Left with vague memories, I bought a VHS copy at a thrift store not too long ago. I tried to coax my youngest brother to watch it later that night to no avail. So, wrapped in my blankets and thoughts, I sat in my darkened living room and watched with curiousity.
It’s based off of a short story that was later turned into a book; I’m as surprised as you are. Our main characters are Toaster (a toaster), Blanky (an electric blanket), Radio (a radio), Lampy (a lamp), and Kirby (a vacuum cleaner). Is it me, or are things that behave like vacuum cleaners destined to be named Kirby? You have the character here, the line of Kirby vacuum cleaners in real life (one in our house), and the video game character Kirby, who uses vacuum cleaner powers.
We start off in a cabin in the woods (no, not that one). It’s another ordinary morning of doing chores and cleaning the house for the umpteenth day in a row. But the blanket hears a car off in the distance. It must be the Master, coming again to collect his favorite things. Nope, false alarm; it’s a real estate person coming to nail a sign in the ground that says that the cabin is up for sale. This leads to our first dark moment as the AC unit commits suicide by swallowing curtains.
It’s a road trip on a swivel chair as they venture out beyond the cabin. Here we witness Lampy electrocuted (and revived) for the good of the crew as he tries to restore power to a car battery in a rainstorm, Kirby suffering a mental breakdown as he tries to swallow his cord before crossing a waterfall, and Toaster experiencing a nightmare with the firefighting clown and an army of forks before falling off a high wire into a full bathtub. Once they reach The City, they end up in a used appliance store where a musical number is staged as Frankensteined gadgets awaken and sing about there’s no hope for them.
The Master, ready for college, leaves his apartment to go back to the cabin in the woods to get his favorite things. The crew, in turn, enters his apartment where the modern appliances sing about how they should be going to college and not the crew; second verse, same as the first, almost.
The evil modern things throw the crew into the garbage as they go to a junkyard. I’ll give you one guess as to what happens there. What’s that, you say? They sing about how worthless they are and how there’s no hope? Someone give this reader a prize! But look who comes to save the day! It’s The Master, nearly killed when rescuing his appliances. The day is saved and they all go to college and live happily ever after.
So, what’s the fuss? Most of what I could find online is that my generation brings this up now and again because the question is asked “How was I not traumatized as a kid by this bizarre thing?” That and some memes. During the film’s festival run, it was at Sundance and was almost considered the best film according to some judges. The problem was was that some people wouldn’t take the festival seriously after that (you think?). Some of the people behind it would go on to make Pixar a household name years later. A113 even makes an appearance as the apartment number.
The message that I got was that if people or machines constantly tell you you’re worthless, you’re not. At least that’s what I got out of it. I should warn you that this is in line for a live-action/animated hybrid remake. Whenever, if ever, it’s released, will kids even get that it’s a remake instead of some “original” material that would be infused with today’s sense of “humor”? It seems like a worthless disaster waiting to happen. The only thing that could be worse is if they stuck to the original movie, darkness and everything, and made it 3D. Sleep well kiddies.