In a 2010 interview at Cal State, Northridge, Deanna Oliver revealed that at her son's deployment ceremony to Afghanistan, some of the soldiers who were fans of the film had brought their toasters with them for her to autograph.
Art-house distributor Skouras Pictures was in the process of buying the film for a potential theatrical release in America sometime after its Sundance premiere, though the Disney Channel planned a television debut for February 1988. Faced with the prospect of having the film released simultaneously in theaters and television, Skouras dropped the deal.
During pre-production, Jon Lovitz was cast in Saturday Night Live (1975). Jerry Rees, who had been writing the character of Radio with Lovitz in mind, pleaded with him to stay in Los Angeles long enough to record his voice tracks. Lovitz agreed, despite protestations from his agency. Rees quickly finished the screenplay and hustled Lovitz into the recording studio. Lovitz's entire performance was then captured in one, marathon session.
Halfway through filming, Donald Kushner thought that the nightmare scene should be cut from the film; due to the clown being extremely frightening to younger children. He also stated that the junkyard scene "Worthless" should be cut from the film too, due to one of the cars driving into a crusher on purpose, using a suicide reference. For unknown reasons, the scenes were left in the film.
Was originally in development at Disney, with John Lasseter set to direct. Lasseter planned to use a combination of traditional hand-drawn animation and computer generated imagery for the characters, making it the first animated feature to attempt it. Executives, however, lost interest when they found that the film would not have been any less expensive with computer animation (they were only interested in CGI as a cost-cutting measure) and pulled the plug on the ambitious project. Lasseter was fired by Disney and then co-founded Pixar, while the rest of the team took the film outside and managed to produce it independently (without any computer animation). The completed film was eventually bought by Disney, shown on the Disney Channel and became a cult hit. As for the animators, many of them eventually returned to Disney to work on such films as Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), as well as some of Pixar's early feature films.
When Blanky imagines the Master arriving home, there is a brief shot of him floating down the stairs. Behind him on the wall are four paintings, each representing the functions of the other four appliances: a candle (Lampy), a radio (Radio), bread on a stick over a fire (Toaster), and a broom (Kirby).
The hanging lamp (voiced by Phil Hartman) is based on Peter Lorre in both voice and appearance. The Air Conditioner, also voiced by Hartman, is based on the voice and intense acting style of Jack Nicholson.
The film was a smash hit at the Sundance Film Festival, but failed to find a distributor. That same year, it aired on the Disney Channel and then appeared in the Park City Film Festival, before finally having a brief theatrical release at New York's Film Forum in May 1989, but still failed to find a distributor. It was actually shown in parts at various theaters as a serial from week to week, and in 1991, it was distributed on video. In October 2003, it finally had a DVD release alongside its two sequels.
According to Jerry Rees, very few prints of the film were made for exhibition due limited funding. The print that Disney ultimately used for home video release is believed by Rees to be one that extensively toured the festival circuit, due to his recollection from each screening of noticing the picture frame "wobble" very early in the film. On the other hand, Prim Leisure's DVD in the UK (as well as Disney's 1991 laserdisc release) uses a fresh transfer from an international print.
In the scene where the TV tries to convince the Master to go to Ernie's disposal, there is a shot of the character pulling paper out of a filing cabinet. One of the sheets of paper has a near-topless woman (with stars covering her nipples) on it.
According to director Jerry Rees, the film was originally intended to run about 20 minutes longer, but the producers wanted it cut down to 90 minutes. The scenes in question were voiced and storyboarded, but never animated.
The German and Serbian dubbed versions of the film swap the genders of two main characters: Toaster is voiced by a man, and Lampy is voiced by a woman. Lampy is also made a female in the Polish, Czech VHS, and Brazilian Portuguese dubs, while the Finnish and Argentinian Spanish versions have Toaster voiced by a man. While most countries have Blanky voiced by a woman, a male actor voices him in the Hungarian and Serbian dubs.
Deanna Oliver came in for a day's work of ADR after recording her lines, she only ended up recording a two-second take of her inhaling and exhaling for the scene where Toaster runs through a field while being chased by forest animals.
The address of the apartment building of Rob (The Master) and his mother in the movie is 2470 McBean Parkway. This is a tip of the hat to CalArts (24700 McBean Parkway), where director Jerry Rees studied animation. Their apartment number is A113, which is also a room number of a classroom used by animation students at CalArt, the Alma mater of John Lasseter. A113 also shows up in other Disney and Pixar films.
When the appliances get picked up by the appliance store owner, they all start singing a song about how scary their lives are, and one appliance that looks to be a can opener with several other functions is based on Joan Rivers.
This film is considered by many to be the prototypical Pixar film. Many of Pixar's most important members, including Joe Ranft and John Lasseter, were involved with The Brave Little Toaster's production. It also contains tropes that have become common in Pixar films: objects with human-like qualities, a long journey that changes the characters, and dark adult themes hidden in the guise of a children's film. Even the famous code A113, which is seen in all of Pixar's films, appears as the Master's apartment number.