Friday, December 21, 2012

10 Most Worthwhile Dr. Seuss Adaptations

Who does not love Dr. Seuss?  Adults love him, kids love him, we all do.  Unfortunately Hollywood and others have not always given his work the respect it deserves.  Many Dr. Seuss adaptations are ill-conceived and shameful.  However there have been a number of adaptations in other media to succeed in terms of Seuss.  So here are the ten most worthwhile adaptations of Geisel's work.

10. The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss (1996)
I remember this from when I was a kid but I never watched it too much.  The target audience of this show is very young, but the parts I found online are fairly entertaining albeit unmemorable.  However the puppeteering is top notch and the digital backgrounds look like a Dr. Seuss illustration.  If anything it is great to see the legacies of Theodore Geisel and Jim Henson combined. 

9. Horton Hears a Who! (1970)
Maybe a bit too much unnecessary padding that is not overly memorable, but like many of the television specials from the early seventies they adapt the story fairly accurately and keep Dr. Seuss's unique writing and visual style.  I especially like the ending to this where the Mayor of Whoville catches a speck of dust.

8. Dr. Seuss on the Loose (1973)
The Cat in the Hat introduces the stories of The Sneetches, The Zax and Green Eggs and Ham.  I really admire this special for not forcing these short stories into their own specials (or heaven forbid feature film).  This special has helped to raise The Sneetches profile, which is one of Geisel's best stories.

7. The Lorax (1972)
Much like Horton Hears a Who and Seuss on the Loose this one works because it is a fairly straight adaptation of a story that works.  It does not play around with the book, The Once-ler is never fully revealed to the audience and it ends ambiguously.  This special has better atmosphere than most of the others seventies cartoons.  The book is of course much better, but this is as good of an adaptation as you will get.

6. Horton Hatches an Egg (1942)
This was part of the Looney Tunes series and directed by Bob Clampett.  This certainly feels much more like a Looney Tune than the book on which it is based, but that is not a bad thing as Warner Bros. was at the top of their game in the forties.  It respects the original books and adds several gags that work.

5. In Search of Dr. Seuss (1994)
I have not seen this about fifteen years, but I have very fond memories of renting this as a child.  This is a documentary that premiered on TNT.  It is interesting as it flows perfectly between previous Seuss cartoons, original material and helps to create a perfect showcase of Geisel's achievements.  There are many cameos such as Christopher Lloyd as a Hunch in a Bunch.  It also stars two of my favorite under utilized character actors: the always likable Kathy Najimy and Matt Frewer who gives provides the best version of The Cat in the Hat that I have ever seen.  The sets are fun, the information on Geisel's life is good and I really wish that this would reair sometime.

4. Seussical the Musical (2000)
One of the better musicals to come out of Broadway in the past twenty years.  I love how Seussical offers a new way to experience Seuss to the masses.  Middle school and community theatres have been putting this on and if you have a chance to see it I recommend that you do.  Seeing Cat in the Hat, Horton and others live is quite the experience.  Would love to perform in this some day.

3. Butter Battle Book (1989)
Seuss himself said that this one was the closest adaptation of his work.  This was animated by legendary animator Ralph Bakshi, most known for his work in adult animation.  Bakshi was a great choice for this story because of his emphasis on maturity.  This special keeps the strong message and the cliffhanger ending.  It is just as good as the book.

2. Gerald McBoing-Boing (1951)
Not an adaptation of a book but Seuss did write this story about a boy who said "boing-boing."  This is one of the most influential cartoons of all time for its developments in limited animation and put UPA on the map.  Like Bakshi, UPA has a focus on maturity which Seuss's books always had.  The animation is not styled after Geisel's, but this is clearly a Seuss story.  It is one of the best cartoons of all time and represents Seuss's far reach in entertainment.

1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
This is unquestionably the best adaptation of Seuss's work.  This is a rare example of a television special improving on an already perfect work.  The gags, the song, the pacing all serve the story and have become synonymous with it.  The reason this is the best is that Geisel was involved in it himself and it paired him with a like-minded collaborator, Chuck Jones (which seems to be the key in all of these: Jim Henson Productions, Bakshi, Clampett, UPA).  This cartoon is a masterpiece and has been beloved by generations.  It represents the genius of Dr. Seuss well.

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