Finally one of these The Cat in the Hat DVDs with some juicier substance. The other all seem to contain either a minor league redeeming message or a just a plain old fashioned fun story. This is not the case with The Lorax. Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) hammers the point home here from an Addams-like landscape of twisted roots and dying trees.
It seems the Lorax is a small creature joyously living among the bizarre trees of its personal wilderness. It happily shares the region with various other critters, until the Onceler turns up and starts knocking down the trees to make Thneeds. These are crazy clothing items that can become anything the owner desires. Naturally the things are a huge craze and before long a factory is growing while the trees are disappearing. Soon the air is polluted, the forest is gone and the animals start to follow it. The last to go is the poor old Lorax, who ‘speaks for the trees who can’t speak for themselves’. Only after he has gone does the Onceler realise his great mistake…
Sure, it’s pretty blunt, but if that’s what it takes, then I’m okay with that. It’s certainly darker than many of the other throwaway tales of fun and mayhem delivered in the series. There are even subtle digs at advertising and compulsive shopping, all wrapped up in a huge anti-consumerist bow. Who knew Dr. Seuss could go so deep?
The other tale herein runs as long as this first one, but is nowhere near as interesting. Pontoffel Pock is a loser. He is granted a magic piano (?!) which he can command to take him anywhere, and after destroying his uncle’s pickling works, he does so, travelling the world with abandon. Along the way he learns the value of himself and his true worth and blah blah blah… we’ve heard it all before.
The video transfer has been accomplished fairly decently for cartoons of this age. Made in 1972, the lines are rather crisp although the colour palette in Pontoffel gets a little oversaturated occasionally. This is a much brighter affair than The Lorax and levels are just slightly out of whack. However, everything looks fine in this 4:3 transfer, and while there are occasionally artefacts and cel jitter, this is to be expected of a show this old. I think it still looks pretty good.
Audio wise we have nothing but the usual Dolby Digital stereo and this delivers every grating, nerve-jangling chirpy song of the period just fine. Really, these songs should be in a museum somewhere, they are like time capsules. Then the museum should be razed to the ground.
Dialogue is naturally overstated and exasperated, suiting the characters perfectly with the only trouble lying in understanding some of the more garbled made-up words. I’ve got nothing against made-up words; anyone who reads my reviews would know that, but they should be presented clear enough so kids can at least form the word themselves and know it’s a made up one. There’s also a bloody awful voiceover in Pontoffel that seems almost amateurish for a cartoon of this stature. What I mean by that is, it’s way below par compared to the other voice talent utilised.
The only extras we receive here come in the form of a karaoke song from each of the two features. These are in the usual manner of a karaoke song and each runs for just under a minute. How generous. There are also skip-to-a-song links on the main menu.
If you’re collecting the series, I’d say this one is the best story so far and the darkest (which is what makes it so much better – kids love a dark path through the woods…). The extras are again fairly weak, torturing any adults in the vicinity should the kids decide to burst into song.
I don’t think 50 minutes of animation, particularly animation so steeped in the time it was made, represents that good a value for the price they’re asking, but die hard fans of Dr. Seuss will no doubt think it great. Historians and collectors of old school animation will find this time capsule a real ear-jangling treat, but I’ve seen a lot of animation and I feel the books hold more mystery and therefore more appeal for any individual child in question. Worth a rent first if the opportunity arises.