Dr Seuss' The Lorax Voice Cast
: Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Betty WhiteDirector
: Chris Renaud Genre
: Family, AnimationSynopsis
: The 3D-CGI feature Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is an adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic tale of a forest creature who shares the enduring power of hope. The animated adventure follows the journey of a boy as he searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.
Danny DeVito will lend his vocal talents to the iconic title character of the Lorax, while Ed Helms will voice the enigmatic Once-ler. Also bringing their talents to the film are global superstars Zac Efron as Ted, the idealistic young boy who searches for the Lorax, and Taylor Swift as Audrey, the girl of Ted's dreams. Rob Riggle will play financial king O'Hare, and beloved actress Betty White will portray Ted's wise Grammy Norma.
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is the third feature created by Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me, Hop).Release Date
: March 31st, 2012Celebration and Inspiration: Visual Style of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax"But those trees! Those trees! Those Truffula Trees! All my life I'd been searching for trees such as these. The touch of their tufts was much softer than silk. And they had the sweet smell of fresh butterfly milk."
-The Once-ler in "The Lorax"
Because of the close relationship that Christopher Meledandri, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio built with the Seuss estate during the production of Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, the filmmakers understood the nuances of the artist's work. For the new characters and scenes that populate Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, the team and Chris Renaud insisted on one dictum: follow the spirit of the book. Additional plot, characters and settings all needed to have a Seussian quality that feel consistent with the world imagined by Audrey Geisel.
In addition to staying true to actual imagery from the book, there were subtle yet important elements that Audrey Geisel employed for the first time in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. He strayed from his traditional color palette and used colors to emphasise the imbalance of a world without trees. Reflects Christopher Meledandri, "As we bring the new story to life, we bring new designs to life. Our designers were always very cognizant of Ted's style, so there's an absolute continuity. For example, Ted was doing some interesting things with color in this book. He was departing from a palette that had been quite simple in his previous work, and he was utilising new colors that were a surprise for his editors. In fact, Audrey Geisel was giving him input on the palette, and it's most notable when you get into his depictions of sky. There are deep purples and new variations of blues that he combines to create what is a very ominous sky."
Production designer Yarrow Cheney, who created the intricate universe of Despicable Me, returned for Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. He describes his selections for this film's color palette: "Our plan of attack was to get familiar with the book and its colors, shapes and characters and try to understand what's special about this world that Dr. Seuss created." Thneedville
Naturally, with the book as source material, the team wanted the story to be brought to the big screen as a very bright and colorful world, but also one that illustrates the tone and harmful effects of the Once-ler's actions. While the book explores the gorgeous primary-colored universe of the young Once-ler's past and the decrepit, smogulous space that the Once-ler creates after he has chopped down all of the Truffula Trees, the film amplifies Thneedville, creating a fun and modern world.
Thneedville is by no means an awful place for Ted, his mom, Audrey, Grammy Norma and the rest of its denizens to reside. Chris Renaud says: "We came up with the idea to have Thneedville be a bit more relatable. It's like Vegas or Disneyland or Abu Dhabi. We see ourselves in it a bit, and it is kind of fun. There are inflatable bushes and mechanical flowers and trees, and it's a place with no real nature. Everyone seems to be happy, and they have everything they want: from giant cars to robots and other mechanical devices. But then it becomes a question about sustainability. While all this stuff is fun and great, is it in balance with the broader planet, and how do we maintain that balance?"
Only briefly glimpsed in the opening pages of the book, Thneedville serves as a bigger setting in the film. Shares the director: "The world of Thneedville was one of the biggest additions for the film. It was so design heavy, and it's such a colorful and complex artificial place. Its design was something that was important to support the story and the transformation that this world had to go through."
Ted's journey begins the minute he steps foot out of Thneedville and discovers the destitute world lying behind it. As he makes the harrowing journey to the Lerkim (and the Street of the Lifted Lorax), he realises that what Grammy Norma has been telling him is all true. There is another world beyond the borders of his perfect town. Reflects Yarrow Cheney: "When we introduce the audience to the real version of the world behind the wall, all of the color has been pulled out of that world. We have these cool blues and deep purples
.it's deeper and it's darker. When the audience discovers Truffula Valley, however, it's a beautiful green place with blue skies." Truffula Valley
"The Lorax" gave the design team a wealth of source material for Truffula Valley. They were able to take advantage of the book's colors, shapes and all the animals, as well as the Truffula Trees and the rolling green hills. Their big challenge was to take what was 2D and make a full three-dimensional world where one could walk around in and smell the flowers and play among the Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans and Humming-Fish.
Producer Janet Healy reflects on the process of translating from page to screen: "There were a lot of technical difficulties in making Truffula Valley feel distinctive but also look like nature and maintain Dr. Seuss' style. Luckily, we have great artists at every level-from the concept design team to the execution and modeling and surfacing teams. Every step of the way added so much. We set-dressed every shot to make sure that the characters stood out against the trees."
One of the most signature looks in Truffula Valley are the stunning Truffula Trees, ultimately used by the young Once-ler to make his Thneeds. The production designer found the Truffula Trees to be quite complex to create. He offers: "One of the design problems that we had to solve was the shape of the Truffula tuft itself, because it is a pinwheel shape but only looks right from one angle. You turn it on its side and it's a bunch of tuft shapes coming at you, and it loses its shape altogether.
"We had to compose shots with trees, and we had artists that would take the tufts and turn them very subtly toward the camera to get that Truffula pinwheel-tuft shape that you know from the book," he continues. "It took a lot of development to get that to work in a three-dimensional space. Some of the shots when the Once-ler arrives in the valley for the first time include thousands of these trees, and they're all blowing in the wind and feel lighter than air. It's a remarkable accomplishment technically and artistically."
As Truffula Valley is destroyed by the Once-ler and his family, the valley becomes impossible for the creatures to inhabit. "The book also contains lots of illustrations of the devastated version of the Truffula Valley that show the land without trees," adds Yarrow Cheney. "The sky isn't blue anymore. It's filled with purple and blue clouds, and those are the visual cues that we took for the devastated version of the valley and Thneedville. Because the sky was gone, the trees were gone and the color was gone. We built a world around that." The Lerkim
When Ted goes outside of town to search of the Once-ler in the Lerkim, it's a big moment in the movie and one of the most iconic from the book. The audience sees for the first time that Thneedville is not what it's cracked up to be. Explains Chris Renaud: "He witnesses what is essentially a wasteland. The town is encircled with a giant wall, and nobody goes outside of town. Again, we were very much thinking of Las Vegas-cities that are in a desert. Ted can't believe it; he's never seen it before, and he journeys out to amongst the tree stumps and the acrid creeks."
Production designer Yarrow Cheney shares a fact that careful moviegoers will recall from the book. He notes: "If you look closely in some of the factory scenes, you'll see the Lerkim is actually part of the old factory. It's all that is left from the Once-ler's Thneed-making days. It's an excellent example of where we have taken one of the Dr. Seuss designs from the book and made a dimensional version of that." Inside the Adventure: Immersion into a 3D World"And, under the trees, I saw Brown Bar-ba-loots frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits as they played in the shade and ate Truffula Fruits. From the rippulous pond came the comfortable sound of the Humming-Fish humming while splashing around."
-The Once-ler in "The Lorax"
For Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, character animation and computer graphics were masterfully handled by Illumination's recent acquisition, the Paris-based animation facility Illumination Mac Guff, who did stunning work on Despicable Me. The filmmakers took great care to adapt the classic flat imagery of the book in a way that preserves the original's authenticity while providing audiences a fresh and unique experience.
For the French and American animators, planning had to be seamless, as Janet Healy puts it, a "well-oiled machine to create a world you know you wanted to save." Notes the producer: "We were working across time zones, but we had a constant crew from the Despicable Me team. At peak, there were about 350 of us on a couple of floors, working on the movie. We were divided into different departments that communicated well and had tremendous technical and production leadership." Classic Imagery to CG
Though Chris Renaud, Christopher Meledandri and Janet Healy were quite practiced in supervising CG animation, taking Dr. Seuss' creations and reinterpreting them in this world was as much of a challenge as their last project. Explains Christopher Meledandri: "Just like on Horton, we very much started with Ted's work. With such a well-known and beloved property, the real opportunity is to translate his original drawings into a three-dimensional world. We didn't know whether or not we could truly do justice to "The Lorax" until we had translated that very simple design of the Lorax into a dimensional 3D character, and we could see that the spirit of Ted's drawing was living and breathing in that dimension."
Chris Renaud paid close attention to Dr. Seuss' visual style as he helmed the film. Dr. Seuss is known for his wavy lines and ramshackle buildings, and they didn't easily lend themselves into translation into the third dimension. "It was a challenge to take Seuss' deceptively simple pen-and-ink illustrations and make dimensional objects and characters out of them," explains the director. "Some of our big influences in the book are things like the shape of the Lerkim. It feels like it wouldn't even stand up in the illustration.
"We were very true to the look of the Lerkim when we created the 3D model," he continues. With certain characters, however, they had to make small adjustments to bring them into the 3D world. "In the book, the Once-ler is just yellow eyes and green hands, so we cheated our lighting scheme. Often in computer animation, it works best and is more believable when it feels real. But many times, you have to find where to push so the images are not so 'real.' For example, the Once-ler has a big bright light behind him, but meanwhile, you see his eyes. In reality, you never would see those eyes because his face would go black with that much light behind it."
From a technical point of view, creating an animated adventure in CG is much more challenging than developing a 2D version, because the animators need to render each frame twice. Explains the director: "We always considered 3D when developing the experience for the audience. From the computational/rendering perspective, it was very intense rendering any kind of fur, and every tree in this movie has fur on it. To make this film in 3D, we thought of everything from using wide lenses to having shots where you're in a character's perspective-whether we had shots when the Once-ler heads down the river or when the Swomee-Swans fly through trees."
Creating a dimensional, living world from flat, still images requires great technical skills and attention to detail. Yarrow Cheney reveals: "There is a challenge that comes with taking illustrations and making a three-dimensional world out of those illustrations. You can say a lot with a drawing, but when you actually have to make a three-dimensional space that you can move around in, everything has to be designed. That includes everything from a pencil sharpener on a desk and every car and character, to each building as well as the sky and the clouds. Every minute detail and every big detail has to be designed from scratch
and from every single angle."
It was not just the designs, but it was also the building of these designs that required months of work for each shot. Yarrow Cheney notes: "Someone has to put color and lights on the objects and characters. Design plays a very big role in creating animated films because nothing actually exists. The clothes on the character have to be designed; the kind of fabric that a shirt is made out of has to be thought about."
The biggest technical challenge to the team on this film? So much hair and fur! Explains computer graphics supervisor Bruno Chauffard: "The world of Truffula Valley is almost all done with hair. All the trees are built with hair, the grass is hair, the Bar-ba-loots are furry, and we have a crowd scene when everybody is getting into the Truffula Valley, which is a scene with lot of polygons to render. When I saw the concept, I was with Chris Renaud, and we questioned how we were going to be able to render this world
because our software at this date was not able to render all of these polygons, fur and hair."
The solution was to think outside the box and get more ambitious and industrious than ever before. Says Bruno Chauffard: "We worked hard to be able to get it to render. All the different departments did a fantastic job, and finally, we were able to create custom software to render the movie."
A second complexity particular to this film was the number of crowd shots. Animating singing crowds was an entirely new challenge for the team. Janet Healy says: "Another piece that is quite ambitious for The Lorax and quite different than Despicable Me is the number of crowds. We have a few group musical pieces, so there are a lot of scenes with 100 or 200 characters in them. To be able to have hand animated all of the characters, and have them acting-but not stealing the thunder from the foreground characters-was one of the big challenges of this movie. I was very happy with the results." Shaping the In-Theater Experience
Lighting is as important to a CG-animated film as it is to a traditional live-action one. The team crafted each shot to guide the viewers' eyes to the character that would eventually appear on screen
the same process as if they were lighting actors on set. For example, the animators learned never to put the Lorax in front of an orange Truffula Tree, as that would wash him out completely and render him almost invisible.
The team strived to show motion and ensure a completely immersive experience for the audience. Reflects CG supervisor Bruno Chauffard: "We did a lot of research because we had to discover the 'softness' of this tuft or that tuft. I did some small movement to make the Truffula Trees feel fresh and a little bit windy. All the trees are constantly moving in the film
you feel it. The colors, the feeling and the movement were very important. Some of the trees are also designed to move dynamically when they are cut by the Once-ler's machines and they fall."
Janet Healy explains that giving the audience this experience was a laser-coordinated effort: "The fur, the Truffula Trees, the grass and the environment are very computing-intensive because a lot of data was required. When they move, it was even more data. When they interact, it was compounded. To have the furred characters interacting with one another and the environment takes a lot of talent. It takes a lot of special code and many great technicians to pull it off. We had a tight loop between what we thought about on the page and what we designed, and we brought in the technical people at just the right time." 3D Adventure
From the insane scooter ride throughout Thneedville to the Once-ler's runaway ride down the river rapids with Pipsqueak, each element of the story was intended to draw the audience into the film and give them a truly 3D adventure.
Stereographer John R.A. Benson's job was to ensure that the 3D elements were truly taken advantage of in an exciting way. He says, "We wanted to make the characters feel round-make them feel like they're right in front of you but not so close that it felt weird. In a theater, you want to look at the space in front of the screen and the space that's inside the screen and feel like it's all one. We designed the film so you could be standing next to the Lorax and participating as if he's in your living room and feel that you're just as much a part of the environment as the characters are.
Janet Healy explains that with so many elements necessary for the audience to absorb in the theater, the construction was very deliberate. She says: "When you've got a lot of things going on in the scene, all those multiple colors in the background or a complex city with traffic and crowds, you have to be able to design them so the lighting, the colors and the values are separating the character from the background. That's something we did very judiciously, shot by shot, to make sure that we had just the right room light to make it pop on screen."
3D means manipulating another dimension. Concludes the producer: "When you are doing that in stereo that means you've got another dimension that you have to manage. You have to manage not only where your eye looks on the screen, but you have to manage where your eye looks in depth. We luckily have this incredible team that understands that importance and works well together to make sure that it's seamless for the audience." Let It Grow: Music of the Film"Way back in the days when the grass was still green and the pond was still wet and the clouds were still clean, and the songs of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space
one morning, I came to this glorious place."
-The Once-ler in "The Lorax"
Though the filmmakers wouldn't categorise Dr. Seuss' The Lorax as a musical, the animated adventure uses music extensively to further enrich the narrative. Ted Geisel himself turned to score in his animated telling of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Explains Christopher Meledandri: "The film bursts onto the screen with the townspeople of Thneedville singing about how much they love their lives. There are about five or six songs that figure prominently in the storytelling."
Christopher Meledandri, Janet Healy and Chris Renaud turned to multitalented composer John Powell to write the score and the songs used in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Known for his compositions for animated hits including How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda and Shrek, as well as of live-action films such as Hancock, The Bourne Ultimatum and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, John Powell and his musical work are quite linked to these blockbusters. Writer/executive producer Cinco Paul wrote the lyrics for the seven songs that are featured on the soundtrack. "John Powell is a composer whom I've had the privilege of working with on Robots, Ice Age: The Meltdown and Horton Hears a Who!," says Christopher Meledandri. "He is tremendously gifted in writing melodies, and he did all of the composition on the film."
At the end of the day, the team knew they were making a fable that needed to be inspirational to children of all ages. It was a delicate balance to entertain while still maintaining the core message of the source material. Says Chris Renaud about incorporating musical numbers: "You can do things in songs where you can give the story a sense of irony and a sense of fun, and it helps tell this story, which is essentially a somber, dark tale. Music has the ability to give anything a lighter tone, which is important for an animated movie. We begin with 'Thneedville,' which sets up the world, and we end with 'Let It Grow,' which is the anthem of rebirth. The film starts with celebration and ends with inspiration. So those two songs were our bookends that we built from."
The Once-ler happens to play the guitar and has a number of solo songs where he picks it up and sings. Singing is very much a part of his character. Luckily for the film, Ed Helms is an accomplished musician. He recorder all of the Once-ler's songs including "These Trees" and "Everybody Needs a Thneed," written by John Powell and Cinco Paul, and "How Bad Can I Be," written by John Powell, Cinco Paul and Kool Kojak. Commends Chris Renaud: "Ed Helms came in and sang three songs so easily. He's a fabulous bluegrass musician, and he can play piano. He nailed them, one after another."
The logic of breaking into song must be carefully orchestrated within the narrative itself, so that it feels like a natural extension of the story. Explains John Powell: "There are moments when we almost go into kitsch to punctuate the idea that it's a story being told. The opening is a proscenium arch, and we begin with the storyteller, the Lorax, who comes onstage. That's what I took my cues from when I composed the score. It's all about matching the music to the storytelling style. The story itself has quirkiness to it, and there are a few times when we break the fourth wall."
As the townspeople of Thneedville celebrate the planting of the last Truffula seed and begin to see life emerging from the ground for the first time in decades, we hear "Let It Grow," followed by "Let It Grow (Celebrate the World)," written by Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Ester Dean, Cinco Paul, John Powell and Aaron Pearce, which plays with the closing credits.
Christopher Meledandri brought in Tricky Stewart, a producer known for inventive and imaginative lyrics. Tricky Stewart has previously collaborated with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Christina Aguilera and Katy Perry, and is uniquely skilled at writing unforgettable anthems. Says Chris Renaud about working with Tricky Stewart: "I remember listening to 'Single Ladies' and thought it was just incredible. It was so out of the box and yet worked so brilliantly. Tricky Stewart is a very proficient producer of all sorts of music, and he's got very eclectic tastes."
Explains Tricky Stewart about writing the song: "Ester Dean and I took the song 'Let It Grow' and did an adaptation and turned it into the record that it is now. We took that great message and commercialised it into a way that you feel like you want to hear it a million times. The message is great, but the song strikes a chord without being preachy.
"Doing songs for artists versus movies is different, because as a producer of music, my ego has to be extremely involved in order to make the best decisions for things that people don't understand about pop culture," Trickey Stewart continues. "There is a different situation when you step into the film world, because unlike records, it takes 15 to 20 great minds to make one amazing film, so your ego has to take a backseat and you can't be married to ideas. You can't get so in love with something that you can't see it change, because it's always evolving and it's always changing."
Dr Seuss' The Lorax Part 1 - www.girl.com.au/dr-seuss-the-lorax.htm