Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty & The Beast, The Little Mermaid; when people debate and discuss their favorite Disney animated features, these are the names that get passed around a lot. There’s at least one film above all others though that despite being well loved by those who saw it, they forget about when it comes time to talk about Disney movies:
The Brave Little Toaster.
Released in 1987, much of the reason it’s neglected comes from it not actually being animated by Walt Disney Studios and it never getting a wide theatrical release. The movie is actually based off a short story by Thomas M. Disch that Disney bought the film rights to and then gave to animation studio Hyperion Pictures; which was founded by a former Disney employee.
Those who saw the movie owe their thanks to either cable TV airings on The Disney Channel or the original VHS copies. It wasn’t a big budget production with the manpower that the main Disney animated features had the luxury of, but The Brave Little Toaster rivals and/or surpasses its big screen cousins in nearly every way. If you doubt this, examine the following exhibits for proof.
Exhibit A – The Staff
One of the film’s producers, Donald Kushner, was a visual effects artist for Tron. The screenplay was co-written by the late Joe Ranft, who would later join Pixar and help write Toy Story, do artwork for Monsters Inc., and co-direct and write Cars. Storyboard artist Roger Allers went on to direct The Lion King several years after this film and even John Lasseter, the current creative head of Pixar, was originally attached to this project. Basically, a staggering amount of Disney films came to life from the people directly responsible for this movie, a project that Disney decided against doing themselves.
Exhibit B- The Story
The Brave Little Toaster tells the tale of a bunch of household appliances who have been left alone in their house for quite some time. One day they finally decide to go in search of their master, otherwise known as the excessively happy redhead in the picture above. What the appliances don’t realize is that they’ve been waiting around for years for their master to return when in fact he and his parents moved out with no intention of coming back. At face level, the story is about Toaster and his friends trying to reunite with their Master but on a deeper level it’s actually about losing your place in the world and coming to grips with what you thought was your purpose in life, no longer existing. Sound similar to any other movies part of this team would end up working on? (I’m looking at YOU Toy Story!”)
Exhibit C – The Air Conditioner
There’s an air conditioner. He’s played by Phil Hartman doing a Jack Nicholson impression. Things escalate quickly.
Exhibit D – The Music
Composer David Newman works with the New Japan Philharmonic to deliver a score that is as lively as the characters in the film. Even when the characters aren’t bursting out into song, the incidental music is riveting. When they do start singing, that too is a treat to behold:
Exhibit E – The Junkyard Scene
In case you haven’t seen this movie and are now interested enough to watch it, this is your SPOILER ALERT.
The movie’s climax finds Toaster and company in a scrapyard with a bunch of old, broken down cars. The car crusher powers up, a large electromagnet begins dropping cars onto the conveyor belt, and Toaster and friends are treated to the cars singing their stories about their worthlessness; hence the name of the song, “Worthless.” At several points during the course of the film, the subject of the main characters being obsolete comes up, but this scene sends that point home by showing the ultimate fate of outdated machines. Some of the car’s stories are sprinkled with regret and failure, making an already dark scene even darker. For a kid’s movie in particular, these are emotionally heavy lessons to learn, but its presented in a uniquely artistic and memorable way.
Verdict – Watch it!
There are a number of other wonderful things about The Brave Little Toaster including the voice acting, lighthearted humor, and emotional sentiments that make this film so very much worth watching. If you haven’t seen it, make time for it, and if you have but haven’t seen it in a while, now’s as good a time as any to revisit it.