The Lorax was always my favorite children’s book when I was a kid. The 1971-written story of environmental decay and human blindness was a little darker than the rest of Seuss' work, a little creepier.
If you’ve never read The Lorax, or don’t remember it from childhood, it tells the story of a boy who lives in Sneedville who searches for the Once-ler, a misanthropic one-time capitalist, who alone holds the story of the mythical Lorax. The Once-ler tells the boy the story of the land before it had been logged and smogged out existence—a place of bright trees and lively animals. Back then, the Once-ler fell in love with the Truffula trees, and began cutting them down to make Thneeds to sell throughout the land. The Lorax, begging the Once-ler to stop his environmentally-toxic business practices, sends away the animals that once inhabited the land, until he himself is forced to leave, as well.
Although its been panned by some critics for its dark themes, the gloominess of the book hasn’t turned off generations of readers; rather, its unusually dark illustrations and complicated, step-by-step direction required to meet the Once-ler (15 cents, a nail and the shell of a great, great, great grandfather snail) were so different from Dr. Seuss’ typical tales that made a significant impression on young readers.
The Lorax has certainly remained relevant in the 40 years since Seuss penned it, in no way more apparent than the new The Lorax movie which will be released in American theaters on March 2.
I can’t say that I’m entirely excited about the movie. Although its made by animators with the impressive Despicable Me in their belts, this style is often too slick for personality, impeded with too many cool, video game style gadgets and tricks to imbue the characters with any kind of emotional relevance. Don’t be too quick to say that cartoons can’t have emotion—look at Dr. Seuss' work.
Watching the trailer, the overly-logged land is inhabited by high-tech gadgets and and some technologically-savvy bad guys who try and prevent the boy from leaving Sneedville. The Once-ler’s house is no longer creepy, but instead is kids' movie scary, already chock-full of slapstick comedy treachery for the animated boy. Per usual, The Lorax appears to make use of Hollywood’s penchant for instantaneous happy endings, especially in kids’ movies. They take Seuss’ ambiguously positive ending—the Once-ler giving the boy the very last Truffula seed to plant and possibly rebuild the forest. The movie seems to make ending more concrete than Dr. Seuss thought modern environmental ideology could support.
We’ll see what Hollywood does with this one.