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Dr. Seuss Remakes: Why Were They Bad?

Updated on May 19, 2016
The theatrical poster for Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Not seen as a very good movie by some.
The theatrical poster for Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Not seen as a very good movie by some. | Source

Cinema

Cinema likes making movies based on already published material. Having already been made, all Hollywood had to do was take the material of a story and add or subtract parts to make the story their own. One example would have to be the 2000 live-action movie Dr. Seuss' Hot the Grinch Stole Christmas, which was based on the 1957 book written by Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And while the idea of having famous celebrities look like a certain character or voicing a character from one's childhood may sound neat, some people may have dislikes about these remakes. Some arguments used were:

  • The added content was seen as pointless. All Hollywood would do during these added scenes was insert filler that had to point to the overall story or diverged from the main point the story was meant to convey.
  • Made characters that were originally sympathetic unlikable. Mostly to make a big conflict that was not included in the original story.
  • Extending a story. Dr. Seuss made his stories simple and to-the-point. Hollywood's attempts to make a short story into a full movie has been seen as a stupid idea. Especially if one were under the impression that said movie was made just for the sake of money.

These remakes were not aesthetically bad, but for fans of the original Dr. Seuss stories, it is somewhat understandable as to why these movies may be seen as bad.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

In 1957 Dr. Seuss published How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The story was fairly simple:

  • In the land of Whoville the citizens were preparing for Christmas. All except for the Grinch, who hated the Whoville citizens' yearly celebration of Christmas.
  • At the point of the story the Grinch planned to ruin Christmas for the citizens of Whoville by stealing all of the Christmas decorations and presents.
  • Upon discovering that the citizens of Whoville would still celebrate Christmas despite losing everything they had, the Grinch has a change of heart.
  • The story ends with the Grinch celebrating Christmas with the Whoville citizens.

When Hollywood decided to make the 2000 live-action remake, some changes had to be made. Other than getting actor Jim Carrey to play the Grinch, the story was expanded from a short story into a nearly hour long movie. Some people did not like these changes. Mostly because:

  • The scenery did not convey convey the sense of merriment that most movies set on Christmas time would show. In fact, Whoville looked downright dirty.
  • The merriment of the Whos in Whoville. Festive in the book, surreal in the movie. The Whos were also shown as materialistic and competitive, whereas the book portrayed the Whos as people who emphasized the Spiritual meaning of Christmas.
  • Giving the Grinch a backstory with Whoville. Turns out, he was heavily ostracized by most of the Who children. Which made the Grinch's later attempts at stealing the Whos' Christmas decorations and presents justified.
  • Extended the scenes of the Grinch stealing presents. Added scenes that some people may find uncomfortable to see.
  • The book had the Whos understand that losing their presents was not what ruined Christmas, for nothing the Grinch did could ruin the the togetherness that was the true meaning of Christmas. The movie did something similar, but with more arguing.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas lacked the subtlety that the book had when it came to its message. That argument is the most common argument some people would have for this film. That, and unlikable characters.


The second live-action adaption to a Dr. Seuss story. Just as pointless.
The second live-action adaption to a Dr. Seuss story. Just as pointless. | Source

Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat

A big argument made by the Nostalgia Critic about Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas was that the live-action remake was pointless since there was a perfectly good animated version of a Dr. Seuss book. That same argument was had for the 2003 film Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat. In the original story:

  • Two children were bored because they were forced to stay in their house during a rainy day. Their mother was gone, but they were still bored.
  • Suddenly, The Cat in the Hat arrives to try and liven-up the atmosphere. For the most part, the kids were apprehensive about a strange cat coming into their house, but did eventually join in on the hijinks. Eventually since The Cat started wrecking stuff with his form of fun, which made the kids' lives more difficult. Especially once he released his friends, the Things.
  • Unfortunately, the kids' house ended up seriously messed-up. Fortunately, The Cat at least managed to clean-up his own mess before leaving.
  • Overall, the moral of the story was that a little rule-breaking could be fun, as long as it does not go too far.

For the remake Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat the Nostalgia Critic had some more negative reactions. Such as:

  • Giving a reason for the mother to leave her children alone at their house. She was a single mother who had to work for her family.
  • Making the kids' have different personalities compared to their book selves. The books both had them well-behaved, if a little bored because they were stuck at home. The movie gave them overly negative personalities. The boy was a rambunctious troublemaker. The girl was a bit of a control freak.
  • The Cat in the Hat, played by Mike Myers, also made an appearance that was different. In the book, his appearance was random but without much fanfare. In the movie Mike Myers's arrival resulted in a big chase sequence. Also, The Cat in the Hat, one of Dr. Seuss's most famous characters, could not rhyme.
  • Inserting scenes that were only in the movie just for the sake of conflict or comedy. These scenes did not add anything interesting about the story as a whole.
  • The Dr. Seuss created characters looking scary. In the books characters like Things 1 and 2 were alright to look at and fit the Dr. Seuss aesthetic. In the movie, both characters looked frighteningly surreal.

The thing that made Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat bad as a remake was the added material. Trying to modernize the book honestly made this movie fairly dated, adding unnecessary comedy made some of the characters unlikable, and trying to update a source material that was perfect as is just made people who were familiar with the source material dislike this movie even more.

An animated version of a classic Dr. Seuss tale. Well, another animated version. More modern.
An animated version of a classic Dr. Seuss tale. Well, another animated version. More modern. | Source

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

In the original 1972 animated cartoon based on the book The Lorax, the plot was fairly simple:

  • A child, traveling through a polluted looking landscape, met with an entity called the Once-ler.
  • Turns out that the Once-ler used to be a traveler who discovered that the land that would eventually become the polluted landscape was filled with trees that the Once-ler decided could be used to gain huge profits. Which caused him to build a shop in the forest.
  • This caused the Lorax to appear. After hearing that the Once-ler was going to use the trees in the area to make an item that many people needed.
  • Initially the Lorax allowed the Once-ler to make a Thneed. Until the Once-ler started to build a factory and had his relatives come over.
  • Eventually the factory ruined the land so much that eventually all of the forest's original inhabitants were forced to leave. Even the Lorax.
  • Ultimately this venture left the Once-ler completely alone. Back in the present, the Once-ler left the child a single seed that would hopefully grow into a new forest and result in the Lorax coming back.

The Lorax was a cartoon with an environmental message. However, the message here was more balanced because the moral was less that industrialization was bad for the environment altogether, and more like industrialization is alright as long as one were aware about the effects on the environment.


In the 2012 animated movie, with Danny DeVito voicing the Lorax, had some of the same problems the other Dr. Seuss book remakes had. And some new ones. Such as:

  • Introducing an actual villain to The Lorax. The moral of this story was that any person in the world can ruin an entire landscape if they were unaware or ignorant to the consequences. Adding an actual villain lessens the humanizing elements that The Lorax had with its moral.
  • Expanding an aspect of the story that did not need expanding. For instance, the boy who meets the Once-ler was just a random boy who just happened to see the Once-ler and heard a cautionary tale which ended with the implication that he would help restore the damage the Once-ler did and hopefully bring back the Lorax. In the movie, the boy initially tries to find an actual tree to impress a girl he likes. Not a bad change, but it lessened the impact that the moral of The Lorax when it came to the potential consequences of greed.
  • Giving the Once-ler an actual face. In the story, the Once-ler represented how anyone could do the things the Once-ler did that caused all of the trees in the story to disappear. The movie gave the viewer a view of what the Once-ler looked like when he was younger. Which kind of ruins the message that anybody can do the things the Once-ler did in The Lorax.
  • Having the Once-ler's family be the source of his greed. The thing about the original cartoon adaption of The Lorax was that it showed that the Once-ler's mistakes were all his own doing. And when he did question what he did to the forest in the original cartoon, the Once-ler always found an excuse to grow his business to dangerous levels. And rather than show a gradual destruction of the forest that struggled to find a middle ground when it came to industrialization versus preservation, the 2012 movie just showed the deforestation through one song.
  • Continuing the story after the Once-ler gives the boy one seed to hopefully grow a new tree. In the original cartoon this was the ending and left on a subtly ambiguous note about whether the boy could fix the Once-ler's mistake. The movie ends with the boy successfully planting a tree and the the Lorax coming back. Which robbed the movie of the original's ambiguous and thought-provoking quality.

Remakes

Making remakes can give classic works new interpretations that can help the people of the modern day understand the morals of people from older times. Especially if the context used topics that were relevant to today's world. These Dr. Seuss movies failed to do this because they mostly pandered to the sensibilities of modern day people. And lacked the simple, yet thought-provoking nature of the morals of the source material.

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