“The Lorax” Is a Children’s Horror Movie

By: Phoenix Robertson

Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Lorax

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees” is the famous opening line from Dr. Seuss’ book The Lorax and its movie adaptation. While the book was originally published in 1971, the movie was released in 2012 with a star cast of Danny DeVito as the voice of the Lorax, Betty White as Grammy Norma, and Taylor Swift as the voice of Audrey. The original story of The Lorax is that of a greedy man, called the Oncler, who used all the trees in the land to create a product called thneeds. Due to the high demand of thneeds, he began to mass produce them, paying no mind to the horrific repercussions that the environment was facing. The film portrays the same story, but in a much more gruesome way. The Lorax film adaptation shows the horrors of capitalism, environmental destruction,animal abuse, and the corruption of the world we live in. If this film wasn’t full of bright colors, walking fish, and childish rhymes with the Doctor Seuss label slapped on top, it wouldn’t be a children’s movie. The Lorax is not unique in this aspect, as many of Dr. Seuss’ works have discussed difficult topics that one would not expect from a children’s book or movie. These topics included war, anti-authoritarianism, and inequality between different groups of people. 

The horror film genre is very broad and contains many types of horror. These types include paranormal, slasher, zombie, and gore. Due to the PG rating of The Lorax, viewers are spared from the potentially gorey reality that this film could be translated into, but not from the natural horror of the film. Natural horror is a subgenre of the horror genre where the film centers around nature, including plants and animals, as the object of horror. In my opinion, The Lorax qualifies as a type of natural horror film because of the way that the animals in the film are abused and then turn against each other in a violent manner. The humans in the film do the same thing, but not as violently. In this article, I will explain my top three reasons why The Lorax is a horror movie for children and a window into the future of the human race. 

3. Everybody needs a thneed! Or do they?

One important aspect of The Lorax is how it showcases the problematic nature of human consumerism. The popular item in this film was the thneed, an item made by the Once-ler. Made from the fluff of the Truffula tree, the thneed is, as was said by the Once-ler, “A-fine-something-that-all-people need”. Do you need a sock? Use your thneed. Need an umbrella to shield you from the rain? Have a thneed. By not having the thneed take on any one form or purpose, the film allows this product to be related to any mass-produced item that humans buy for the sake of owning something. Since the item is a fictional object, the viewer is given the opportunity to think to themselves, “I don’t need a thneed… why would anyone need such a useless item?”. However, the thneed is only a fictional symbol for the way people in the real world buy items aimlessly. In the real world, people fill their lives with meaningless items, not unlike the thneeds in Seuss’ world. The character of the Lorax serves as the voice of the trees that are being abused to create this product. When translated to the real world, the Lorax is the voice of many people and things. The Lorax is the voice of the environment that humans kill everyday to create things such as plastics and harmful dyes. The Lorax is the voice of the animals that many products are tested on, regardless of the effects they could have. The Lorax is the voice of the people that are shortchanged and harmed for the profit of multi-million dollar corporations. The scariest horror movies are the films that could actually happen. The horrors of The Lorax are happening right now. 

2. If you don’t pay attention, then it isn’t there. 

This was the logic of the manipulated people of Thneed-Ville, the town in The Lorax. Thneed-Ville depended on Aloysius O’Hare, the owner of O’Hare Air, which produces all of the air for Thneed-Ville. The townspeople had been manipulated and trained by the O’Hare corporation to believe that they needed packaged air to live and could not let trees grow and produce air naturally. This demonstrates the petrifying way the large corporations or companies can control the minds of the masses with successful marketing ploys. This connects to the psychological horror genre because of the near mind control aspect of the film. People in the non-film world are controlled in a similar fashion by technology and the false idea created by many companies that you must continue to buy things you don’t need to survive. In the case of the movie, this unnecessarily bought item was the air from O’Hare Air, as the people of Thneed-Ville could have allowed the trees to grow and produce air. 

1. How bad can you be? 

“How Bad Can I Be?” is easily one of the best songs from The Lorax, and it is also a key example of the film’s horror origins. This song describes the growth of the Once-ler’s company and the creation of the thneed. In this song, the Once-ler shows the behind the scenes of how he became incredibly rich. He was able to “bigger”, as was repeated many times in the song, his company and profits by exploiting the trees from which the thneeds were made and by hiring lawyers to deny his company’s impact on the environment. What makes the Once-ler truly ignoble is his ignoring of the negative impact he has on the world. In the song he specifically states “who cares if a few trees are dying?”. The camera angles and dark colors used in the animation of these scenes are very reminiscent of those of a horror movie. The use of low angle shots in this portion of the film demonstrates how strong and powerful the Once-ler has become. These shots are also used in horror films to project the same message. The change in the color scheme of the animation, from bright colors to dark colors, represents the corruption that the Once-ler caused. Horror film villains are also typically depicted in dark colors, as they often represent fear, gore and despair. To answer the Once-ler’s repeated question of “how bad can I be?”, I say that he is as malevolent as a PG villain could have been. 
While The Lorax is very different from what one would traditionally expect for both a children’s film and a horror film, it is difficult to sort it into just one category due to the fact that the film tackles ideas in a manner reminiscent of a horror movie–but in a way appropriate for children. I think that the film adaptation of The Lorax does a satisfactory job of taking the message of the original book and changing it into a format that is more modern for fans and first-time viewers alike. If you would like to watch The Lorax for yourself and make your own judgment, you can view it on the Peacock website or app with a subscription, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV or Google Play Movies.

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