My wife and I love re-watching movies we loved as kids. Some we still love for the nostalgia or the movie itself holds up well to the test of time. Others can be a train wreck, and we will look at each other and ask “why did we ever think this was any good?” The Sword in the Stone is a perfect example of the latter. As soon as that movie hit the top of our Netflix queue we could not wait to see it. Then came the time when we couldn’t wait for it to end. It was primitive and boring. The other night we finally got our hands on the 1987 production of the animated feature The Brave Little Toaster (TBLT). This gem of a movie was regular watching for my brother and me when we were little.
The basic premise is that five appliances that were used by a boy during his childhood set out on an adventure to find their Master. During the course of the movie the five appliances go through trials and tribulations on their way finally to be reunited with the one whom they loved. While it may sound hokey, it is a precursor to the Toy Story films and is very similar in execution. A portion of the Pixar Animation Studios employees worked on TBLT before Toy Story was even in development.
While watching TBLT I started noticing some things that almost seemed like they were pulled straight from the Bible. The author of the original novel, Thomas Disch, received his first formal education at a Catholic school, and what he learned there may have contributed to the themes throughout TBLT even though later in life he wrote scathing criticisms of the Catholic Church. We can’t escape God’s world even when we reject it.
Eric’s article “The Sacred Cow of God’s Love” reminds
us how important it is to read God’s Word critically, that is, to have it criticize our thinking, instead of letting our ideas govern the meaning of the text. Sure we can read the Bible and see that it is teaching us something, but until we pull ourselves out of our own thoughts and dwell upon God’s we will never see what God says. The same can be done with all areas of our life. There is much to be learned from everything around us. There is rebellion and decay along with the regeneration and life that comes through Christ. When my wife and I watch movies we try to see it through God’s eyes. This approach gives us a completely new level of enjoyment and sometimes disgust when we watch movies. This is a blessing for those of you with children. A family-friendly film can be completely anti-God and should not be shown to children who lack discernment. Likewise a film rated for an older audience can be shown to young minds when the message can be used as a teaching tool. I am not condoning a free-for-all when it comes to movies, and I don’t want anyone to accuse me of saying we should show R-rated films to a 5 year-old just because there is a glimmer of redemption in it. Brian Godawa’s book Hollywood Worldviews is a good place to start.
This brings me back to TBLT. From a surface watching it is a lighthearted yet sometimes dark film about struggling through a difficult journey on the way to happiness. It will keep the children entertained and the parents happy. I would like to present a new way to watch the film using a biblical model.
The most striking biblical theme occurs at the beginning of the movie after the appliances have awakened from their nightly slumber. Who knew appliances need their sleep too? There is only one task worth completing in their Master’s absence; preparing the Master’s home for his eventual return. “Kirby,” the vacuum cleaner, (Thurl Ravenscroft: the voice of Tony the Tiger) states that they must do what they have done for the past 2000 days—chores! Can we equate the 2000 days with the 2000 since Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost? Their daily routine
is to take dominion within the domain their Master has placed them in. Christians have been placed in this world to exercise servanthood dominion over the domain that God has entrusted us with.
At first I thought this was a ploy by the filmmakers to include a “do your chores because it’s fun” scene for the children. Sure, that may be the intention, and it is appreciated by adults, but they went above and beyond by including the attitude of pleasing their Master. Doing chores aren’t fun because the appliances like doing chores. They did the chores and enjoyed them because they wanted to please the Master they loved. Christians need to remind themselves of this attitude. We take dominion and do what God commands because we love Him (John 14:15).
From the viewpoint of the appliances the Master is the divine figurehead. He is the giver of life and health. When “Lamp’s” bulb goes out Master gives him a new one. When “Air Conditioner” overheats Master fixes him. The appliances know no love without him. He is the center of their being and without him they can fulfill no good purpose. The entire film is based around the appliances journey to be reunited with their Master so they can please him.
“Toaster” is the main character who leads the group of appliances through their journey. She (I always thought it was a boy until I found out “Toaster” is voiced by a woman) is always at the forefront of the group and is willing to risk both “life and limb” for the others. They must press on and persevere until the end no matter how bad things get.
Towards the end of the movie there is a scene when all of the appliances are stuck with the Master on a conveyor belt about to be smashed by a waste compactor. “Toaster” is faced with only two choices, and ultimately only one is the right choice. She can choose to deny her Master and not save them and face a life without happiness and one of despair by being separated from her Master or she can give her life for him. Ultimately, his life is more important than hers. Toaster leaps into the cogs and gears of the compressor and is destroyed. She is dead.
The viewer knows that can’t be the end. Lo and behold, Master has resurrected her by repairing her into a new creation and brought her into a new world (a dorm room) where she and the other appliances, now reunited with old friends of times past, can find a new purpose in life.
This is a Child’s Movie?!
When we bring God’s world to the forefront and realize that God is the true and real order of life we can see Him in everything. God’s creation isn’t limited to the things He created in those six creation days. Everything that extends out from that is His creation. Apart from God our world can’t exist.
The examples I have outlined from this 90-minute child’s film are quite few compared to the plethora of examples I could have used. This article started off as an idea to compare Pilgrim’s Progress to TBLT (It’s all in there. Trust me). I decided that would be too much for an article and that the main themes of dominion and sacrifice are a great starting point for those unfamiliar with the film and with looking at God’s creation in this way.
I challenge you to view God’s entire creation with a critical mind and to see His workings in all things. We can’t do anything apart from the One Who created us and the unbeliever must always borrow from God’s order to “create” anything, even in his rebellion.