The works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, have inspired many children for years and years. However, what sets his books apart from other children’s books is the subtle commentary on many current events. Political views aside, Hollywood knows a cash-cow when they see it.
Geisel was very reluctant to have his characters featured in anything other than his own books, but allowed for the production of animated shorts. He was familiar with the art form due to his time as commander of the animation department of the First Motion Picture Unit for the United States Army during World War II.
The first book to be adapted was Horton Hatches the Egg, produced in 1942 by Warner Bros. and released as part of the Looney Tunes series. As a result, a lot of gags were added that were typical Merrie Melodies fare.
The next adaptation came in 1966, when Chuck Jones got permission to produce the now classic animated short, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The success allowed Jones to produce two more adaptations, with Horton Hears a Who! in 1970 and The Cat in the Hat in 1971.
From 1972 to 1983, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises produced six animated shorts that were all written by Geisel, with several of them being nominated and winning multiple Emmy awards. The shorts include an adaptation of The Lorax and Pontoffel Pock, Where are You?
The last book to be adapted before Geisel’s death in 1991 was The Butter Battle Book, the animation being directed by Ralph Bakshi, best known for his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Geisel stated that the special was “the most faithful adaptation of his work.”
After Geisel’s death, his widow Audrey Geisel was put in charge of all licensing of the Dr. Seuss stories and characters. allowing for the approval of the first live action adaptation of his books, The Grinch, starring Jim Carrey. However, the straw that broke the back of the gold-bearing camel was the live action adaptation of The Cat in the Hat, with Geisel’s widow open with her disapproval of the film, most notably with the casting choice of Mike Myers as the title role.
Due to the widespread panning of The Cat in the Hat, Audrey Geisel stated that there would be no more live action adaptations of her late husband’s books, leading to the current situation regarding his books.
Blue Sky Studios, the studio behind the Ice Age franchise, got lucky when they got permission to produce their adaptation of Horton Hears a Who! The success of the film has allowed for the production of The Lorax and there are no doubt more adaptations on the horizon.
The legacy of Dr. Seuss is undeniable. While the adaptations of his books range from classic to crappy, those characters will always be there to entertain the kid in all of us.
Next Week: The cinematic forays of the pulp magazine.