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Friday, 16 September 2016

Retro Review: The Brave Little Toaster (1987)

The Brave Little Toaster
Cast: Deana Oliver, Timothy E. Day, Jon Lovitz, Phil Hartman
Genre: Animated Musical 
U.S Box Office Gross: $2.3 million

Plot: Five sentient household appliances - Toaster, Blanky, Radio, Lampy and a vacuum cleaner named Kirby - living in an abandoned cabin have grown lonely. Longing to reunite with their owner, a young man named Rob, the appliances set off on a harrowing trek through the wilderness, surviving as best they can despite limited sources of electricity. Worse yet, when they arrive in the big city they discover they may not be useful, because of new modern, appliances

'The Precursor To Toy Story'

In watching this movie, it reminds me a lot of Toy Story in many respects: talking inanimate objects when they come to life. The Brave Little Toaster basically has the same premise as Toy Story, but replace the talking toys with talking domestic appliances: the owners of the home leave the house with the belongings being left behind and forgotten about, an ill-fated quest to find their way back home and coming up against a deadly foe. Toaster and company set out on a big adventure. 

I loved Toy Story 2 in particular, but I would be wrong in dismissing this movie, as it has as much charm and an equally appealing and diverse set of characters as the former.  

The story is also a lot darker in tone, as well as daring and edgier, which makes this animated feature a lot more accessible to adults, much more so than to younger children. I do understand the complaints from some people that there were images and scenes in this film that is deemed inappropriate for younger children because it does become overly dark. However, I would also say they are not deliberate, intentional or submissive: rather they are utilised to further the story and it serves to heighten the interest in this film. There are no hidden agendas, it doesn't become too deep it descends into preachy territory and it is not a movie one should overthink and over-analyse too much. Given as it was made in the mid - 1980s before Disney hit the big time with Aladdin, Toy Story etc, it does feel more like a TV movie than a Blockbuster animated feature, and I don't mean in financial terms but aesthetically and production-wise. 

If I were to choose my favourite character, it would have to be Blanky the blanket: Blanky looks like his face is supposed to resemble a kitchen timer stuck onto of a yellow blanket. But he has a childlike voice that makes him out to be the youngest member of the crew, and I found him adorable. The characters don't rely a lot on humour as much, but for Jon Lovitz's radio character and they are all practically likeable. 

Interestingly and thankfully, even with Disney owning the rights to this movie, they didn't dilute the movie or make it more kid-friendly, but rather retained all the darker themes and tones, making this effort unique to every other Disney/Pixar effort. In fact, with Disney rejecting The Brave Little Toaster, only for independent Hyperion Pictures to come swooping in that under Hyperion Pictures, the movie was more charming and pleasing than it would have been under Disney's direction. 

Visually, The Brave Little Toaster is well made and presented; the art direction is good and the 2D character designs are straightforward and simple, the narrative is well told, though whether or not you find it to be of importance, depends on whether you do buy into the surrealness of the things that unravel within the film. I'm on the fence with the songs though: some are okay, whilst others aren't as good. This is an independent animated movie with a cult following that is as big as it has today, made with a smaller budget but with a lot of love and creative freedom that would have been diminished and suppressed under today's more profit efficient, Pixar and Disney: companies who would have probably stifled the creative process. That, and that it is the sort of movie that Disney wouldn't dare to make in this current age. 

Final Verdict:

The film never dwells on sentimentality nor overly emotive schmuck, rather The Brave Little Toaster is another example of an overlooked, underrated gem of animated feature films. It lacks some of the charm and efficiency of Toy Story 2 and the humour of its latter counterparts: that and that Toy Story 2 had a better voice cast, but there is a uniqueness and cutesy aesthetic appeal alongside the edgier themes and story-lines that makes Brave Little Toaster a movie so unique and charming in its own way. 

Worth a watch if you are interested in Disney's pre-Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Aladdin efforts. 


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