The Brave Little Toaster

In some ways, The Brave Little Toaster is both an enigma and a lost classic in Disney's dusty, old-style animation trophy case. Like the later Aladdin or Toy Story, it combines large and lonely landscapes, genuinely frightening episodes, and a fast-talking jokester whose cultural repertoire extends into the adult world—all of which point the way toward an occasionally successful mix of adult and childlike sensibilities. And yet, somehow, the five talking appliance protagonists in this particular film maintain a flickering, volatile innocence like the variously-aged children upon which they're modeled—even though the situations in which they find themselves aren't very cuddly, and demand, more often then not, an "adult" way of handling things.

A toaster ("Slots"), a lamp ("Lampy"), a vacuum ("Kirby"), a radio ("Radio"), and a blanket ("Blanky") live in an empty mountain cottage long-deserted by their "master," a thirteen-year-old boy, until one day they realize his absence is permanent and set out on a journey to find him. Along the way, they encounter a nightmarish forest, a butchering used parts dealer, and the confusing Big City before reaching their master's apartment. But even here, they find nothing but their master’s modern, "technological" appliances, who explain to our protagonists their "old model" irrelevance and send them to the garbage heap. Ironically, the master has returned to his summer cottage to pick up the old appliances before moving away to college, and he ends up on a wild goose chase until he finds the salvaging yard in which the appliances are about to be mutilated by an evil-grinning magnet and a metal compactor.

One episode in the middle of the film seems to summarize its narrative philosophy quite succinctly. The appliances meet a field of amiable flowers, and the toaster notices a certain flower far apart from the main group who seems a little blue, so he waddles his way over to extend a greeting. The flower sees itself in the toaster's reflection and lights up, sure that he's found a fellow flower to share his lonely plot—but soon, he understands the illusion and sighs, broken-hearted. Much of The Brave Little Toaster gathers together broken illusions—an absentee "master," a difficult, sometimes-selfish world, the empty products of this world’s consumer culture—and puts together a charming, responsible portrait with the pieces, suggesting that through small but substantial appliances (and people), our world can be similarly put together, or made more whole.

Matt Pierce

Film Info

Title: The Brave Little Toaster (1987)
Country of Origin: US
Running Time: 90 min
Language: English
Aspect Ratio:
Sound Mix: Dolby
Color: Color
Certification: UK: U
Releasing Company: Cartoon Home Vídeo [br] (Brazil) (VHS) (as "A Torradeira Valente"), Hyperion Pictures, VTI Home Vídeo [br] (Brazil) (VHS) (as "A Torradeirinha Valente"), Walt Disney Home Video [us]
Producer: Willard Carroll, Donald Kushner, Peter Locke, Cleve Reinhard, James Wang, Thomas L Wilhite
Director: Jerry Rees
Writer: Thomas M. Disch (story and book), Brian McEntee (story), Joe Ranft, Jerry Rees
Designer: Brian McEntee
Composer: David Newman, Van Dyke Parks
Genre: Family / Adventure / Animation / Comedy / Musical / Fantasy