There are always a few off-putting moments when you see how a classic children's book has been reimagined for modern cinema. In Dr. Suess's The Lorax, for instance, I didn't quite imagine the Lorax speaking in Danny Devito's voice. I didn't hear catchy songs in my head when I read the book. Most of all, I didn't dream of all the merchandise and brand tie-ins that could be hypocritically linked what was once, at essence, a story about reducing consumption and promoting conservation.
Today is The Lorax's release date, and if you've seen a handful of movie promotions from Universal Studios over the last few weeks, ohhhh boy. You don't know the half of it.
I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues, And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs" – He was very upset as he shouted and puffed – "What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?"
Why, Mr. Lorax, they made Truffula Chip Pancakes at IHOP, of course. They put your face on Seventh Generation diapers and packages of YoKids Yogurt. They're selling your image at Target, Pottery Barn Kids, and Whole Foods. You're promoting Target, Comcast Xfinity, and more through online games and sweepstakes. You're helping HP market their printers. You showed up at the Blissdom blogger conference to pose with bloggers for photo opportunities.
Remember how The Lorax talked about how the Truffula Trees were destroyed by greed and overuse? If you ask me, this new movie was created for one reason only: to sell cross-promotions. Promotions for machines that devour ink and paper, disposable diapers, use-once birthday party themes, and cars.
Yes, cars. Have you seen the Mazda/Lorax ad?
As if the ad isn't bad enough on its own, Mazda has been targeting elementary schools nationwide with this message. A Mazda representative was at a grade school in Virginia last week to tell children, "That’s the kind of car we think the Lorax would like to drive." A Lorax mascot emerged to give the kids hugs, and everyone was ushered outside to see a couple of Lorax-painted Mazda cars with “Truffula Tree-approved SKYACTIV® TECHNOLOGY.”
Mazda then told the kids that for every parent they enticed to test-drive a car, the company would donate $25 to the NEA’s foundation for public schools.
From the reviews I've read, the new movie manages to convey a message of environmentalism, and that's great. But it's all bullshit. We can't buy our way into a greener world, and creating more pointless consumer demand goes against everything the original book stood for. I'm not sure what The Lorax would have said about using his image to submerse children in corporate-created materialism, but it might have been something like this:
Unless someone like you
cares a whole awful lot.
Nothing is going to get better.
What do you think about all the Lorax merchandising and corporate tie-ins?
Image via YouTube