Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! is a 2008 American computer-animated adventure comedy film based on the Dr. Seuss' book of the same name. The film was directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino, and was produced by Blue Sky Studios. It features the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell. Released on March 14, 2008 by 20th Century Fox, it received generally positive reviews, and grossed $297 million on a budget of $85 million.
The film is the third Dr. Seuss feature film adaptation, the second Dr. Seuss film starring Jim Carrey after How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), and the first adaptation of a Dr. Seuss work fully animated using CGI technology. It is also Carrey and Carrell's second collaboration after Bruce Almighty (2003).
A dust speck is dislodged from its obscure place and sent adrift through the Jungle of Nool. At the same time, Horton the elephant (Jim Carrey), the jungle's eccentric nature teacher, takes a dip in the pool. The dust speck floats past him in the air, and he hears a tiny yelp coming from it. Believing that an entire society of microscopic creatures are living on that speck, he places it atop a clover. Horton finds out the speck harbors the city of Whoville and its inhabitants, the Whos, led by Mayor Ned McDodd (Steve Carell). He has a wife, Sally (Amy Poehler), 96 daughters (whose names all begin with the letter H), and one teenage son named JoJo (Jesse McCartney). Despite being the oldest and next in line for the mayoral position, JoJo doesn't want to be mayor, and because he's so scared of disappointing his father, never speaks. Once Horton begins carrying the speck with him, the city starts experiencing strange phenomena (earthquakes and changes in the weather), and the Mayor finds his attempts to caution Whoville challenged by the Town Council, led by the opportunistic yet condescending Chairman (Dan Fogler).
The Mayor finds out from Dr. LaRue (Isla Fisher) that Whoville will be destroyed if Horton does not find a "safer, more stable home." Horton resolves to place the speck atop Mt. Nool, the safest place in the jungle. The head of the jungle, the Sour Kangaroo (Carol Burnett), disbelieving Horton's beliefs, and resenting him for overshadowing her authority attempts several times to demand that Horton give up the speck, but Horton ignores her demands. Also taking force toward Horton are the Wickersham Brothers, a group of monkeys who love making misery. Eventually, the Sour Kangaroo, upon learning Horton's ignorance, enlists a vulture named Vlad Vladikoff (Will Arnett) to get rid of the speck by force.
Vlad manages to steal the clover away from Horton and drops it into a massive field of identical pink clovers, causing an apocalyptic tremor in Whoville. After unsuccessfully picking nearly 3,000,000 clovers, Horton eventually recovers the clover (exactly the 3,000,000th clover). The Sour Kangaroo eventually finds out that Horton still has the speck, and decides to rally the jungle community into fighting Horton, saying that Horton's goal will lead to anarchy. Upon cornering him, the Sour Kangaroo offers Horton an escape from punishment by renouncing Whoville's existence. When Horton refuses, in spite of his heartfelt speech, she orders the animals to rope and cage him, and to have the speck and the Whos destroyed in a pot of boiling beezlenut oil. The Mayor enlists all of his people to make noise by shouting "We are here!", as well as playing a variety of instruments, so the animals may hear them, assisted by Jojo's "Symphonophone", an invention which creates a huge musical contribution, but still fails to penetrate the surface of the speck. As Horton lies beaten and captured, the Sour Kangaroo easily takes the clover, and releases it. Meanwhile, JoJo grabs the horn used to project Horton's voice, runs up the highest tower and yells "YOPP!", breaking through the sound barrier just seconds before the speck hits the oil.
The Sour Kangaroo's son, Rudy (Josh Flitter) grabs the clover and returns it to Horton. The animals finally hear the Who's and realize the truth and isolate the Sour Kangaroo for tricking them. While being praised for his integrity by his neighbors, Horton even forgives the devastated Sour Kangaroo, and she befriends him with a makeshift umbrella for Whoville. Here, the people of Whoville and the animals of Nool gather in song and recite the chorus from "Can't Fight This Feeling". The film ends with the narrator revealing that the Jungle of Nool, or rather Earth, is just one speck, like Whoville, among numerous others, floating in outer space.
- Jim Carrey as Horton, an outgoing, confident, innocent, and brave elephant. Horton has no tusks, lives by himself and possesses acute hearing abilities.
- Steve Carell as Mayor Ned McDodd, the mayor of Whoville. He has 96 daughters, 1 son named JoJo and his wife Sally.
- Carol Burnett as The Sour Kangaroo, The film's main antagonist, she thinks that Horton is a fool for thinking that there is life on a speck of dust.
- Will Arnett as Vlad Vladikoff, a vulture hired by the Sour Kangaroo to steal Horton's clover.
- Seth Rogen as Morton the mouse, Horton's best friend in the Jungle of Nool
- Amy Poehler as Sally O'Malley, Ned's wife and mother to Jojo and 96 daughters
- Dan Fogler as the Councilman and Yummo Wickersham
- Jesse McCartney as JoJo, Ned's son
- Isla Fisher as Doctor Mary Lou LaRue, a teacher at Who U.
- Laura Ortiz as Jessica
- Jonah Hill as Tommy
- Jaime Pressly as Mrs. Quilligan, Jessica's mother
- Niecy Nash as Miss Yelp
- Selena Gomez as Helga, one of the mayor's daughters
- Josh Flitter as Rudy Kangaroo
- Joey King as Katie, a cute little baby yak
- Bill Farmer as Willie Bear, additional voices
- Charles Osgood as The Narrator
In 2004, as Blue Sky Studios was completing Robots, the studio started courting Dr. Seuss' widow Audrey Geisel on getting the adaptation rights for Horton Hears a Who!. The art director for Robots, Steve Martino, along with story consultant and additional scene director Jimmy Hayward, created a model of protagonist Horton and some animation tests to showcase their design ideas to Geisel, who eventually agreed on "a seven-figure deal" for both the book and its follow-up Horton Hatches the Egg. Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio were then hired to write the script, to be directed by Hayward and Martino with a set release date of 2008.
Geisel was credited as a supervising producer and watched production up close, and also gave the directors full access to her late husband's archives, and thus they investigated on his original sketches, 3-D sculptures, work done for The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T and even memos Dr. Seuss traded with Chuck Jones during the production of the Grinch TV special. For references in doing the character animation, along with footage of the voice actors performing their lines, the Blue Sky animators recorded themselves performing the script in an "acting room" to see what of their body language could translate well into the film.
To make Horton different from the mammoths Blue Sky worked with in the Ice Age series, the elephant would at times walk on two legs, in a way that it looked like "a fat man in an elephant suit". While the design had a major difference from the original book, with a bigger mouth to allow for wider facial expressions like those of Jim Carrey, as the directors noticed Horton's design in the book varied according to his emotion, the 3D wireframe tried to allow for the same effects.
The original score for the film's soundtrack album was composed by John Powell. Near the end of the picture, the cast comes together and sings the song, "Can't Fight This Feeling" by REO Speedwagon. This version of the song was not featured on the soundtrack.
In contrast to the mixed and/or negative reaction to the other big screen adaptations of Seuss's work, this film received generally positive reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 79% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 131 reviews, classifying the film as "Certified Fresh". The consensus statement reads, "Horton Hears A Who! is both whimsical and heartwarming, and is the rare Dr. Seuss adaptation that stays true to the spirit of the source material." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, calculated a score of 71 out of 100 based on 31 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
In contrast, Brian Eggert of Deep Focus gave it one and a half stars out of four, criticizing its numerous pop-culture references, calling it a "mish-mash of incoherent babble" and claiming it ends up "reducing Seuss' otherwise admirable message to ordinary storytelling, when Seuss' work is anything but."
Horton Hears a Who! was a box office success, grossing a total of $297,138,014 on a $85 million budget. $154,529,439 came from the United States and Canada, and $142,608,575 from other territories.
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $45,012,998 in 3,954 theaters, averaging $11,384 per theater in the United States and Canada, and ranking #1 at the box office. The film previously had the 4th largest opening weekend in March, behind Ice Age, Ice Age: The Meltdown and 300, and as of September 2012, it ranks on the 9th place. In the United States and Canada, Horton Hears a Who was also the #1 film its second weekend of release, grossing $24,590,596 over the Easter frame, in 3,961 theaters and averaging $6,208 per venue. It dropped to #2 in its third weekend grossing $17,740,106 in 3,826 theaters and averaging $4,637 per venue. Its fourth weekend ranked at #4 grossing $9,115,987 in 3,571 theaters and averaging $2,553 per venue. Its fifth weekend ranked at #6, grossing $5,920,566 in 3,209 theaters and averaging $1,845 per venue.
Horton Hears a Who!, like other Dr. Seuss creations, contains layered subtexts and messages. A major theme regards on learning about universal values between vastly different places and people, as shown by the quote "A person's a person, no matter how small". This is employed on many levels, primarily with Horton hearing a world in a speck, while also appearing with the Mayor's relationship with his son, and Jane Kangaroo learning the truth about Horton's beliefs. The movie characters display traditional gender roles. According to NPR host and father of three daughters Peter Sagal, "In a new subplot added by the filmmakers, the mayor of Whoville has 96 daughters. He has one son. Guess who gets all his attention? Guess who saves the day?"
Home media release
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! was released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 9, 2008. Three versions of the DVD are available: a single disc edition, a 2-disc special edition, and a gift set packaged with a Horton plush. A Blu-ray combo pack with a DVD and digital copy was released on October 11, 2011. The home media included an Ice Age-related short film, Surviving Sid.
In the United States, the film earned $77,630,768 from DVD sales and $180,434 from Blu-ray sales for a total of $77,811,202 in video sales.
- Official website
- Horton Hears a Who! at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Horton Hears a Who! at the Internet Movie Database
- Horton Hears a Who! at AllMovie
- Horton Hears a Who! at Box Office Mojo
- Horton Hears a Who! at Rotten Tomatoes
- Horton Hears a Who! at Metacritic