Friday , April 12 2024
A person is a person, no matter how small

Blu-ray Review: Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (1970)

The genius of Dr. Seuss lies not just within his words, within his pictures, or within the sentiments those words and pictures contain. Rather, it lies within his amazing ability to combine the words, pictures, and sentiments into something both grand wholly relatable to people of all ages.  As the perfect example of this, Warner Bros. has released the 1970 animated classic Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! to Blu-ray.

The animated tale, clocking in at approximately 25 minutes, follows, as does the book, Horton the Elephant and he does his best to provide protection to an entire society of people who live on a speck of dust.  No one in Horton's jungle believes the elephant, but he is utterly insistent that there is life on the speck and that, as he puts it, "a person's a person, no matter how small."

Horton's belief, as true as it may be – a person is in fact a person, no matter their size – isn't something that the other animals in his jungle appreciate.  Instead, led by Jane Kangaroo, the jungle animals taunt and mock Horton, stealing the flower upon which his Who-filled speck of dust sits and later threatening to boil the flower in bezelnut oil.   Quite logically, it is the smallest of the small in Whoville who eventually makes the Whos' presence known, thereby saving them all and Horton to boot. 

The special features offer some great Seuss songs and a teleplay written by Seuss himself.  It holds true to all that makes the book a classic and Horton (who first appeared in Horton Hatches the Egg) a great character.  Horton is the type of person we'd all like to be, and the enemies he faces are those we all would face if we ever had the opportunity to follow in the elephant's footsteps.  Though he may be a pachyderm, Horton is who we all would ideally be, and has strength of character that many of us would not.

Originally a television special, the show looks and sounds better than one might expect on Blu-ray.  The print is relatively clean, but certainly not perfect.  There is a noticeable flicker to the background and the occasional bit of dirt or scratches on the frame.  The sound comes through loud and clear, even that oh-so-important "Yopp!" which eventually saves all concerned.

There is certainly nothing outstanding or over-the-top wonderful about the look and sound, but the main feature certainly looks substantially better than the two bonus Dr. Seuss tales included, Daisy-Head Mayzie and The Butter Battle Book.  The latter, which deals with the Yooks fighting the Zooks over the correct way of eating buttered bread (butter side up or down) was created while Dr. Seuss was still alive, but the former, which follows a girl with a daisy growing from her head, was produced based on a screenplay found by his wife, Audrey. 

While both of these tales are certainly Seussian in their absurdity, Mayzie holds together far less well than The Butter Battle BookMayzie contains Seuss' whimsy and charm, but the basic plot seems a little more scattered than other Seuss tales and certainly gives the impression that he wasn't quite finished with it. 

As stated previously, neither of these two special features look remotely as good as Horton in this release.  The animation in both features terribly jagged lines that clearly are meant to be straight.  It is as though the disc attempts to output far more detail than actually exists within the frame. 

The Blu-ray also contains the full-length "In Search of Dr. Seuss."  Not quite a movie and not quite a documentary, the piece stars Kathy Najimy along with other terribly famous faces as she explores but Seuss' work and life.  It is the exact sort of hybrid piece of truth and fiction one imagines Seuss himself would be quite appreciative of.  Lastly, the disc contains a music video sing-along from Horton, and a digital copy which, in a fit of Seussian absurdity, is only Windows Media compatible and therefore can neither be played in iTunes or on an any Apple product.

Shortcomings in the bonus features aside, Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who is a true classic, both in terms of its televisual age and its being the work of a master artist at the top of his game.  Seuss may have seen the world differently from the rest of us, but one would be hard-pressed to argue that his version is not far superior to ours and that his ideals should not be the ones to which we all aspire.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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