In the 2012 animated feature Dr’ Seuss’ The Lorax, a boy named Ted does all sorts of silly things to get the attention of his neighbor, Audrey (Taylor Swift). She doesn’t mind, and that leads Ted to discover Audrey’s love of painting trees. Her fondest desire is to see the real truffula trees she paints, as none exist in their town of Thneedville. When he asks the adults where he can find truffula trees, his Granny Norma (Betty White) tells Ted that the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who lives outside of town, might know.
Ted finds Once-ler, who tells the boy the tree story. Trees once grew where he lives, but he cut them down to make thneeds. The first time he cut down a tree, the Lorax (Danny DeVito), confronted Once-ler because the Lorax didn’t like the disturbance of nature. Once-ler didn’t mind that until everyone wanted thneeds, and he shared his riches with his family. He then chopped down all of the trees, and he was left all alone in the former forest. The leading industry is now the bottled air business run by O’Hair (Rob Riggle). Once-ler and Ted, though, create a plan O’Hair doesn’t like.
Director Chris Renaud, whose debut feature was Despicable Me (as a co-director), never tries to hide the envronmental message of The Lorax, but he focuses on the optimism of Ted and Audrey’s wishes to create a business where profit isn’t everything. Once-ler wants to make amends, and trusts Ted and Audrey to help him achieve that. Scenarists Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, who also collaborated on the feature Horton Hears A Who!, provide a story true to the spirit Suess’ work. Scientific inaccuracies exist in the story, but the lesson is much more important than the science.
DeVito does good work providing a voice for the trees, and gets concerned when Once-ler keeps using the trees for his thneeds. Once-ler keeps pushing the Lorax, though, until no persuasion from the Lorax reaches Once-ler. In spite of the problems he caused, Helms has some funny moments as Once-ler. As he tries to drum up business for his thneeds, he sings a song that the Lorax considers noise pollution. Efron and Swift have good chemistry as a couple with a cause. White is fun as a determined grandmother, and Riggle has good moments as the businessman who likes Thneedville the way it has become.
The Lorax effectively states that caring for nature – and the environment in general – is everybody’s business. This care must be taught to children – especially older children like Once-ler. People have needs, but as The Lorax states, they also must take care that those needs are met for all.