One of the things I thought was great about the film is that you sense they had read a lot of Seuss, not just “Horton Hears a Who!” and they brought that knowledge of his entire body of work to bear on this adaptation.
“Horton Hears a Who!” is one of Seuss’ explicitly political books. They amplified Seuss’ activist message in the film, which shows the importance of everybody speaking up and making yourself heard. I think that resonates with young people because to be a child is to be left out and to be without power.
The film also wove in some of Seuss’ other political concerns. He himself was a liberal Democrat. You could see the message of “The Lorax,” which is Seuss’ book about saving the environment. I was also interested in the way they translated contemporary political arguments into the film. The kangaroo was using language that was reminiscent of the contemporary right in her argument about family, about children, and protecting them. Those kinds of moves would have resonated with Seuss.
Prof. Philip Nel is director of the program in Children’s Literature at Kansas State U. and author of “The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats.”