Friday, July 30, 2021

Green Phoenix - The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue Review

 The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue.jpg

A little over two months ago, I released my review of The Brave Little Toaster, a deeply loved children's film of mine that has thrown me into a nostalgic spiral for the past few weeks. While writing that article, I realized that I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the entire series.

Because for reasons that I still cannot fathom, The Brave Little Toaster is actually the first film in a trilogy of films. Admittedly, these films are direct to VHS but the point that of all films, this one would have not one but two sequels kind of boggles the mind.

Of the two films, the final chronological film in the trilogy, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars, is far and away the more popular of the two, given that it is adapted from another of Thomas M. Disch's books. However, despite being the first released, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars actually follows the events of the much less well known and subject of today's article, The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue, released in 1999.

The two sequels were actually developed by the production at the same time, which helps explain much of the similarities between the two films. Normally, I would have touched upon The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars first as it was the first sequel released, being released in 1998. However, characters and events are introduced in The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue that are necessary to understand the plot of The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars.

That was a hell of a mouthful to write, not going to lie. I will almost certainly examine The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars down the line; but for today, let's take a good look at the "hidden" sequel to The Brave Little Toaster.

  • Directed by Robert C. Ramirez
  • Produced by Hyperion Animation
  • MPAA Rating: G
  • Running Time: 74 Minutes


Several years after the events of The Brave Little Toaster, the appliances owner Rob is preparing to finish his college thesis while helping a veterinary clinic to rehabilitate various animals. When a computer virus completely wipes out all of Rob's progress, his life is thrown into disarray and it is up to Toaster and his friends, including the animals that Rob is caring for, to uncover the source of the virus.
Their investigation leads them to an old abandoned supercomputer in the college's basement that needs the appliances help. All the while, Rob's lab assistant plots to sell the animals to a testing lab right under Rob's nose and it will be up to Toaster and his friends to save not only the animals, but the supercomputer as well.


Before I say anything else about the film, I must put this out there. Like most Direct to VHS sequels, the quality of The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue is far lower than the original film, despite having been released by the original parent company. This is simply the nature of the beast with films of this nature and era of animation. Rushed productions and very low budgets led to lower quality films. Thus is the fate of our film of discussion.

Because, yeah. This film kind of looks garbage, even by the standards of most Direct to VHS films of that era. The characters all look flat and the film lacks much of the size and scale of the original, but because that is sort of a given for films of this nature, I really feel its unfair to judge this film on the scale of its predecessors. Animation really is an industry that is reliant on the adage of you get what you pay for. And the film isn't really terribly animated when you compare it to quick cash grabs and mockbusters. The animation is smooth and the character designs are just as good as the original. Had this film and its sequel had a better budget, I think it could've been just had good-looking as the original.

And most importantly; in spite of this quality issue, The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue manages to very successfully capture the same emotional resonance that the original film did. This is very important to me and speaks volumes in my mind because the appeal of the original film was very much predicated on an emotional connection to the individuals in question. The film focuses a great deal on the progress of technology and knowledge and how its use for good and bad can have a major impact on our lives. We see the importance of communication and connection and how technology can facilitate and hinder that; eloquently put in the song lyric "smarter is only better when its matched by kinder." In fact, this entire franchise has been very good about connecting audiences to emotional drive of each character and you can put the responsibility on that to the various performers, music, and dialogue.

The biggest names in this film in terms of voice acting would have to be Thurls Ravencroft (the voice of Tony the Tiger) as Kirby the cynical Vacuum and Brian Doyle-Murray (the older brother of Bill Murray and a famous comedian in his own right) as Wiggenstein, the dilapidated supercomputer. The rest of the cast isn't particularly noteworthy but all do an exemplary job and most return from The Brave Little Toaster. Among the new cast,the animals all tend to have less of a presence, with Ratso's performance being the strongest role. 
Wiggenstein, the abandoned supercomputer

Though the film also has Aretha Franklin of all people voicing the computer that sings the song "Super Highway" that seems to be what the Nostalgia Critic deemed a "Big Lipped Alligator Moment", but is in fact works towards the central theme of Wiggenstein's story through the phrase "We Lead the Way through the Great Unknown...So no one has to feel alone." In fact, the music as a whole is quite spectacular and worth talking about.

The film has four songs that are a part of the main story with the fifth song, "I'm Into Something Good" by Herman's Hermits being used during the films openings. The first song in the film, "Remember that Day" is a sweet introductory song where each of the animals explain their connection to Rob and why he is so important to them. While simple with the occasional weird lyric, the song does a fine job of connecting us to the animals and their affection for Rob, since we had a whole film with the appliances to know why they care so much for him.

We then have the two songs "Super Highway", once again sung by Aretha Franklin, and "Munch and Crunch" which both play into explaining Wiggenstein's story and the theme of connectivity and the use of technology in relationships. "Munch and Crunch" is easily the best song in the film and Brian Doyle-Murray's gravelly singing voice actually works really well for the aged and depressed supercomputer. It's emotional and simultaneously triumphant and tragic with a killer chorus line of dancing viruses. The final song "Hang in There, Kid" is honestly just a short little epilogue song that is used to bring us to credits and explain the fate of all of the animals and is a perfectly serviceable wrap-up for the story.
And that story is surprisingly good, if perhaps a little convoluted. The film is comprised of essentially two storylines that occasionally become intertwined. The first is trying to uncover the source of the various power outages and virus that infected Rob's computer and deleted his college thesis, which leads to Wiggenstein and fixing him up. The second storyline deals with Rob's lab assistant selling the animals to a cruel testing lab and the appliances having to fix up Wiggenstein to stop it. The film actually manages to combine the two disparate storylines in a somewhat natural way, though the abilities of Wiggenstein are a little silly when one thinks about it for too long.
All in all, The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue is something of a forgotten gem. While perhaps not as technically good as its predecessor, as a direct to VHS sequel goes its far above the usual fare and I feel like that deserves to be considered in the final analysis. Not an amazing or ground-breaking film but an emotional and nostalgic trip all the same.
Next week, we will branch into a new subject for me. Up until now, I've tended to avoid discussing video and computer games all that much as I was never much of a gamer. However, the recent nostalgia train that I have been on as brought me to remember several games and other computer software that I did use with great enthusiasm when I was younger. So next up will be a retrospective looking at one of my favorite computer programs of the late 1990s.

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