'Dr. Seuss' The Lorax' has a universal message but doesn't beat the audience over the head with it, says DeVito.
Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, would have been 108-years-old this Friday, March 2nd and in celebration of the event, Universal Pictures is unveiling their latest contribution to the Seussian canon of adaptations: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.
The film boasts an impressive voice cast that includes Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Ed Helms, Betty White and of course, The Lorax himself, Danny DeVito. DeVito was present at a roundtable press event for the film earlier this month and spoke a bit about what drew him to the project, his work translating the film into four languages and the crotchety creature that is The Lorax.
We presented our very Geisel visit to the edit bay of The Lorax as well as our interview with producer Christopher Meledandri back in January. Now let us see what the protector of the trees has to say about this modernized version of a classic tale. And in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, remind ourselves of some of the magic and wisdom of The Lorax.
“It all started back. Such a long, long time back. Way back in the days when the grass was still green, and the pond was still wet, and the clouds were still clean, and the song of the Swomee swans rang out in space. One morning I came to this glorious place.” – The Oncel-er, ‘The Lorax’
The Lorax, the film, is the story of a man (the Once-ler, voiced by Ed Helms) in need of redemption and a boy (Ted, voiced by Zac Efron) seeking to understand the world around him and to win the heart of a girl (Audrey, voiced by Taylor Swift). At its heart, there is a message about respecting our resources and being honest and realistic about their limits – for all of our sakes.
“The wonderful thing about ‘The Lorax’ is that it offers that message to folks,” DeVito said of the film.
“It isn’t like beating them over the head. I found that to be really well done, well mounted and well exhibited. Because the only thing, really, that the Once-ler did wrong besides get greedy with the thneeds (the product the Once-ler is seeking to sell in the tale) was that he didn’t provide for the earth in any other way. And that’s a message that we can take away. It’s not that we can’t be inventive, or think of things to sell, or make or manufacture, but the idea is that if we are going to take the goods from the earth, the supplies and the materials, then we should think about the sustainability of it, the replenishing of it.”
The Lorax: “Sir, you’re crazy. You’re crazy with greed. There’s no one on earth who will buy that fool thneed!”
The Once-ler:” The birth of an industry, you poor, stupid guy! You telling me what the public will buy?” — ‘The Lorax’
“Greed,” DeVito mused about one of the films central themes.
“We operate most of the time based on greed and fear. And that’s the thing, somebody will scare the hell out of us and we’ll follow them anywhere. I’m a big Bruce Springsteen fan and he does a monologue in the middle of one of his songs where he talks about blindly following our leaders. And its true, we all have to be aware, and get involved, and be calling people on stuff because we can’t just say that just because he has the shiny hat and the badge he knows everything.”
DeVito clearly feels passionately about this project, so much so that he was willing to devote several weeks to working with language coaches to personally translate his role in The Lorax into Spanish, Italian, German and Russian so that the spirit of the character would come through no matter which version of the film the viewer experienced it in.
“I set out to speak to the kids in the audience as well as their parents,” DeVito said of his interpretation of the character.
“But I also wanted my fans who know me from other kinds of movies, or other TV shows, like say, ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,’ to think this is like Frank Reynolds doing the Lorax. I felt we captured that idea really well. There’s a cantankerous quality (to the character) that I see in myself. The stuff that I found surprising was that the sweetness kind of worked out too. I felt like the Lorax had a sweetness about him. “
As to the film’s conservationist core, DeVito says he thinks about what he can do towards that end, “all the time.” He drives a 100% electric car (which he makes a rather convincing pitch for), uses 7th generation toilet paper and only cloth napkins at home among other green measures he and his family have taken. “The idea is that it’s a little bit more work, but it pays off in the environment in the end,” DeVito said. “It’s like Dr. Seuss said: unless someone like you…meaning everybody out there, meaning all of us, meaning me…”
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” –‘The Lorax.’
Roth Cornet blogs at Screen Rant.