THNEEDVILLE IS A happy town – with a sinister underbelly. Its inhabitants delight in the amazing artificial landscape, where the manmade trees are illuminated in different shades for summer, autumn, winter… and disco mode, even though they literally have to buy the air – O’Hare Air – they breathe in bottles. One young girl, Audrey (voiced by Taylor Swift) dreams about having a real tree “that smells like butterfly milk”, and young Ted, the boy next door with a megacrush (Zac Ephron), sets off to find one for her. With a tip-off from his grandma, his odyssey leads him beyond the gates of Thneedville to a desolate baron land, home to Once-ler, who tells his sorry tale.
Once a boy with bold ambitions, the Once-ler left his faithless family to make his fortune, falling upon a merry forest of fluffy-haired trees and animals from singing fish to ambling bears, living at one with nature. With success depending on the yarn made from the trees, the quickest way to harvest is to chop down all the trees. The Once-ler becomes wealthy beyond his dreams, with his invention of the Thneed (the sort of multi-functional scarf-cum-hat-cum-anything that you might see on QVC) but at what cost? The beautiful forest, and all its innocent animal dwellers.
During all of this, the bushy moustached Lorax (Danny DeVito) is the Once-ler’s conscience, urging him to do the right thing but to no avail. As a result, Thneedville is turned into a fake town, where O’Hare (a dimunitive tyrant, with a fringed bob hairdo reminiscent of Daisy from Eat Your Peas meets Edna Mode from The Incredibles) reigns supreme. Meanwhile, the Once-ler, now a hermit, has become is left to lament his crimes, “unless…”
The cryptic word is engraved as a farewell message from the Lorax, and it is Ted’s destiny to find out what he must do.
With a strong anti-capitalist environmental message (Dr Seuss penned the book in 1971, the year Greenpeace came into being) the final call to action is still valid: "UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. Sad to say, but, it's not.”
WHEN IT COMES to penning moral fables, Dr Seuss is right up there with Aesop, only he manages to throw in some gloriously quirky creations, gloriously eccentric characters and brilliant rhyming words too. This vibrant and colourful retelling, more Horten Hears A Who than The Cat In The Hat (which is a good thing), also has a soaring soundtrack of big song and dance numbers – it’s like a West End musical waiting to happen.