"The Brave Little Toaster"

image via
Fear: An Imaginary Portrait of the Creative Team Behind The Brave Little Toaster

Visionary #1: You know what I've always wanted to do?  Make a film that really forces an encounter with the shadow archetype in a Jungian sense--something that so terrifying that it could provoke an increased fear response, perhaps even triggering a phobia, outside the normative ontogenetic parade.

Visionary #2: Oh, sure.  So, a Disney children's film, then?

V1: Of course.  But kids are so jaded these days--what's left that would scare them?

V2: How about a horribly deformed toy

V1: That's a good start.  For maximum horror impact, I'm thinking a creepy doll-- no, just its head!  And it has a missing eye!  And the body of a mechanical spider!  And it's alive!

V2: We could call it "Spider Baby!"

V1: Ah, no, that's no good; toys come to life has been done before.  We need something even more uncanny.  How about household appliances come to life?

V2: The marketing team won't like that.  What kind of character would they use to promote the movie, a desk lamp?

V1: It's so crazy, it just might work!  Plus, can you imagine the retail opportunities?  Kids begging their parents to buy them vacuum cleaners, refusing to go to sleep unless they can cuddle their clock radios, playing in the bath with their toasters...

V2: Well, maybe not that last one.  So what else are kids afraid of?  Lightning?

V1: Done!  Let's fry a protagonist with it.

V2: How about fear of death?

V1: Yes!  I'll add in some near-misses with drowning, quicksand, vivisection, and then for the grand finale... a car crusher!

V2: Gosh, that's a little drastic, isn't it?

V1: Not at all!  Here, I'll have a car go into the crusher on purpose, just to show it's no biggie.  Automotive suicide!  Now there's a phobia I bet they haven't included in the DSM yet.  It's still lacking something though, something universally terrifying, something so sinister their sheets won't be dry for weeks...

V2: Um... an evil clown?

V1: Perfect!

Lesson learned:

The Brave Little Toaster.  Dir. Jerry Rees.  Perf. Deanna Oliver, Jon Lovitz, Tim Stack.  Hyperion, 1987.
Buy The Brave Little Toaster DVD


Tinny tune adventures

image via
One of the things I've discovered as a parent is that kids' stuff tends to play music--and I use that term loosely.  Whether it's a mutant stuffed animal or an infant swing, you can bet that if you turn a knob, squeeze it, jiggle its foot, or whatever, it's going to have the capacity to play a tinny MIDI tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It" or "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" ad infinitum, and you're soon going to start hearing these ditties on a loop in your sleep, maybe even accompanied by dreams that you're driving an ice cream truck... to Hell. 

I feel like the makers of these toys are perhaps conducting some kind of covert psychological testing on new parents--something like the Stanford Prison Experiment, where the prisoner-parents cease to remember who they are or why they're there, knowing only that they are hearing "It's a Small World After All" for the five hundredth time and maybe even starting to think they like it.  It seems the folks over at Sterling Cooper Fisher Price have become masters of the earworm, selecting only songs more insidiously catchy than "Chili's Baby Back Ribs" and more inane than "MacArthur Park."  And while I've already explored the beautiful dark twisted fantasy that is "Rock-a-Bye Baby," I'd be remiss not to mention a few other favorite toddler tunes that have some pretty messed-up messages.

"Alouette"--All about plucking the feathers off a poor lark (Big Bird?), body part by body part.  Second only to "Baby Bumblebee" as the theme song of animal torture aficionados and future serial killers.

"Oh My Darling Clementine"--A miner's girlfriend tragically drowns so he consoles himself by getting busy with her little sister instead.  With its incestuous overtones, a favorite folksong in West Virginia.

"Hush, Little Baby"--Don't say a word.  Because I'm going to buy you a series of inappropriate and ill-thought-out gifts, and when they all inevitably break, or die, I'll throw more money at the problem in hopes that you'll love me.  The ballad of the absentee father?

Lesson learned:
Cheer up!  At least there are "cigarette trees" to look forward to in "The Big Rock Candy Mountain," so it's not all bad.  (Well, until you're "buggered sore," that is...)

Buy 100 Singalong Songs for Kids CD