It’s always a touchy business, taking a revered children’s book and bringing it to the screen in full 3-D. When it’s a story as stylized and personal to its author as The Lorax is, just suggesting the attempt can border on hubris. But in the case of this particular story, producer Chris Meledandri says the idea wasn’t theirs to begin with. “The genesis of the decision to do The Lorax as the follow-up to Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! actually came from [Seuss’ widow] Audrey Geisel,” he recalls of the conversation. “We had talked about wanting to do another film together, and she came to me and said, ‘This is the one that I want to do.’ She explained that it had been Ted Geisel’s favorite book, and it had been dedicated to her. She felt this underlying love for the book, as well as a relevance to what the story was about.”
The environmentally themed film, which features Danny DeVito as the voice of the Lorax, the mustached wee wise one who speaks for the trees, and Ed Helms as The Once-ler, the enigmatic character responsible for the disappearance of the Truffala trees, also stars the voice talents of Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Betty White. Needless to say, it’s a much longer story that involves more principal characters than the book, which was a chief concern to Meledandri and his colleagues as they considered its treatment onscreen.
“You want to stay true to the material and honor it, but you must expand it and make it into something that works in a 90-minute movie, something very different from a children’s book,” director Chris Renaud says. “You have to decide how to not only take these iconic images and words and turn them into a movie, but how to expand that book’s world.”
Among the most pleased with the expansion of the story and the final result is Geisel herself. “The Lorax is one of the most important books that Ted wrote, and it is one of my favorites,” Seuss’ widow reflects. “This film celebrates the book in such a beautiful and inspiring way. I think Ted would be quite proud.”
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is available starting Aug. 21 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
Photo: © 2012 Universal Pictures Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment