a dump named Ernie's Disposal. The TV set, who saw the whole thing, then starts playing ads for Ernie's Disposal, each more desperate than the last, until the Master takes the hint.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Lampy channels a lightning strike to recharge their car battery.
  • Literal Soapbox Speech: Toaster stands on a literal soap box as he announces to the other appliances that they're going to find the master.
  • Literally Laughable Question: When Lampy asks how to escape from Elmo St. Peters' store, the hanging lamp says "You hear that? They want to know how to escape!" and all the other appliances laugh.
  • Machine Blood: After Elmo St. Peters takes out the motor in his blender, electrical fluid is seen dripping from the table to the floor.
  • 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.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Inverted. Due to his resistance to emotional connection, Kirby only ever refers to Blanky by the more formal "Blanket."
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: The Cutting-Edge Appliances are resentful that Rob wants to take his "outdated" appliances from the cabin to college instead of themselves, and are quick to toss the gang into the gutter when they show up on the Master's doorstep. Thinking they've won him over, Rob still refuses his mother's offer to take them along even after finding his beloved appliances missing. From Plugsy's reaction alone, we can tell it was a serious blow to their egos.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • From silly animal antics to a Narcissus flower dying of a broken heart in a heartbeat.
    • When another car arrives to put the cottage up for sale, what follows is Blanky breaking into another wailing fit, Radio humming "Taps" and Lampy letting loose a Howl of Sorrow — only for Toaster to snap "STOP IT!" and announce spontaneous plans to go on a quest to find the Master. Cue a collective Big "WHAT?!" from the other appliances.
  • My Beloved Smother: A light, comical example. Rob's mother is shown to be lovingly worrisome about her son going off to college, and is constantly telling to him "take a sweater."
  • Named by the Adaptation: The "Master" is given the name "Robert Mc Groarty", and the "Pirate" is named "Elmo St. Peters".
  • Nature Is Not Nice: For most of the film, the protagonists are frequently endangered by the natural elements, such as getting caught in a thunderstorm, falling down a waterfall, or sinking in a mire. Played with though, because early on, they have a run-in with some generally friendly animals that don't pose any real danger to them, but are nevertheless annoying with their lack of respect for personal space.
  • Network Sign Off: While the appliances rest for the night, Radio is playing the National Anthem and then ends with:
    "And that concludes our broadcast day. This is Lowell Winchell signing off. Good night, America and all the ships at sea." [static]
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The VHS trailer for the movie didn't do too much better than the cover on making it look like it was a very dark movie.
  • New Technology Is Evil: Literally. The "cutting edge" appliances try to off the main characters.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: It was because of Toaster's idea for he and the other appliances at the cottage to venture out to meet their master that they go through a whole set of tragedies. This almost makes them miss Rob, as he was coming to the cottage to collect them, anyway.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • 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".
  • No OSHA Compliance: The junkyard. While it can be slightly forgiven since Rob stubbornly held onto the magnet which almost no human would ever do before it dropped him onto the conveyer belt, the fact that there were no safety measures in place nor anyone keeping on an eye on the belt to make sure something like crushing a human to death didn't occur raises some valid concerns. In fact, there doesn't even seem to be any workers at the place at all!
  • Not So Above It All: In the opening "whistle while you work" montage where the appliances clean the cabin to Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti", 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.
  • Obliviously Evil: Elmo St. Peters and all the humans who abandon worn-out electronics. They have absolutely no idea that the electronics are even alive, much less sentient; if they knew, the vast majority of them would not subject them to the horrible fates to which the electronics are condemned.
  • Oh, Crap!: Kirby freaks out upon reaching the waterfall that he now has to cross while hauling the others.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: The one used in the intro for "It's a B-movie", an homage to the classic monster movies.
  • Pet the Dog: Despite being unhinged a little, the overhead light in Elmo St. Peters' store gives Lampy one of his bulbs upon seeing his burnt out bulb.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Radio, at least in the first film as his moments are rarely Played for Drama. However, while his role mostly consists of providing funny lines, he does contribute significantly to the story as the group's navigator since he can tune into radio signals from the city, using that to point the group in the right direction. The group would have no idea which way to go and likely would have gotten lost without him.
  • Precision F-Strike: Actually Precision D-Strike. Radio does this once when quoting Moby Dick.
    Radio: Damn thee, thou accursed whale, from the depths of Hell, I stab at thee!
  • Product Placement:
    • Kirby is a brand of vacuum cleaner.
    • In the first movie, during the scene when the appliances are first seen within the city, a large TDK billboard can be seen.note 
  • Pun: When the main characters reunite with the TV, he tells them he's got "a few more seasons left."note 
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Elmo St. Peters is just doing his job. He just has no idea the appliances he routinely dismantles for parts are alive. He is a kind of dick to his customers, telling them he's giving them new parts, when he's just cannibalizing old appliances.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The Air Conditioned gets a couple of these during his Sanity Slippage rant.
    "I was designed to stick in a wall! I like being STUCK! in this STUPID! WALL!" [...] "It's! My! FUNCTION!"
  • Quicksand Sucks: The appliances get trapped on a muddy swamp and slowly start to sink. They are rescued by Elmo St. Peter, but a worse fate awaits them...
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Toaster, after the waterfall incident, considering it was because he panicked that the appliances went over the waterfall, not to mention lost their battery.
  • Rainbow Motif: The five main characters are primarily colored red (Radio), orange (Lampy), yellow (Blanky), green (Kirby) and blue (Toaster).
  • Red Filter of Doom: Happens briefly when the Air Conditioner breaks down, and extensively near the end of the film when the Master is in peril at the junkyard. In the PAL version, this is downplayed, and only the sky turns red.
  • 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.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: When the cottage appliances realize the house is being sold and they are deciding whether or not to leave and find The Master, Vacuum says they should just stay behind because "They'll have a new master anyways". Turns out he was right about staying behind but not because of the new master, as their original owner was on his way to pick them up to take to college with him.
  • Ripped from the Phone Book: Upon reaching the city, Toaster looks for the Master's address in a phone book in a public booth and rips out the page.
  • Rousing Speech: In the first movie Toaster gives one of these to the rest of his True Companions.
  • Running Gag: Lampy using a rock for a pillow, flopping his head down onto it with a loud thunk every time.
  • Sanity Slippage: Rather inevitable at Elmo's shop, since all of the appliances know that they could be the next one to be disemboweled in front of their friends. The longtime residents have gone Laughing Mad.
    "He's so spontaneous!"
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Lampy, when Air Conditioner denies laughing at them.
    Lampy: I think he was laughing at us.
    AC: You know something, you're a real bright little lamp.
    Lampy: Oh thanks! [Beat] Heeeeeyy....
  • Say My Name: "TOASTER!!!" "BLANKY!!!" as Blanky blows away in the storm.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After Elmo St. Peters faints and the appliances see an opportunity to escape, his dog freaks, jumps into the truck and drives off (but not before remembering his seat belt).
  • "Setting Off" Song: "City of Light", sung as the appliances set off to find the Master.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Most of the scene of Elmo removing the blender's motor is shot in shadow, cast over the horrified reactions of the gang.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Deconstructed. While it doesn't happen in the end, the journey the appliances go on is fairly unnecessary as Rob ends up going to the cottage to get them. Furthermore, he was almost killed because they went on the journey. Granted, the adventure helped them go through Character Development as friends and their appearance at Elmo St. Peters' shop led to the appliances there being liberated, but there were bigger reasons they could have avoided this initial ordeal.
  • Share the Male Pain: An appliance variation: when Elmo snaps off a blender's electric cord and plug, the gang pulls their own cords back in silent terror.
  • She's a Man in Japan: Because of the existence of masculine and feminine nouns in many languages, some of the character had their genders change to fit with that language's grammar.
    • The German, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese (2nd version), Croatian, Russian TV and Czech VHS dubs made Lampy into a female (making his female counterparts varying degrees of Tomboy with a Girly Streak). Blanky also counts, because 'blanket' is female in some countries.
    • Also in the Polish, German, Russian, and Latin Spanish dubs, the 'Mish-Mash' (a Joan Rivers parody) is male.
    • In the Hungarian and 2nd Brazilian Portuguese dubs, the hearse in the "Worthless" segment is female. Also, the Tan Car is female in the Latin Spanish, Russian, and Hungarian dubs, while in the Danish, Icelandic, and first two Brazilian Portuguese dubs, the Wood-Sided Wagon is male.
    • In Poland, Plugsy is female (at least, voiced by Wanda Wieszczycka).
  • Shout-Out:
    • The opening shot of the film, where the camera slowly trucks in on the cabin, followed by repeated match cuts of a sunbeam which leads up to the Master's bedroom, is an homage to the opening shot of Citizen Kane.
    • Radio suggests going North by Northwest while trying to find the city.
      Radio: And watch out for low-flying aircraft.
    • Another one as they go through the forest.
      Blanket: There could be lions out there...
      Radio: ...and tigers and bears. Oh my!
    • The Master's apartment number is A113, which by now is a well-known Stock Shout-Out to the character animation classroom at the California Institute of The Arts (thanks mainly to appearing in every Pixar movie ever), but there's an extra reference: The building's address, 4470 McBean Parkway, is the school's actual address.
    • When Toaster goes through the phone book to find the Master's address, the names he goes through reference other Disney films. (Ex: Pan Peter, White Snow, Bambi Deer, Puppet Wooden, Flying Elephant, etc.) Other names include various place names like York New, River Mississippi, Angeles Los, and names of the appliances: Toaster Brave, Lamp Bright, Yellow Blankey, Vacuum Gruff, Radio Loud, and Master Young.
    • The "Crazy Ernie's" bit by Old Rabbit Ears is a rather obscure reference (though not to New Yorkers of a certain age) to Crazy Eddie's television ads.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Radio does not appear on the German VHS cover, despite it featuring a few more characters, compared to other foreign releases.
  • The Song Remains the Same:
    • In the French, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese (both Mainland and Taiwanese) dubs, all the songs are left in English. (In fact, right before "City of Light", the French dub literally has the characters saying, "Let's sing in English!")
    • The Serbian dub also uses this trope, with the exception of a horribly dubbed (and mostly instrumental) version of "Worthless".
    • In the 2nd Russian dub, "City of Light" is the only song left entirely in English, while the rest of the songs vary between a mix of dubbing a few lines, using a Voiceover Translation, and leaving some parts in English.
  • Soulful Plant Story: Downplayed. The whole story isn't like this, but there's definitely an emotional scene about a plant. A hedge surrounds a tree and only a single beam of light is let through, in which a flower grows. There are plenty of other flowers surrounding the hedge, but the flower can't see them. Then, Toaster arrives, and the flower mistakes the reflection on his surface for another flower. The real one is shocked and curious and wants to know where the "other flower" came from. Toaster tries to explain that he's not a flower and it's just the real one's reflection, but the real one doesn't listen and wants to make friends with the "other one". When Toaster pulls away in surprise, the flower is wilting.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The A/C Unit does explode and die, like in the book. But, unlike the book, the "Master" repairs him, which revives him. This also makes him cry a little tear of joy, as it's the first time he's felt loved in years.
  • Speaks in Shout-Outs: Radio occasionally talks as if he's receiving a broadcast.
  • Sphere Eyes: Lampy has these, though it is inverted with Toaster and Kirby.
  • Staggered Zoom: Of Toaster just before his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • A plot-relevant one, at that. At the start of the first film, the characters are miserable after being stuck in a cabin in the middle of nowhere for somewhere around 14 years just waiting for their master to return. They've got cabin fever!
    • Towards the beginning, Toaster finally decides he's had enough and pulls out a cardboard box to stand on while declaring his plan on seeking out to find the master. A box of what, you ask? Soap. He's literally using a soap box as a soapbox.
    • During his Rousing Speech, the Toaster is lit by a beam of sunlight, which looks like a spotlight. As each of the other appliances agree to join in the journey to find The Master, they get closer to him, effectively "coming into the light."
    • As mentioned under Meaningful Name, Mr. St. Peters is named after that St. Peters, but the appliances don't seem to think he's a bad person, they just don't want their parts used when they're still functional. In other words, it's "not their time to meet St. Peters."
    • In "It's A B-Movie," the line "It ain't home on the range!" is sung by a stove, or range.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The giant magnet at Ernie's Disposal, who absolutely refused to let any of its victims escape their fate of being crushed, as shown when it obsessively hunted down the appliances throughout the junkyard to put them back on the Conveyor Belt of Doom every time they jumped off. It got to the point that it even tried to kill Rob when he found and began gathering up the appliances.
  • 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 '60s) being "old stuff," which tells us that they know this. The best part? The timeless quality of the heroes ensure they'll remain useful, but thanks to Technology Marches On, many of those appliances like the computer will be obsolete and headed for the trash (save Plugsy, who is an old-fashioned lamp, but not terribly useful for studying under like Lampy is.)
  • Taps: Radio hums it while lowering his antenna like a flagpole as the appliances watch the "For Sale" sign go up in the front yard, convincing them once and for all that the Master isn't coming back.note 
  • Tear-Apart Tug-of-War: Blankie cries over a photo of the Master, and Kirby, who has had enough of his behavior, tries to wrestle it away from him. The photo slips and falls, breaking the frame.
  • Tears of Joy: Air Conditioner after the Master fixes him. AC recognizes the Master and realizes he was wrong about him and really does care, and that the Master can finally use him after all those years.
  • Thank the Maker: Lampy shouts "Holy Mother of Edison!" after Radio shoves him off the dresser.
  • That Poor Plant: The lonely flower that thinks its reflection on Toaster is another flower starts wilting after Toaster rejects it.
  • This Is My Side: While stopping in a clearing for the night, Radio draws a circle around himself and warns the others not to cross it.
  • Through a Face Full of Fur:
    • 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.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: All of the songs contain at least one instance.
  • Tutti Frutti Hat: During "The Cutting Edge", when the characters are depicted as being in Rio de Janeiro, the Toaster is wearing a fruit hat.
  • Unbuilt Trope: This film was already taking apart the concept of living inanimate objects well before Toy Story.
  • Undying Loyalty: Rob's appliances, and how. They travel through miles of treacherous terrain just to be reunited with their Master. Blanky is by far the most attached, since he was literally the closest to him, every night.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Kirby gives the other appliances a harsh speech in response to their worries about him after he chokes on his cord, saying that he doesn't need them. When the others go over a waterfall, however...
  • 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.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Elmo's customer apparently didn't notice or care about a dog driving a monster truck through the shop's wall, or appliances bounding away into the wilderness.
  • Very False Advertising: Exploited by the TV. Realizing the appliances are at Ernie's Disposal, he tries to get Rob to go there through his over-the-top advertising. When he continuously fails to get his attention, he resorts to more and more desperate forms of this, all the way to calling it "Crazy Ernie's Amazing Emporium of Total Bargain Madness". Lampshaded by Rob when he actually does reach the dump.
    Rob: This sure doesn't look like Crazy Ernie's Amazing Emporium of Total Bargain Madness.
  • Villain Song:
    • 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.
  • Visual Pun:
    • Toaster kicks off the plot from atop a literal soapbox.
    • The flower that falls in love with its own reflection is a narcissus.
  • The Voice: The Master's mother is never seen, only heard.
  • Wainscot Society: Appliances have an unwritten rule, straight from the assembly line, to never directly interact with humans. The exceptions to this are devices such as radios or television sets who can bend the rules if they so choose by broadcasting messages to humans.
  • 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!"
  • Was Too Hard on Him: When the Air Conditioner blows up after Toaster inadvertently brings up his jealousy over the Master not playing with him, Toaster feels bad, saying he didn't know he'd take it that hard.
  • Weirdness Censor: After all the appliances in Elmo St. Peters's electronic store escape and his frightened dog drives off in his truck, his customer, who was probably waiting in the front the whole time, merely pops up to ask Peter if he has his radio tubes yet.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: One of the major themes of the film. What if your appliances missed you when you left the house? And what happens when you replace them?
  • White-and-Grey Morality: Elmo St. Peters is really not evil or anything, it just happens to be his job to take apart appliances and sells the parts. It's not his fault he doesn't know they're alive. That said, he's not very ethical 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. He also takes parts from his own working appliances, like the unfortunate blender.
    Ceiling lamp: You never quite know what he's going to do! He's so spontaneous.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The appliances have a fear of water, Kirby and Toaster more than the others. Toaster's nightmare also has the Monster Clown wielding a fork, harkening to the old caution not to stick a fork in a live toaster.
  • Wrench Wench: Rob's girlfriend Chris apparently is a car mechanic, or at least knows how to work on them. She spends the time at the junkyard looking for rare auto parts.
  • You Don't Look Like You: The designs of the appliances in the films are quite different from their book counterparts. For example, the toaster only has one lever which acts as its nose. Here, he has two which act as his hands, also going with the position change of his face. Another being the blanket, whose face takes up its entire body in the book but is just limited to being on the dial in the film.
  • You're Insane!: Invoked by Kirby when Toaster 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 it's just a defense mechanism to hide the fact that he's jealous of them because the Master never gave him as 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.
  • Zeerust: Played straight with the appliances in the apartment where Rob lives. Though some of them are functionally timeless, their The '80s 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 cutting-edge — in song, no less!


The New Appliances

"I don't believe I've ever seen quite so many smiles before..."

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / SlasherSmile

Media sources: