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Monday, June 24, 2013

The Brave Little Toaster

This Monday Matinee is all about the subject of bravery. And, appropriately, I am typing this blog entry out as I just finished watching Nik Wallenda SUCCESSFULLY cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope without any safety cables to hold him up! I tell you, that was probably the most nerve-wracking piece of television that I can recall seeing in my life!

I gotta tell you, the whole time, I was shaking like a leaf. I was actually debating on whether Nik Wallenda was incredibly foolish for even attempting such a feat knowing that he could lose his life right then and there with one misstep, or whether he was incredibly brave for doing such an incredible thing that kept tongues wagging.

Keep in mind that this is the same Nik Wallenda who made headlines a little over a year ago for walking across Niagara Falls on a wire from the American side to the Canadian side...only that time he did have a proper safety harness to keep him from plummeting to his death. The fact that he attempted this walk across the Grand Canyon without one made me incredibly nervous for him. But, throughout it all, he kept his cool, and he kept a good rhythm as he marched on that rope. His ambition was to be the very first person to cross the Grand Canyon on a wire, and that goal certainly paid off.

I would imagine that as I am typing this right now, the Wallenda family is off celebrating Nik's greatest achievement to date, and I would imagine that Nik himself is absolutely thrilled of the successful walk. I know millions of people who watched it live on television feel the same way.

So, now that I've talked about the feelings of bravery that Nik Wallenda demonstrated up on that tightrope (because let's face it, you have to have some cojones to walk above a gigantic chasm in the middle of the planet's surface), it's time to talk about today's feature presentation. And, it happens to be an animated feature where the main character also happens to be someone who is very brave.

Or, maybe I should say...someTHING.

Yes, the hero of the story is a household appliance that many people wouldn't even consider to be much of a hero in the first place. I mean, yes, in an everyday situation, you could use this appliance to heat up frozen waffles, toast bagels and slices of bread to a golden brown, and make Pop Tarts even more delicious. But, really, aside from Pillsbury naming a strudel after this device, there's really nothing else that makes this appliance synonymous with strength and heroism. I mean, even though it may seem like the most popular gift to bestow upon a newlywed couple, I reckon that it's also the appliance that makes the most appearances at garage sales and flea markets all over Canada and the United States.

Of course, I'm talking about the toaster.

But while most toasters are doomed to making Eggos and bagels piping hot, the toaster in this movie does so much more than that.

Hence the reason why this toaster has a movie named after him.

Today's blog entry will be looking at the 1987 film “The Brave Little Toaster”.

Released on July 10, 1987 and directed by Jerry Rees, “The Brave Little Toaster” was one of those films that I felt was very underrated when it first came out. Did you know that the film was based on a best-selling book of the same name, written by the late Thomas Disch in 1980? It's true! But, it took a few years before the film was actually made, with Hyperion Pictures backing the production in 1986.

And, did you know that the film's premiere was actually at a film festival?

The Brave Little Toaster” was shown at the 1987 Los Angeles International Animation Celebration, and then just one year later was featured as one of the films at the coveted Sundance Film Festival.

INTERESTING TRIVIA: According to Jerry Rees, the Sundance judging committee was considering honouring “The Brave Little Toaster” with the prestigious honour of Best Film, but he was told that had they given the honour to a cartoon film, they felt as though some would not take the festival seriously, and so the honour instead was given to “Heat and Sunlight”.

(I have never even heard of “Heat and Sunlight”...have you?)

Whatever the case, “The Brave Little Toaster” was very well received by film critics, and currently holds a 75% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. It was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1988. And, when the film was released on home video in the summer of 1991, it instantly became a best-selling home video throughout much of the 1990s.

And, why wouldn't it be? It was a film that had a lot of heart and soul...things that you wouldn't expect to see in a film about household appliances.

And, if you listen very closely to some of the voice actors who appeared in the film, you might realize that the film was the starting point for a lot of great careers. The late Phil Hartman voiced a couple of characters in the movie. So did Jon Lovitz. Mindy Sterling (who you might know best as Frau from the Austin Powers trilogy) also voices a character. And, you may even hear Thurl Ravenscroft's baritone vocals throughout the film as well (Ravenscroft being most well known for voicing Tony the Tiger for several decades in a myriad of “Frosted Flakes” advertisements).

How grrrrrrrrreat!

So, here's how the story goes...and I suppose the best way to describe the plot of “The Brave Little Toaster” is that it has a lot of similarities with the 1995 Pixar film “Toy Story”...only instead of the main characters being toys, the stars of the film are a toaster, a vaccum cleaner, a desk lamp, an electric blanket, and a radio.

Toaster (Deanna Oliver), is the leader of the group, a two-slice toaster who has a lot of leadership qualities, and has a warm interior that contrasts with the hard, cold exterior.

(What do you expect from something that makes toast for a living?)

The five appliances “live” at a log cabin, which is owned by its owner, Rob (Wayne Kaatz), and they are more than happy to serve their master whenever he needs them. If he needed to read in the dark, Lampy (Timothy Stack) was there to throw a little light on the subject. If he was cold, Blanky (Timothy E. Day) could keep Rob warm. If Rob wanted to listen to some rock music or find out the weather, he could turn on his classic radio (Lovitz). And, if he wanted to control the dust levels inside his cabin, he just plugged in Kirby (Ravenscroft) to suck up all the pesky dustbunnies.

TRIVIA: Although Radio frequently burst into song during the film, the singing voice was actually provided by Jerry Rees. Lovitz wanted to do the singing voice, but his commitment to “Saturday Night Live” prevented him from doing both.

For a while, things went very smoothly. The appliances loved serving Rob, and Rob's life was certainly more convenient with Toaster and the gang around. But when Rob hasn't come back to the cabin for several months, the rest of the appliances become a little worried that maybe he has abandoned them.

So when they discover that Rob has sold the cabin, the appliances are worried that Rob has completely forgotten them, and has cast them aside...

...and that just doesn't sit well with Toaster, who refuses to get “burned”.

(I know, I'll ease off on the toaster puns.)

So, Toaster decides that if Rob won't come back to the cabin, they'll just have to come to him instead. And, what follows is an elaborate plan to get to Rob's new apartment in the city.

Somehow, they manage to attach a car battery to an office chair, which the appliances use as a sort of vehicle, and they set out towards the city, using Radio's signals as a sort of compass to steer them in the right direction.

But, don't let the happy video up above fool you into thinking that the journey was smooth and easy. No, these five little appliances run into all sorts of bad luck along the way.

  • They survive a really terrible thunderstorm which nearly blows Blanky up into the heavens.
  • They try to cross a waterfall (ironically enough the same way that Nik Wallenda did last year), only to plummet to the bottom of the river. They survive, but they lose their wheels.
  • They get trapped in quicksand.
  • They are rescued by an appliance store owner, where they are almost completely disassembled
  • They are mislead by the modern appliances in Rob's new apartment that they are old and worthless, and are thrown into the garbage!
  • And, they find themselves trapped in a junkyard, where they face their biggest enemy to date...a metal crusher who lives solely to feast on the half-dead shells of once useful cars.

You know, come to think of it, re-watching that “Worthless” song clip, it kind of makes me very sad.

But, the ending of this film is quite good. And, while I won't spoil it for you all at home in case you haven't seen the movie yourself, I will say that there's a reason why the movie is called “The Brave Little Toaster”.

Some more interesting facts about the movie...

  • The majority of the cast all got their start in the California based sketch comedy group, “The Groundlings”.
  • Phil Hartman voiced the hanging lamp after legendary actor Peter Lorre.
  • Jon Lovitz recorded all of his lines in just one session!
  • The last line in the movie was spoken by Timothy Stack...who ad-libbed it!
  • Deanna Oliver's son was deployed to Afghanistan, and at the ceremony, some of the soldiers had actually brought toasters for her to sign!
  • The film was supposed to run 20 minutes longer than what was eventually shown.

And, finally, to conclude this entry off, I want to talk about bravery.

I think that everyone has a little bit of bravery inside of themselves. They just might not know it until it happens. We are all capable of doing extraordinary things. I mean, look at Nik Wallenda. You have to have a lot of bravery to attempt to walk across the Grand Canyon on a wire. Granted, he did train for years leading up to this moment, but at the end of the day, he did it.

And, even going above all that, do you know just how many policemen, firefighters, and military servicemen there are risking their lives every day to save the lives of others, keep crime off of the city streets, and protecting the freedom and rights of countries all over the world? To me, that shows incredible bravery too.

I believe that bravery of all kinds should be rewarded. And, that's why I have a bonus treat for you.

If you click HERE, you can watch the entire movie of “The Brave Little Toaster”. You're welcome.


  1. Awesome blog Matthew! I have always loved this movie and enjoyed sharing it with my kids. Thank you for the wonderful memory :)

    1. I remember seeing this movie almost by accident. It was airing on the Disney Channel one day and I happened upon it channel surfing. I think I was like 14 when I first watched it. I was completely mesmerized by the whole thing!