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Based on a short story by Thomas M. Disch, this independently produced 2D animated feature was made by a who's who list of future animation superstars. The late Pixar storyman Joe Ranft wrote the story and provided voices. Mark Dindal (CATS DON'T DANCE) was an effects consultant while TARZAN and SURF'S UP director Chris Buck and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST helmer Kirk Wise served as animators. Hyperion Pictures gave it an art house release in 1987, making it a cult favorite. Disney, who actually originally owned the rights to the short story, released the film on video. Somehow, despite a theatrical release, the film was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.

The story follows a group of household appliances who have been left behind at an underused cabin. They long for their young master to come back, but it has been years since he has visited. When a "For Sale" sign is posted in front of the house, Toaster (Deanna Oliver, HOT TO TROT) calls for his friends to head out into the world and find their old master. Along for the adventure are shy, innocent Blanky (Timothy E. Day), talkative Radio (Jon Lovitz, TV's SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE), skeptical Lampy (Timothy Stack, TV's SON OF THE BEACH) and grumpy Kirby the vacuum cleaner (Thurl Ravenscroft, 101 DALMATIANS). Along the way the brave gadgets will need to find a way to work together to survive woodland creatures, a waterfall, the junkman, jealous high-tech appliances and a junkyard garbage compactor.

Though, the design of the world is simple, the character animation is quite good. Unlike TOY STORY, this film has a more challenging feat in making us care about less cuddly and sentimental inanimate objects. With the talent behind this production, they succeed in a charming way. As a very G-rated production, the film doesn't make the mistake of watering down the tension. The main characters don't perfectly get along and they encounter real dangers along the way. These qualities make the film equally enjoyable for little tikes and their parents. The only negative for grown-ups is the bland songs, which are injected to pad the running time. Outside of some funny bits during the song at the master's apartment, the rest of the tunes are forgettable.

As for the voice work, it is also nicely done across the board. Oliver makes Toaster heroic and kind, but not too sugary sweet. Day makes Blanky innocent, but not annoying. Lovitz and Stack create a nice repartee between their characters. And Ravenscroft brings a welcome gruff counterbalance to the other generally cheery characters. In addition, Phil Hartman (TV's SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE) does an impersonation of Jack Nicholson as a mean air conditioner and Peter Lorre as a demented hanging lamp, which is very fun.

THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER has become so popular it spawned two direct to DVD sequels. This family film proves that technique, whether it's hand-drawn or CG, doesn't matter as long as the story is well told. Making an audience want to hug a toaster is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks