Recently I’ve been buying copies of more obscure but memorable cartoons that were on TV when I was a kid – The Last Unicorn, Flight of Dragons, Little Nemo, and the like. These are shards of my youth that I’d like to share with my offspring someday; if for nothing else to show them how good handdrawn animations used to be.
Last week I got around to rewatching one that I picked up last Christmas – the Brave Little Toaster. BLT occupies an interesting space in the Disney universe. It was based on a book and created independently, and received a very limited theatrical release. Disney picked up the rights for TV and home video, the two media where the film achieved a degree of success. Incidentally, many of the animators went on to found Pixar, and BLT was the first animation, I believe, to include the mysterious “A113” Easter egg.
BLT’s story focuses on a group of appliances who have been abandoned when a family moved away, and have been waiting for years for their young master to return. After some deliberation, they decide to leave their countryside home and seek him out in the city.
Because it wasn’t created by Disney, the movie explored a much wider and darker range of themes than Disney IPs. The joy of being loved was contrasted with the fear of being abandoned and the feeling of worthlessness. This was reflected in the soundtrack, which was written by composer David Newman, and was actually aimed at not sounding too cartoony. Another aside – Newman has scored many movies over the years, a number of which are quite recognizable, including the Bill and Ted movies, the Sandlot, Galaxy Quest, and Ice Age.
The songs aren’t for everyone; my girlfriend wasn’t a big fan. I think the creators achieved their goal in writing a soundtrack that wouldn’t typically be applied to a cartoon. Still, for that reason I’m quite fond of it. A lot of the tracks are catchy and have a degree of depth that you might not find in Disney songs. Below is the film’s last song, set in the climactic junkyard scene. The appliances have been doublecrossed by their master’s newer, high tech gadgets and carted off to be disposed of. As they try to avoid being tossed into the crusher, we see various old cars, now deemed “worthless,” being destroyed after briefly telling us about their lives. Doesn’t get a whole lot darker.