One night, a young boy living in a polluted, grim world wanders down 'the street of the lifted Lorax.' Along the dark street, he comes to the residence of a creature named The Once-ler, a dark green-colored being whose face is never seen. He takes up an audience with the boy, and begins to explain the tale regarding the Lorax.
The land once thrived with truffula trees when the Once-ler first came to the area in a horse-drawn cart. Living among the foliage are the brown Bar-ba-Loots, who eat truffula fruit from the local trees. In the nearby pond live the Humming Fish, and overhead fly the Swomee Swans. The trees amaze the Once-ler with their texture and scent, and he soon builds a small shop in the area. After cutting down a truffula tree, the Lorax pops out of its stump. The Lorax claims to speak for the trees, and demands to know what the Once-ler is doing. The Once-ler explains that he is using the truffula tree's tufts to make something called a "Thneed... a fine thing that all people need." The multi-purpose item soon attracts the attention of many customers, and the Once-ler continues to cut down more truffula trees. When it seems that the business is growing too big for just one Once-ler, he calls his relatives to help him with his thriving business.
As the Lorax protests against the Once-ler's actions, he is eventually standing under a truffula tree that was planted in the new developments that appear over time, when a bulldozer picks up the truffula tree and the Lorax and the Lorax is thrown into a truck with the truffula tree and hauled to a factory, where the Lorax is put in a box.
Then everybody reminisces about how Thneeds, Inc. started and how famous the Once-ler has become and popular the company has gotten, showing "Once-ler Cones", "Once-ler Burgers", "Once-lermobile" and a blimp advertising Thneeds, then a stone with Thneed carved in it. Shortly after Thneeds, Inc. has produced its millionth product, the Lorax gets out of the box and despite his protest, falls back into the box to be shipped off with more finished Thneeds.
Soon the once beautiful area becomes choked with pollution and as the Once-ler is trying to find out how his company is doing in the Scandinavian market (by this point Thneeds, Inc. has expanded outside the USA), the Lorax comes into the Once-Ler's office to protest that the Brown Bar-ba-loots, which fed on Truffula fruits, are nearing starvation. The Lorax starts sending the fauna off to more hospitable habitats. After this, the Once-ler's conscience tells him he is doing a lot of bad things, to which the Once-ler responds, "But if I didn't do them, then someone else would." When his conscience agrees, the Once-ler says progress has to get bigger. As the Once-ler is thinking about how successful Thneeds are selling all over the country, the Lorax protests that the "smogulous smoke" fills the Swomee Swans' throats with smog, preventing them from singing. Finally, the pond that was home to the Humming Fish is filled with toxic waste called "Gluppity-Glupp" and "Schloppity-Schlopp" that clogs their gills.) Confronted by the Lorax, the Once-ler appears to be ready to listen, until his secretary explains that the company's stock report has come in, and 'Thneeds, Inc' is doing exceptionally well. The Once-ler then scoffs at the Lorax, claiming that he will keep on making Thneeds, regardless of the consequences. As he finishes his taunt, the sound of an ax is heard, and the two are witness to the leveling of the last truffula tree. With no more trees, the factory shuts down, and the Once-ler's relatives pack up and leave. The Lorax sadly glances at the Once-ler, before lifting himself by the seat of his pants, and disappearing through a hole in the smog. On the spot where the Lorax last stood, sits a small pile of rocks, with a word carved into one: "Unless."
The tale then switches back to the Once-ler talking to the boy, who is given a truffula seed by the Once-ler, encouraging the boy to help revitalize the long-dead trees, with the possibility that the Lorax and his friends may then come back. The camera shows us a larger hole in the smog, which is the background image to the end credits.Eddie Albert
Production Design by: Maurice Noble
Directed by: Hawley Pratt
Produced by: Friz Freleng and Ted Geisel
Executive Producer: David H. DePatie
Animation: Warren Batchelder, John Gibbs, Manny Gould, Bob Matz, Bob Richardson, Robert Taylor, Dick Thompson, Don Williams
Backgrounds: Richard H. Thomas
Camera: John Burton, Jr., Larry Hogan, Ray Lee
Film Editing: Lee Gunther, Joe Siracusa, Rick Steward
Executive In Charge of Production: Stan Paperny
Production Supervision: Harry Love
Lyrics by: Dr. Seuss
Music by: Dean Elliott
Production Mixer: Steve Orr
Teleplay by: Dr. Seuss
Storyboard by: Irv Spector
To tie-in with the 40th anniversary of the special and the release of film The Lorax, Warner Home Video released the special on a deluxe edition DVD and Blu-ray on February 14, 2012.