The film received mixed reviews from critics and was a box office success, grossing $214 million in North America and $348.8 million worldwide based on a $70 million budget.
Ted Wiggins is an idealistic boy, who lives in Thneedville, a walled city that, aside from the human citizens, is completely artificial; everything is made of plastic, metal, or synthetics with no living plants. Ted has a crush on local environmentalist Audrey, who wants to see a "real tree" more than anything in the world, and decides to find one in order to impress her. His energetic Grammy Norma secretly tells Ted the legend of the Once-ler, who will tell anyone about trees if they brought him fifteen cents, a nail, and a shell of a great-great-great grandfather snail. When Ted leaves Thneedville in search of the Once-ler, he discovers that the outside world is a contaminated, empty, barren wasteland. Once the boy finds him, the Once-ler agrees to tell Ted about the trees on the condition that he listens to the story over multiple visits. Ted agrees, but on his way home, he encounters the mayor of Thneedville, Aloysius O'Hare, who is also the proprietor of a company that sells bottled oxygen to Thneedville residents. O'Hare explains to Ted that because trees produce oxygen free of charge, he considers it a threat to his business whenever he hears people talking about them. After revealing that he has "security camera eyes" all over the city, O'Hare pressures Ted to stay in town. However, Ted continues to sneak out of O'Hare's sight (with his grandmother's encouragement) and learns more of the trees' history.
Over Ted's various visits, the Once-ler recounts the story that when he was a young man, he departed his family to find good material for his Thneed invention and make a business. The Once-ler meets the guardian of the forest, the Lorax, after cutting down a Truffula tree in a lush Truffula tree forest valley. The Lorax urges the Once-ler to leave the forest, but the Once-ler refuses. Eventually, the Once-ler promises not to chop another tree down, and the two seem to begin a friendship of sorts. Then, the young businessman's Thneed invention becomes a major success and the Once-ler's family arrives to participate in the business. At first keeping his promise, the Once-ler continues Thneed production by harvesting the Truffula tree tufts in a slow, but sustainable manner. However, his greedy and lazy relatives soon convince him to resume chopping down the trees. Over time, the Once-ler's deforestation spirals into a mass overproduction. Flushed with wealth, the Once-ler rationalizes his short-sighted needs into arrogant self-righteousness, and the Lorax's helpless protests do not stop him. The Once-ler pollutes the sky, river, and landscape, until the very last Truffula Tree falls. With no further chance of business, he is left broken and abandoned by his family, with his mother disowning him, and with the region uninhabitable because of his business's pollution, the Lorax sends the animals off to find a new place to live before he departs into the sky, leaving only a stone-cut word: "Unless". Distraught and ruined, the Once-ler becomes a recluse.
After he finishes telling his story, the Once-ler finally understands the meaning behind the Lorax's last message, and gives Ted the last Truffula seed in hopes that he can plant it and make others care about real trees once more. Ted's desire to impress Audrey also becomes a personal mission to remind his town of the importance of nature. O'Hare, still determined not to have trees undermine his business, takes heavy-handed steps such as covering Audrey's nature paintings, closing off the door that Ted uses to see the Once-ler, and forcibly searching Ted's room for the seed (which has begun to grow after having some water from Ted's falling bottle after he close his room's door to see O'Hare). Ted enlists his family and Audrey to help plant the seed, which has begun to germinate after water was accidentally spilled on it. O'Hare and his employees pursue the dissidents until they manage to elude him and reach the town center. When Ted finally attempts to plant the seed, he is interrupted by O'Hare, who rallies the population to stop them by telling the people that trees are dangerous and filthy. To convince them otherwise, Ted takes an earthmover and rams down a section of the city wall to reveal the environmental destruction outside, thereby showing them what O'Hare is encouraging. Horrified at the sight and inspired by Ted's conviction (as though a part of the Lorax is within him), the crowd turns against O'Hare when they discover his true nature, with his own henchmen expelling him from the town with his jet pack-like helmet, and the seed is finally planted. Time passes and the land starts to recover; new trees sprout, the animals begin to return, and the redeemed, now-mustached Once-ler happily reunites with the Lorax.Danny DeVito as the Lorax
Ed Helms as the Once-ler. Neither the book or the TV special reveal the Once-ler's face, but instead throughout the book, the Once-ler is pictured by what appear to be green arms and yellow eyes. The filmmakers used that as the basis for the Once-ler's character design. They interpreted the Once-ler as a human, and also featured his green gloves and showed his face for the first time in this film.
Zac Efron as Theodore "Ted" Wiggins, an idealistic 12-year-old boy. He is named after the author of the book, Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel).
Taylor Swift as Audrey, Ted's love interest. She is named after Audrey Geisel, Dr. Seuss' wife.
Betty White as Grammy Norma, Ted's wise-cracking grandmother.
Rob Riggle as Aloysius O'Hare, the mayor of Thneedville and head of the "O'Hare Air" company that supplies fresh air to Thneedville residents.
Jenny Slate as Mrs. Wiggins, Ted's neurotic mother.
Nasim Pedrad as the Once-ler's mother.
Stephen Tobolowsky as Uncle Ubb, the Once-ler's uncle.
Elmarie Wendel as Aunt Grizelda, the Once-ler's aunt.
Danny Cooksey as Brett and Chet, the Once-ler's younger twin brothers.
The film is the fourth feature film based on a book by Dr. Seuss, the second fully computer-animated adaptation (the first one being Horton Hears a Who!), and the first to be released in 3-D. The Lorax was also Illumination's first film presented in IMAX 3D (known as "IMAX Tree-D" in publicity for the film). The idea for the film was initiated by Audrey Geisel, Dr. Seuss' wife, who had an established partnership with Chris Meledandri, the producer of the film, from a collaboration on Horton Hears a Who!. Geisel approached Meledandri when he launched Illumination Entertainment, saying "This is the one I want to do next". The film was officially announced in July 2009, with Meledandri attached as the producer and Geisel as the executive producer. Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda were announced as the director and co-director of the film, while Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, the duo who wrote the script for Horton Hears a Who!, were set to write the screenplay. In 2010, it was announced that Danny DeVito would be voicing the titular character.
The film was fully produced at the French studio "Illumination Mac Guff", which was the animation department of Mac Guff which was acquired by Illumination Entertainment in the summer of 2011. DeVito reprised his role in five different languages, including the original English audio, and also for the Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian language dub editions. Universal added an environmental message to the film's website after a fourth-grade class in Brookline, Massachusetts launched a successful petition through Change.org.
The film was released on March 2, 2012 in the United States and Canada and was released on July 27, 2012 in the United Kingdom.
Mazda used the likeness of The Lorax's setting and characters in an advertisement for their CX-5 SUV. This was seen by some as the complete opposite of the work's original meaning. In response, Stephanie Sperber, president of Universal partnerships and licensing, said Universal chose to partner with the Mazda CX-5 because it is "a really good choice for consumers to make who may not have the luxury or the money to buy electric or buy hybrid. It's a way to take the better environmental choice to everyone."
The film has also been used to sell Seventh Generation disposable diapers. In total, Illumination Entertainment struck more than 70 different product integration deals for the film.
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on August 7, 2012.
Three mini-movies were released on the Lorax Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack on August 7, 2012: Serenade, Wagon Ho!, and Forces of Nature.Serenade
Lou wants to impress a girl Barbaloot, but he has some competition.Wagon No!
The Once-ler arrives with his wagon and Melvin. Then Pipsqueak and Lou arrive. The Once-ler tells them not to have joyrides. When the Once-ler goes inside his house, Pipsqueak and Lou start cranking up the wagon, but Melvin refuses to pull it because he is angry that they whipped the reins. So Pipsqueak hangs a truffula fruit in front of Melvin as an incentive. However, Melvin gets exhausted going up a steep hill. Then the wagon gets unhooked from Melvin, and it rolls downhill backwards while Pipsqueak and Lou scream in terror. Melvin chases the runaway wagon. Lou tries to stop the wagon by stabbing a stick in one of its wheels, but he gets stuck on the wheel instead. Finally, he lands back on the seat next to Pipsqueak, who hugs him happily. The wagon hits a rock and is propelled downhill even faster. When it approaches a cliff, Pipsqueak panics and grabs the wagon canopy, which flies off—only to be held in place by Lou. The wagon flies off the cliff, but the canopy acts as a parachute and they make their descent calmly, landing in the same place they left. Melvin appears shortly after. The Once-ler comes out of the house and is surprised to see them. He expresses surprise that they listened to instructions, but just when it seems like they fooled him, Lou sneezes and the wagon falls apart. Melvin hides beneath his hooves and Lou and Pipsqueak curl up into a ball. The Once-ler looks annoyed and makes a small, disgruntled "Grr" sound, causing Lou and Pipsqueak to run away into the trees.Forces of Nature
The Lorax makes Pipsqueak an Honorary Lorax and team up to scare the Once-ler by using two sticks that looks like a monster's hand to freak him out. The Once-ler finds out it's fake and sprays water on the Lorax, which makes his fur puff-up. When the Lorax tells Pipsqueak that he's going to turn out like him, Pipsqueak gets scared and runs away. The short ends with the Lorax telling Pipsqueak that he lost his Honorary Lorax title.
Blockdot created a mobile puzzle game based on the film, titled Truffula Shuffula. The game was released on February 1, 2012, for Apple iOS and Android platforms.
The film earned a rating of 53% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 148 reviews and an average rating of 5.9/10, with the critical consensus saying, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is cute and funny enough, but the moral simplicity of the book gets lost with the zany Hollywood production values." It also has a score of 46 on Metacritic based on 30 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
New York magazine film critic David Edelstein on NPR's All Things Considered strongly objected to the movie, arguing that the Hollywood animation and writing formulas washed out the spirit of the book. "This kind of studio 3-D feature animation is all wrong for the material," he wrote. Demonstrating how the book's text was used in the movie in this excerpt from the review, Edelstein discusses Audrey describing the truffula trees to Ted:
"the touch of their tufts was much softer than silk and they had the sweet smell of fresh butterfly milk – and [in the movie] Ted says, "Wow, what does that even mean?" and Audrey says, "I know, right?" So one of the only lines that is from the book, that does have Dr. Seuss' sublime whimsy, is basically made fun of, or at least, dragged down to Earth."
Lou Dobbs, the host of Lou Dobbs Tonight on the Fox Business Network, has criticized the film as being "insidious nonsense from Hollywood", and accused Hollywood of "trying to indoctrinate children". The film also garnered some positive reviews from critics such as Richard Roeper, who called it a "solid piece of family entertainment". Roger Moore of the Pittsburgh Tribune called the film "a feast of bright, Seuss colors, and wonderful Seuss design", and supported its environmentalist message.
The film has grossed $214 million in North America, and $134.8 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $348.8 million.
The film topped the North American box office with $17.5 million on its opening day (Friday, March 2, 2012). During the weekend, it grossed $70.2 million, easily beating the other new nationwide release, Project X ($21 million), and all other films. This was the biggest opening for an Illumination Entertainment film, and for a feature film adaptation of a book by Dr. Seuss, as well as the second largest for an environmentalist film. It also scored the third-best debut for a film opening in March, and the eighth-best of all time for an animated film. The Lorax stayed at #1 the following weekend, dropping 45% to $38.8 million and beating all new nationwide releases, including Disney's John Carter (second place). On April 11, 2012, it became the first animated film in nearly a year to gross more than $200 million in North America, since Walt Disney Animation Studios' Tangled.
All tracks written by John Powell.
All tracks written by John Powell and Cinco Paul.