Making the Grades
Twelve-year-old Ted (voice of Zac Efron) lives on a perfectly manicured street lined with blow-up bushes, battery-operated trees and plastic flowers that never fade. Typical of many tween boys, he’s wildly infatuated with the high school girl that lives in the neighborhood. Like any guy overcome with adolescent yearning, he’s willing to do almost anything to win her affection.
In this case, what Audrey (voice of Taylor Swift) wants more than anything is to see a real tree.
Sneaking outside the shield of Thneed-Ville’s city walls, Ted rides his motorized bike through a stinky, decimated, stump-strewn landscape until he comes to the home of the Once-ler (voice by Ed Helms). Coaxing information out of the hermit with a payment of “15 cents, a nail and the shell of a great, great, great grandfather snail”, Ted discovers the disturbing truth behind the disappearance of the colorful, cotton candy-shaped Truffula tress.
Setting out to make his fortune, The Once-ler had big dreams. But he was no Johnny Appleseed. Instead he allowed himself to be overcome by ambition. And while he cut down the forest in the name of progress, the mysterious Lorax (voice by Danny DeVito), guardian of the trees, stood by needling the boy’s conscience with a mournful look.
Fueling kids’ films with an environmental message isn’t bad. Hopefully if anything, it will inspire the next generation to solve today’s problems. But settling for oversimplified, polarizing answers is unfair. “Plant a tree, save the world” likely won’t cut it when it comes to developing environmentally sustainable solutions for the future.
On the other hand, while the message often feels heavy-handed (and may be as controversial as the book was when it released in 1971), the filmmakers have festooned this tale with stunning 3D animation, idyllic forest creatures and enough side jokes to entertain most kids and adults. And though Dr. Seuss’ gloomy fable of the Lorax falls far short of providing any balanced, real world remedies, with any luck it may encourage families to talk about steps they can personally take to curb their own consumerism and preserve nature in their own backyards.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.
The film targets big business as the villain but what role do consumers play? Would the Once-ler’s factory have grown so big if people weren’t demanding his product? How can individuals encourage more environmentally sound business practices among suppliers?
Does the Lorax ever offer suggestions or ideas for compromise? Is he too passive to be a true guardian of the forest? What are positive things he could have done to encourage the Once-ler to employ sustainable policies? How do logging practices depicted in this movie compare with today? Terri Birkett, an active member of the hardwood flooring industry, wrote a children’s book in the style of Dr. Seuss entitled Truax to tell the story from that industry’s perspective.
In a February 8, 2012 press release, Universal Studios unveiled a number of businesses and organizations it is partnering with in the production of the movie. Do you think this is a positive green initiative from a large corporation like Universal? What, if any, effect do you think this might have on improving the environment? What kind of waste is generated by the movie business? Are there any ways theaters could lessen the amount of garbage produced?
To learn more about Theodor Seuss Geisel (the man who took on the pen-name Dr. Seuss), and discover interesting facts about the children’s books he created, check this website: http://www.seussville.com