Written by Jonathan Wojcik
September 23: It's a B-movie Show!
Adapted from a satirical novel by Thomas Disch, 1987's The Brave Little Toaster offered us a glimpse into the secret lives of electrical appliances in a surprisingly touching film by the same writers that would later bring us Toy Story. If you've never seen it, give it a shot. I don't care how old and childless you are, what the hell else are you doing with a Sunday night? Clubbing? If you've already seen it, you know what we're here to talk about:
Toaster, Radio, Lampy, Blanky (an electric blanket) and Kirby (a vacuum) endure many hardships in their search for their beloved human "master," but few seem as fondly remembered as their "capture" by a fix-it shop and appliance parts store; to them, a chamber of horrors where mangled monsters sing a kick-ass song about their own living hell.
Sid and his "mutant" toys in Toy Story can no doubt trace their roots back to this sequence, loaded with clever character designs. The Peter Lorre ceiling lamp is the most prominent dungeon denizen, but my favorite has to be that nasty, glass-toothed television! I would treasure a sentient television that could bite my hand off way more than a sentient television that I could actually watch.
You've also gotta love the cackling little freak actually playing the music. Technically from his ass.
Did I say I loved the television? He's got some stiff competition from the demented cassette player, with his tangled tape tentacles and mismatched "teeth." The fan's not bad either; he only does the eyeball trick once, but I appreciate his subtle reptilian qualities.
For minor characters in a children's film, it's amazingly difficult to pin down where these busted gizmos stand on any sort of moral compass, and their catchy tune has some dismally bleak underpinnings. They never display any overt malevolence, but seem to glean an almost sado-masochistic thrill from their situation, hardened by the nightmares they've been subjected to and literally a few screws short. The entire song is essentially about how resigned they are to their terrible fate, and why they think our heroes ought to give up like the rest of them.
At one point, the song takes a break for this mutant freak to introduce and describe herself, a nonsensical hybrid who channels Joan Rivers for some reason. Her lines are delivered comedically enough that you almost forget she's expressing horror and disgust at her very existence.
The climax, in retrospect, is especially bizarre, as the ghoulish gadgets are hauled up into the shadows by dozens of tentacular power cords (attached to whom?), wailing an eerie chorus for no apparent reason other than to freak the shit out of their already-terrified-enough new roommates. The refrigerator here is another weird one. We saw it moving like the rest of them, but it doesn't have eyes or any other anthropomorphic characteristics. That has to be pretty creepy by sapient appliance standards, I mean, it's just a giant hollow guy without a face. Radio isn't anthropomorphic either, but at least he has an eye-like dial.
Honestly, how can you not love these guys? They can't escape, they have no idea what will happen to them next, and they deal with it by being the most cynical, twisted fucks they can, essentially hazing newcomers with choreographed emotional torture and teaching a whole generation of children that almost anything can be scary from someone's perspective...and what better lesson can kids really take away from a cartoon? I mean, a good cartoon, like this one.
HALLOWEEN 2012 ARCHIVE: