Opinion: Universal studios bastardizes Dr. Seuss’s ‘The Lorax’

Robert Thomas Young

Robert Thomas Young

Robert Thomas Young is a senior philosophy major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

Dr. Seuss incorporated liberal political ideals as well as morality into his children’s books, which is why he is probably turning in his grave over the fact that “The Lorax” had 70 product placement tie-ins integrated into the movie.

“The Lorax” is a story about how profiteering and consumerism nearly wiped out all the Truffula trees and polluted the environment. Universal Studios can be thanked for its role in whoring out Dr. Seuss’ moral message against greed into a movie steeped in profit and sneaky opportunism.

Universal Studios raised more than $50 million selling product placements to: Seventh Generation, Whole Foods, HP, Mazda, Comcast, DoubleTree by Hilton, Pottery Barn Kids, IHOP and many, many more. While some of these companies could be deemed appropriate to Dr. Seuss’ message of anti-consumerism, it is doubtful that Mazda’s inefficient SUV or IHOP’s artery clogging menu could be construed as anything but an absolute corporate sellout.

This isn’t the first time that Universal has sold out Dr. Seuss to corporate sponsors that he would have deplored. Universal Pictures made “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” into a movie that subliminally sold Oreos and McDonald’s Happy Meals.

“The Cat in the Hat” was made into a movie that featured product placements from Burger King, Pepsi and Hershey’s, all which happen to be companies selling junk food to children. This reinforces the irony of coupling Dr. Seuss’ environmental tale with a gas-guzzling Mazda SUV, and it is a sad bastardization of the original book, first published in 1971.

The gluttonous, environmentally-unfriendly behemoth of a corporation known as IHOP has no place in “The Lorax.” When Dr. Seuss was writing about the ill effects of consumerism and greed, I don’t think he mentioned eating previously frozen food that is deep fried and caked in sugar and enough salt to kill three people.

So, I stand at a paradox. I love Dr. Seuss! I love the rhymes, I love the illustrations, and I especially love the messages of morality. I want my nieces and nephews (and my future children) to enjoy Dr. Seuss through his books and also through movies based on his books. What do I do?

The overall message is still positive. There are more product placement tie-ins from companies such as Seventh Generation, which have my support. It frustrates me that I am forced to choose a slightly tainted version of “The Lorax” or forgo the cinematic experience completely. It’s not what Dr. Seuss intended when he wrote the classic.

Universal Studios and the exploitative opportunists who made the decision to incorporate such extensive product placements in “The Lorax” should be ashamed for contaminating Dr. Seuss’ message with the very consumerism he abhorred.

I’ll end up taking my nieces and nephews to go see the movie in the next couple weeks, and I’ll bite my tongue during the 70 product advertisements which will take place approximately every two minutes! And, I’ll do it because of the significance of the message.

However, I completely understand why Seuss fans across the country are boycotting not only the film, but the many companies that decided to sneakily advertise in this children’s story about greed and pollution. Does anyone else notice that unfettered capitalism has the adverse effect of dirtying and exploiting even the most virtuous concepts?