Kirby: The battery’s gone dead!
The Radio: We’re trapped here like rats! Small little rats with no hair and one leg!
I had been looking for this movie FOREVER at used dvd stores when I finally found it a few weeks ago at half price books. To me, this movie is just a classic. I hadn’t seen it in years but it’s one of those movies that I can still quote. I still happen to remember almost every single part. I still remembered half the words to one of the songs (which is kinda hilarious because the songs are probably the weakest part of the movie.) So what’s so great about a bunch of talking appliances anyway?
A lot. This movie is seriously great for kids. It’s almost a perfect children’s movie that’s good enough even adults can enjoy it without rolling their eyes because it’s so stupid. And I hate to say it, but watching it now, I almost felt as if Pixar actually ripped these guys off. There were a lot of points while watching this movie that I went “huh, that’s a bit like Toy Story.” I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but I almost wonder if this is where a few of the animators got their ideas for Toy Story.
Whoa. Time out. I just learned something. Upon doing research on who was involved in the making of this movie (I wanted to see if any Pixar animators were attached), I came across the origin of this amazing little movie. Turns out it was a short story first! It was published in a magazine in 1980, then became so popular and won a ton of awards, so it had to be released as it’s own book. It was popular because “it lacked a defined audience,” and people of all ages could relate. Wow. After reading that, seems like this movie did a good job adapting its pages. I might have to find this and read it.
Anyway…. The movie focuses on five household appliances: Toaster, Lampy, Radio, Blanky, and Kirby (a vacuum). They’ve been abandoned in a summer cabin for a few years longing for their Master (a kid) and decide that instead of waiting for him, they’re going to go find him. On the way to the big city they get in all sorts of peril, but eventually their Master finds them, and it turns out he really did want and need them.
It’s a super easy plot to follow, and I think a lot of kids can relate. A lot of adults can relate. Everyone in the world wants to just be loved and know that they’re appreciated. These appliances were appreciated and treated well by their Master, and they’re loyal enough to go through lengths to get that feeling again. I think any person would do the same thing.
The characters, even though they don’t have amazing backstories or the emotional depth we see in some movies, are great. They’re all memorable, if just for the fact that these are appliances. It’s fun to see the way they move. It’s fun to see the problems they run into. They each have very unique personalities, and odds are there’s at least one that kids can relate to. The Toaster is the leader, the Radio is annoying, Lampy isn’t too “bright” (intelligent), Blanky is the overly loyal naive little kid, and Kirby is the grump. Too many times in movies these types of characters are brought together and they’re magically friends. In all honesty, that kinda annoys me. Most friends have similar personalities, or they at least have some things in common. This movie though doesn’t do that! They’re all different, but they do have one thing in common: they all want to find their Master. They’re hardly friends, but instead more just tolerate each other because they’re all each other has.
They’re like a family: they fight, they have really stupid arguments. They get on each others nerves. But at the end of the day, they’re willing to risk their lives to save each other (even grumpy old Kirby, although he’d never admit it). I don’t even know if you could call them “friends” even at the end of the movie. Sure, they all do learn some things and they do learn to accept each other for what they are, but I don’t know if friends is the right word to describe any of their relationships. Instead, they respect each other and they love each other; like a family (I’m not saying people in family’s aren’t necessarily friends… you get it).
I remember as a kid thinking that this movie was a bit of a misnomer. I never understood why it was called the Brave Little Toaster, because I thought all of them were brave. In the end I chalked it up to the action the Toaster does in the last 5 minutes of the movie. They’re at a junkyard and their Master has found them but is stuck on a conveyer belt moving toward a pounding machine. The Toaster flings himself into the gears, essentially destroying himself and stopping the pounder from flattening his fellow appliances and his Master. Sure it’s brave. It’s sacrificial. But in my opinion, all the characters were brave because of what they had to get through to find their Master.
Let’s talk about this unnamed “Master.” In the movie he actually does have a name, and it’s Rob. He’s a kid that spent every summer at the cabin where the character appliances were located, but hadn’t been back for a few years. Now he’s getting ready to go off to college and wants to go back to the cabin and get those appliances for the dorm. This was always something that bugged me. It’s Murphy’s law. If those appliances had just stayed there, they would have gotten everything they wanted. They weren’t patient enough. But then I guess we wouldn’t have a movie.
Master is held in such high regard by the appliances that you would think he was God. And in appliance land, maybe people are like Gods. They change lightbulbs, fix you, etc. Until you meet the kid, you’re like, “Yeah, sure. They’re making this up. He was probably a really annoying kid.” But actually, it’s the opposite. I don’t think there has ever been this nice of a 17 year old. I admit I was only 2 when this movie came out, but I’m sure there has never been a 17 year old quite like Rob. He’s mature, he’s polite, he’s sweet. I know that’s kinda the point, and this IS a kid’s movie, but it kinda annoys me. But then I have to remind myself to just the movie go, and that this is intended for really little kids. It’s not a deep movie. It, in a way, isn’t realistic at all, and it shouldn’t be. It’s fantasy.
This is going to be a short review because honestly there isn’t much to pick on this movie about. The adventures the appliances have are entertaining and tense, but don’t drag on. It almost feels like it’s a bunch of shorts stuck together in that regard. But that’s not a bad thing. The songs are meh, and some of them I completely forgot existed. But some of them are really catchy. There’s no villain (except maybe the appliances in Rob’s new house that are “cutting edge” and don’t want him to take the old appliances to college), so there’s no real long lasting drama. It’s a road trip movie, and sometimes the way you get there is interesting enough.
A few extra thoughts:
- at least on my DVD (which was supposedly an anniversary edition), the picture was really… bouncy. I don’t know if this is just an issue with the DVD or the transfer or if all of them are like this. It’s kinda sad, but it got over it. For the first 2-3 minutes it was really annoying.
- AH-HA! Turns out many of the original Pixar animators worked on this movie, like John Lasseter and Joe Ranft. That kinda explains a lot now that I think about it….
- It’s kinda funny watching this now that the appliances in Rob’s new home were “cutting edge” and they even sing a song about it. Now, they’d be like the main characters. Hahaha.
There’s not much to pick on with this movie. It’s not an amazing feat of animation, but it’s entertaining and great for kids. The characters are memorable, the plot is easy to follow, and the “scary” moments are the right level for kids. I would highly suggest giving it a watch (it is NOT on Netflix watch instant FYI). It’s not a bad way to spend 90 minutes.
I give The Brave Little Toaster (1987) 3.5 stars out of 5.
Up Next: Ice Age (2002)