Today marks what would have been the 109th birthday of legendary children's author Dr. Seuss, aka. Theodor Geisel. Of course, we all know Seuss through his dozens of books (600 million copies sold!) and handful of TV specials and movies. But there's another side to the writer/illustrator, who died in 1991 at the age of 87: secret bad-ass. Let us count the ways:
1. He illustrated a 1931 book called The Pocket Book of Boners, which had nothing to do with what you think it does (it was about funny kids' sayings).
2. He was a political lightning rod. He spent years writing and drawing political cartoons of Hitler and Mussolini.
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3. He wrote Green Eggs and Ham on a bet. Seuss’ book The Cat In The Hat used only 223 words based off a list of 348 required words for beginner readers. After its success, his publisher bet him that he couldn’t write a book with only 50 words from the list. He wrote Green Eggs and Ham using just 49 words.
4. He created the "Got Milk" of his day. He developed the slogan, “Quick Henry, the Flit!”—for Flit bug spray.
5. He once used the pen name Rosetta Stone. And he did not teach you to speak Portuguese in three months.
6. He's widely credited with coining the word "nerd" in his 1950 book If I Ran The Zoo.
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7. He was an Oscar winner. Not all of the big screen adaptations of his works were so acclaimed (sorry, Cat In The Hat), but his early days of film were filled with critical darlings. His documentary films Hitler Lives and Design For Death won Academy Awards in 1946 and 1947, and his cartoon short Gerald McBoing Boing won an Oscar in 1951.
8. Seuss, who never had kids, didn't really like them. In fact, his second wife Audrey once revealed that he was kind of afraid of them. You've got to admit it takes a true bad-ass to make a decades-long career out of something you fear.
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9. He was kicked off the Dartmouth College magazine for drinking moonshine during Prohibition.
And of course, his books-turned-to-films like How The Grinch Stole Christmas and The Lorax, all of which were made after his death, have made a fortune at the box office, grossing over $728 million in the U.S. alone. Click through the gallery below to see how his films stack up:
GALLERY: Dr. Seuss: A History of Box Office Success
[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]
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We all have regrets. Misguided teen-year antics, toxic romances, ill-conceived business ventures. And for the vast majority of humans plagued with crippling remorse, there is very little to be done in the vein of correcting old mistakes. Accepting our own personal histories and moving on with dignity is generally the best course of action. But Universal Pictures is opting instead to take a mulligan on one of its less appreciated ventures: The Hollywood Reporter reports that the studio is carrying forth with a second go at Dr. Seuss' classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, this time as an animated movie.
Following a string of varyingly successful Seuss remakes, from its disappointing Jim Carrey-starring Grinch in 2000 up to last year's equally groan-inspiring The Lorax, Universal is handing the holiday property to first-time director Peter Candeland and Lorax and Horton Hears a Who! producer Chris Meledandri, with Seuss' widow Audrey Geisel on board as EP.
RELATED: Celebrating Dr. Seuss' Most Iconic Works
When adapting certain pieces of material, expansion and invention can be encouraged. People tend to be intrigued by new twists on old favorites; modernization and deconstruction can apply outdated classics to our present psychology, with a fresh voice. But when it comes to Dr. Seuss, fans seem to maintain the mindset of preservation.
People were miffed by the liberties taken with Carrey's Grinch and 2012's Lorax (the public's issues with Mike Myers' The Cat in the Hat, however, were more about the fact that it was just plain abysmal). A more faithful rendition of the story, in animated form, is likely to satisfy. Progress and creation are almost universally positive endeavors, but the attitude on Seuss seems to be that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That said, is the best we can hope for simply a regurgitation of the revered animated Grinch film already at our disposal (the 1966 Boris Karloff special)? Or is there a happy medium between Universal's past attempts and a carbon copy of the well aged cartoon stretched out over 90 minutes?
The adaptation of near sacred writing like Seuss' Grinch will prove a tricky task for Universal and Candeland. But working in their favor is the fact that, no matter how ill-fated a project this might be, the original story is just whimsical enough to make all fans think, "Maybe this one will work!"
[Photo Credit: Random House]
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The bronze artwork of the character, featured in the book of the same name and a new movie starring Zac Efron, was standing on a tree stump at the children's writer's hilltop home, but it was reported missing on Monday (26Mar12).
Dr. Seuss - real name Theodor Geisel - died in 1991 aged 87. The statue was one of two made by his stepdaughter, and the writer's widow, Audrey, still lives at the property.
San Diego police Lieutenant Andra Brown tells Reuters, "We don't know if it's just a prank because of the recent release of the movie or if someone thinks it's going to be worth a buck or two because it's a lot of (metal). We're just hoping that the suspects return it.
"The Geisel family is just asking that it be returned and they don't want to pursue the matter any further. Which is not to say the police won't."
The former High School Musical star was tipped as the perfect actor to voice the lead character of Ted by Audrey Geisel herself and Efron admits it was more than enough to convince him to take the job.
He tells U.S. talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, "I got a letter from Audrey, Dr. Seuss' actual wife. She sent me a nice letter that said she thought I would be great for the part and instantly I said yes. I couldn't (say no), you don't."
Singer Taylor Swift and veteran actors Danny DeVito and Betty White also lend their vocals to the highly-anticipated film, which is due for release next month (Mar12).
Digital animation start-up Illumination Entertainment burst onto the scene last year with its debut feature, Despicable Me, a modestly-budgeted (by animation standards) tale of a supervillain-turned-father of the year that went on to earn over a half-billion dollars worldwide, surpassing even the rosiest box-office estimates. With expectations running high, Illumination aims to build on that success with the help of … a bunny that poops jelly beans?
Yes, a bunny that poops jelly beans. That’s just one of the signature twists to the Easter Bunny mythos to be found in the company’s sophomore effort, Hop, a combination live-action/cg-animated comedy starring Russell Brand as the voice of E.B., a young hare who’d rather whale on his drumset than deliver Easter baskets to candy-starved children.
In an exclusive interview with Hollywood.com, Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri explained how the whole jelly bean excrement thing came to be, and provided updates on two of his company’s much-anticipated upcoming projects, The Lorax, based on the popular Dr. Seuss book, and a Tim Burton-directed reboot of The Addams Family, as well:
What drove the decision to make Hop a combination of live-action and CG-animation as opposed to all-CG?
It never occurred to us that this film would live in any other expression except a combination of real-world and cg-world, just by the very nature of this notion that we’re going to reveal aspects of a mythology that we’re all very familiar with, that we’re going to add depth to that mythology and part the curtain and look behind it. And the notion that the son of the Easter Bunny is going to come into our world and come into the life of a human character just immediately suggested that mode of expression. We sought to integrate it with this other, fantastical world, but to do it in a way that was utterly convincing and real, so that audiences would suspend disbelief.
A key portion of that new mythology you mentioned is that you have an Easter Bunny that excretes jelly beans. How did that idea originate, and were there any debates about how it might be received by audiences?
That idea belongs to our writers. For me, that idea -- that one of the qualities of the Easter Bunny is that they poop jelly beans – took me a while to settle into. As ridiculous as it seems for us to be talking about the nuance of this idea … I don’t think I really appreciated the idea until Tim [Hill] and Chris Bailey, the animation director, and the team that animated it did the most ridiculously funny, nuanced performance of this act actually happening. So it was like all of the sudden, through the acting, it transcended the idea of a character pooping jelly beans because the acting is so amazing in that moment. But I do have to say that I was probably the last guy to board the “pooping jelly beans” train.
I can’t help but wonder how many children will be asking their parents if that’s where jelly beans really come from.
I know. It’s just one of those things where I think it’s best not to think too much about it. And the only reason I can tell you that is because I’ve actually done all of that thinking about it, and it hasn’t led me anyplace good. And yet every time people see the movie, they laugh harder at that scene than almost anything else. So I’ve gone through all of these conversations in my head – and with the team – and now they get to look at me and say, “Remember all those conversations you made us have about this, and your anxiety about it? Just listen to the audience’s response.” And I go, “Okay, all right.”
Your next film in the pipeline is The Lorax. Obviously, since it’s a Dr. Seuss book, you’re wedded to a certain animation style. How do you effectively differentiate it from previous Dr. Seuss films without betraying the source material?
It is, absolutely, a primary issue that we deal with. I’d done Horton, and it’s very important to me that, in choosing to do another film, I’m not re-living something that we’ve already done. I have very, very strong feelings about Ted Geisel, the stories that he told, and the role that he played in the last century. I’m very committed to continuing his legacy. There were a couple of really great things that he gave us. One is the incredible character of the Lorax himself. The first threshold issue that we faced when Audrey Geisel asked me to explore The Lorax, the first issue was: Can we translate that very simple line-drawn [character] into a fully realized, dimensional character. The Lorax himself, as a character, is very distinctive, and while he has the Geisel signature, he’s very different from The Cat or Horton or The Grinch. He’s sort of the defining center of the film. The other thing is that The Lorax was a book that [Geisel] illustrated toward the end of his career, in 1971, and he departed from his regular color palette. Which opened another door for us in terms of giving it a distinctive look. As you go through the iconic elements in the book, he gave us little doorways that really helped us to create a film that is going to be distinctly different from Horton, which is what I [reference], because it’s the only other CG-animated Dr. Seuss film.
Your stop-motion Addams Family project appears to be gaining momentum. What’s its status right now?
Well, we hired Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski to write the script, and they’ve got a great working relationship with Tim Burton. It’s in the scripting stage now, and I’d say it’s probably going to stay there for the next six months.
I imagine a lot of it’s dependent on Burton and his schedule, as well.
It’s entirely dependent on Tim and his schedule. If everything goes according to plan, we still wouldn’t be able to start production until Frankenweenie winds down. So if everything falls into place, our progress can’t move faster than Frankenweenie will allow.
You’ve got a pretty ambitious slate of upcoming projects, including a sequel to Despicable Me. Do you feel that the success of Despicable Me, which surpassed just about everyone’s expectations, bought Illumination a little breathing room, now that you’ve sort of proven your mettle?
It’s funny, because a lot of people ask me whether or not the success of Despicable Me puts more pressure on me, and I actually never looked at it that way. I looked at it similarly to what you have suggested, that it give me more breathing room. The challenges of the success of Despicable Me are quite unique; it’s really the challenge to not allow the success of it to distract you from what the original strategy is. And the original strategy was to make films that are reflective of ideas and themes and characters that I hope will connect with audiences, but to do that for budgets that will allow us to have a greater chance at profitability. I feel that once you get to that place where the pressure that you’re placing on the film is to perform as a blockbuster, that that dictates so many decisions and takes away from the ability of the core creative team to just make their movie. So the challenge is to stay disciplined and hold to that strategy, and to accept the fact that every film is going to have a different result. As great as it is to be a part of a movie as successful as Despicable Me, Hop will have its own result.
Hop is now playing in theaters everywhere.
Taylor Swift just signed on for a role in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Go ahead: "Awww." The Universal and Illumination Entertainment CGI-animation pic landed Zac Efron to voice Swift's counterpart: a young boy who comes across the tale of The Lorax in an effort to win over his dream girl (oh yeah, that's Swift). It seems like a match made in cartoon heaven.
Also joining the fun are Danny DeVito as the curmudgeon of a character, the Lorax (perfect casting), and Betty White as Efron's grandmother. Ed Helms and Rob Riggle are also signed on to lend their voices to the classic Seuss tale. As for the doctor's legacy, have no fear. His widow, Audrey Geisel is the film's executive producer. Also putting their weight behind the project is the writing and directing team that gave us last year's Despicable Me. All in all, this shaping up to be another great kids movie from Universal.