The Brave Little Toaster (film)

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The Brave Little Toaster
Brave Little Toaster poster.jpg
British release poster
Directed by Jerry Rees
Produced by Donald Kushner
Thomas L. Wilhite
Screenplay by Jerry Rees
Joe Ranft
Story by Jerry Rees
Joe Ranft
Brian McEntee
Based on The Brave Little Toaster 
by Thomas Disch
Starring Deanna Oliver
Timothy E. Day
Jon Lovitz
Tim Stack
Thurl Ravenscroft
Wayne Kaatz
Music by David Newman
Editing by Donald W. Ernst
Studio The Kushner-Locke Company
Wang Film Productions
Distributed by Hyperion Pictures (USA), ITC (UK)
Release dates
  • July 10, 1987 (1987-07-10)
Running time 90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.3 million[1]
Box office $2.3 million (estimated)

The Brave Little Toaster is a 1987 American animated musical comedy-adventure film adapted from the 1980 novel, The Brave Little Toaster: A Bedtime Story For Small Appliances by Thomas Disch. The film was directed by Jerry Rees. The film is set in a world where household appliances and other electronics have the ability to speak and move, pretending to be lifeless in the presence of humans. The story focuses on five appliances— a toaster, a lamp, an electric blanket, an antique radio and a vacuum cleaner—who go on a quest to search for their original owner.

The film was produced by Hyperion Pictures along with The Kushner-Locke Company. Many of the original members of Pixar Animation Studios were involved with this film, including John Lasseter and Joe Ranft. While the film received a limited theatrical release, The Brave Little Toaster was popular on home video and was followed by two sequels a decade later. (The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue)

Plot[edit]

(The) Toaster is a toaster and leader of a group of appliances consisting of an antique radio, (the) Radio; a lamp, Lampy; an electric blanket, Blanky; and a vacuum cleaner, (the) Kirby who belong to their master, Rob. They wait every day at Rob's log cabin for his return with an increasing sense of abandonment. The appliances are devastated to learn that a real estate broker is selling the house. Unable to accept that the Master would abandon them, Toaster decides that the group should head out and find Rob. The appliances connect a car battery to an office chair pulled by Kirby and set out into the world, following the Radio's signal broadcast from the city, where Rob lives.

On their journey, the appliances encounter numerous harrowing adventures where they slowly learn to work together. Shortly after stopping to rest within a forest, a violent storm during nightfall wakes Toaster and the others and blows Blanky up into the trees, and Lampy risks his life by using himself as a lightning rod in an attempt to recharge the group's dead battery. After recovering Blanky, the group tries to cross a waterfall, only to have everyone fall in except for Kirby, who then dives after them and rescues them, and the appliances wash up into the middle of a swamp. After losing both the chair and the battery, the group resorts to pulling a disabled Kirby through the swamp. After almost drowning in a mud hole, they are rescued by Elmo St. Peters, the owner of an appliance parts store where they meet a group of partially dismantled or disfigured appliances, who have lost hope and await being disassembled and sold. When Radio is taken from the shelf and about to have his radio tubes extracted, the appliances distract St. Peters and flee to the city, while most of the worn-out appliances escape the appliances parts store and quickly return to their Masters's homes.

Rob, who is now living in an apartment as a young adult and is about to depart for college, leaves with his girlfriend Chris to return to the cabin and retrieve the appliances to take with him. The modern electronics in the apartment become resentful. When the appliances arrive at Rob's apartment, the modern appliances, after answering Toaster and his gang their question of what "being on the Cutting-Edge of Technology" means, by singing their song to them, toss them into the dumpster from the window, where they are shortly transported to Ernie's Disposal, a junkyard. Thinking that his original appliances have been stolen, Rob and Chris return to his apartment, where his black and white television, who originally lived with the appliances, broadcasts false advertisements and encourages Rob and Chris to look at Ernie's Disposal for replacements.

At the junkyard, the appliances are pursued by a crane with a magnet that picks up junk and places them on a conveyor belt that leads into a car crusher. When they discover that Rob is in the junkyard, they are encouraged and attempt to foil the magnetic crane in order to allow Rob to find them. After being foiled numerous times, the magnetic crane picks up Rob himself as well as the appliances, except for Toaster, and drops them on the compactor's conveyor belt. Toaster sacrifices himself by leaping into the compactor's drive gears to disable the machine in time from destroying the appliances and killing Rob. Rob returns to the apartment with all of the appliances in tow, including a now-mangled Toaster. Rob repairs the Toaster and takes all of them to college with him.

Cast[edit]

  • Deanna Oliver as the Toaster, also named "Sunbeam", a gallant two-slotted Sunbeam toaster who is an inspiring leader of the five appliances. Jerry Rees, the film's director, called the character the warm one who is right enough to put up with everyone else. And the other characters seeing themselves reflected in its surface, feel an immediate kinship.[2]
  • Timothy E. Day as Blanky, an electric blanket with an innocent, childlike demeanor. He also voices young Rob in the flashbacks.
  • Tim Stack as Lampy, an easily-impressed yet slightly irascible gooseneck desk lamp.
    • Stack also voiced the customer named Zeke.
  • Jon Lovitz as the Walter Winchell-sounding Radio, also named "Bakelite", a vacuum tube-based Bakelite dial radio broadcast receiver whose personality parodies loud and pretentious radio announcers. Rees performed Radio's singing voice, as Lovitz was working on Saturday Night Live at the time.[2]
  • Thurl Ravenscroft as the Kirby, a very low-pitched, individualistic upright Kirby 2R vacuum cleaner who dons a cynical, cantankerous attitude towards the other appliances.
  • Wayne Kaatz as Rob ("The Master"), the original human owner of the five appliances. Appearing as a child in flashbacks, Rob, now an adult, is leaving for college.
  • Phil Hartman as the Jack Nicholson-sounding air conditioner, who resides in the cabin with the five appliances. He loses his temper while arguing with the appliances and explodes, and is repaired by Rob near the end of the film.
  • Joe Ranft as Elmo St. Peters, an owner of a spare parts shop, where he disassembles broken machines and sells the pieces.
  • Colette Savage as Chris, Rob's tomboyish girlfriend.
  • Jim Jackman as Plugsy, nicknamed "Kenroy", a Kenroy droplet table lamp in Rob's apartment.
  • Jonathan Benair as the Black And White T.V., a black and white television who lives in Rob's apartment and is an old friend of the five appliances.
  • Judy Toll as the Mish-Mash, a mutated can opener, lamp, and electric shaver appliance.
    • Toll also voices the Megaphone in the appliance parts store.
  • Mindy Sterling as Rob's mother, an unseen character with her voice heard.
    • Sterling also voices the Two-Faced Sewing Machine in Rob's apartment.
  • Randall William Cook as the Entertainment Center in Rob's apartment.
  • Randy Bennett as Tarry, nicknamed "Apple", a Computer who is the leader of the modern machines, who reside in Rob's apartment. While they were benevolent in the original novel, here they are jealous and antagonistic towards the main characters.
  • Louis Conti as the Spanish T.V. Announcer when Plugsy changes the Black And White T.V. to a Spanish station.

Production[edit]

The film rights to The Brave Little Toaster, the original novel, were bought by the Walt Disney Studios in 1982, two years after its appearance in print. After animators John Lasseter and Glen Keane had finished a short 2D/3D test film based on the book Where the Wild Things Are, Lasseter and producer Thomas L. Wilhite decided they wanted to make a whole feature this way. The story they chose was The Brave Little Toaster, but in their enthusiasm, they ran into issues pitching the idea to two high level Disney executives, animation administrator Ed Hansen, and Disney president Ron W. Miller. During Lasseter and Wilhite's pitch, the film was rejected due to the costs of having traditionally animated characters inside then expensive computer-generated backgrounds. A few minutes after the meeting, Lasseter received a phone call from Hansen and was asked to come down to his office, where Lasseter was told that he was dismissed. The development was then transferred to the new Hyperion Pictures, the creation of former Disney employees Wilhite and executive producer 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, Judy Toll and Mindy Sterling) voiced characters in the film. At the time, Lovitz and Hartman were stars of Saturday Night Live. The color stylist was veteran Disney animator Ken O'Connor, a member of Disney's feature animation department from its establishment.[3]

Music[edit]

The Brave Little Toaster: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by David Newman and Van Dyke Parks
Released July 22, 2001
Recorded 1992-89
Genre Soundtrack
Label Percepto

The film score of The Brave Little Toaster was composed and conducted by David Newman and performed by the New Japan Philharmonic. The film contains five original songs ("City of Light", "It's a B-Movie", "Cutting Edge", "Worthless" and "Hidden Meadow") that were written by Van Dyke Parks. Newman's score for this movie was one of his earlier works and apparently one that he felt very close to. He did not view it as a cheerful one, and decided to give the film a dramatic score to reinforce the serious nature of many of the film's themes. In writing the score, Newman, "tapped into an inherent sadness in being abandoned and seeking reunion."[2]

No. Title Length
1. "Main Title / Chores"   7:34
2. "The Air Conditioner Blows"   4:48
3. "We're Going to Find the Master"   5:16
4. "City of Light"   6:46
5. "The Pond"   5:37
6. "Toaster's Nightmare"   9:49
7. "Kirby Saves Blankey"   2:12
8. "The Steep Cliff by the Waterfall"   7:15
9. "It's a B-Movie"   8:17
10. "The Master"   1:60
11. "Apartment"   1:31
12. "Toaster, Blankey, Kirby, Lampy, and Radio Find T.V."   1:45
13. "Cutting Edge"   2:31
14. "Sad Day"    
15. "At the Junkyard"   1:03
16. "Worthless"   9:43
17. "Together at Last / Hidden Meadow"   7:23

[4]

Release[edit]

The Brave Little Toaster premiered in 1987 at the Los Angeles International Animation Celebration. The following year, it was shown at the 1988 Sundance Film Festival. Though the prize went to Rob Nilsson's Heat and Sunlight, before the awards ceremony, Rees claims he was told by some of the judges that they considered Toaster the best film but they could not give the award to a cartoon as they considered people would not take the festival seriously afterwards.[5]

The film failed to find a distributor. Disney, who held the video and television rights, withdrew its official theatrical distribution, and elected to showcase it on their new premium cable service instead.[6] The film premiered on The Disney Channel on February 27, 1988. The buzz it generated at Sundance dissipated, and it only received limited theatrical airings through Hyperion, mainly at arthouse facilities across the U.S., and most notably at the Film Forum in New York City, in May 1989.

In July 1991, Disney released the film to home video format and LaserDisc. Throughout the '90s onward, it enjoyed popularity as a rental amongst children as well as a Parent's Choice Award win. The VHS was re-issued in March 1994 and in May 1998. The DVD was released in September 2003, to tie in with the film's 15th anniversary.

Home media[edit]

DVD:

VHS:

LaserDisc:

  • USA: (1991)

Reception[edit]

The Brave Little Toaster was well received by critics. The movie has garnered a 75% rating on the reviews website, Rotten Tomatoes.[7] The Washington Post called it "a kid's film made without condescension",[8] while the staff of Halliwell's Film Guide called it an "Odd fantasy of pots and pans with no more than adequate animation."[9] Director Roland Joffe told Rees he was "moved to tears," something "he never expected from talking animated appliances."[2]

The film received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Datlow and Windling (2001), p. xlv.
  2. ^ a b c d "I'm Jerry Rees, Director of "The Brave Little Toaster" - ask me anything.". Reddit. 2012-09-18. 
  3. ^ a b c Beck (2005), pp. 40-41.
  4. ^ CD universe: Brave Little Toaster
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "`Brave Little Toaster' tells heartwarming tale". Chicago Sun-Times. February 26, 1988. Retrieved May 18, 2010. 
  7. ^ The Brave Little Toaster at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 29, 2007.
  8. ^ Simpson, Paul (2004). The Rough guide to Kid's Movies. Rough Guides. ISBN 1-84353-346-4. 
  9. ^ Gritten, David, ed. (2007). "The Brave Little Toaster". Halliwell's Film Guide 2008. Hammersmith, London: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 161. ISBN 0-00-726080-6. 

External links[edit]