Surely we know our Seuss

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I was surprised when we went in to watch Horton Hears A Who! on Good Friday and found that the title had been truncated to just "Horton".

In fact, if you notice the opening scene of the movie carefully, it looks like they chopped off the "Hears a Who!" from the title animation rather sloppily – there’s a big space where the remaining title text is supposed to be. A simple animation re-render for the studio without requiring too much work or thought.

Now we all know that often, movie distributors rename their movies for international markets, but this was like, totally unnecessary and is actually a bit of an insult to kids who had read Dr Seuss (including yours truly).

There’s a reason why Dr Seuss gave the titles he did to the books – Cat In The Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I Am, Horton Hatches An Egg and so on. The titles are meant to capture attention, evoke child-like wonder and curiosity and tie in to the whole silly (but powerful) rhymes and ditties of his stories.

To shorten the title to Horton assumes several possibilities:

  • Our audience is too stupid for the original title.
  • Dr Seuss’ original title is not appealing enough to a wide and unfamiliar audience
  • It’s easier to market a two-syllable title for kids (Come on, one of my first movies was Return Of The Jedi)

So there.

And how does the movie stack up?

Well, the book is still better. The movie takes a bit too much liberties with the storyline – for example the Sour Kangaroo and her kid were both equally snobbish, but not so in the movie.

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The Wickersham Brothers (a bunch of unruly apes) are way crazier in the book and a lot more fun to look at in still art rather than live animation.

On the upside, Whoville has been well-realized, following the spirit of Seuss. I liked the extra anime portions who harked back to old animated versions of Seuss books and a take on Samurai Jack (everyone seems to do that, even Duck Dodgers).

Also, the overall animation quality is excellent – few people would notice it but the textures used on Horton and the other creatures are incredible in detail and subtlety, yet never seem jarring.

Horton Hears A Who! has rescued the Seuss canon from the horrid live-action outings of Mike Myers (Cat In The Hat) and Jim Carrey (Grinch). But although it is a very good movie, I wouldn’t watch it again and would reach out for the book instead.

Movie rating: 8/10

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