Horton heard a what? - field trip

Read this now, as it is likely to be edited the more I think on it.

Once again the villain and the sidekicks steal the show. Morton the mouse's movements are zippy and in direct contrast to elephant Horton (who loses consistency as he passes between animators?). Horton was particularly annoying when he has a sequence with Morton where he smeared from overdone held pose-to-overdone held pose. Vlad the vulture is superb with his large, cape-like wings and 1930's vampire horror film poses. Katie the yellow critter was wonderfully random without some of the try hardness of the main characters...


frank said...

The character designs based on Dr. Seuss's original large fur-dos, curly bits and candy stripes are very appealing as is the town plan, contraptions and architecture of "Whosville".

I did enjoy the mayor pointing as his arm unrolled from a coil. But then they overdid a nice elastic arm gag (again) that went on and on after the dentist visit. Ellie pointed out the nice mix of 2D and 3D animation in the sequence where the original text is narrated.

The water started well but was overdone in the swimming sequence, and there were "why?" moments throughout the film. And that's allowing for the 'zaniness' quotient supplied by the good Doctor S's original text and the catalyst for deep philosophical ponderings about living on a speck. Why was there a falling coyote whistle when no-one was falling from the bridge? Why did everyone start singing (it was the moment that Jo Jo lost his smouldering cool and became obnoxious, it was more than a power centre shift)? Why did we need it spelled out that the audience were in a particularly emotional part of the film?

It was annoying and patronising.

Horton may have heard a who, but I don't think the directors asked why enough.

The film was a succession of good gags and nice animation that were then taken too far.

There were many mixed reviews at the debrief at the pub. Star ratings varied from 2 to 4. You may read some reviews on the students' blogs, or they may appear in the comments here.

What did you think?

animation_student said...

It was interesting to see a movie where Jim Carrey was restrained in (voice) performance but a lot of the animators weren't.

Morton the mouse's performance was a creait to his voice and animation team.

The kangaroo was apalling.

New York Times said...

"All kinds of extraneous elements are added to the story. The Mayor of Who-ville, voiced by Steve Carell, is a beleaguered dad who has trouble communicating with his son, a moody emo boy named Jo-Jo. The problem with this father-son reconciliation narrative is not that it is un-Seussian — though such intergenerational melodrama almost never figured in Dr. Seuss’s work — but that it’s tired and sentimental. You don’t get the sense that the writers (Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul) actually believe in it. It just feels like something they know they’re supposed to do."

Dana said...

Ok, despite what everyone says, I seriously enjoyed the movie...including the lame gags. In fact I spent the whole time watching instead of analyzing. I liked the anime part of the movie, it was totally random and it poked fun of anime.
The only thing that bugged me was that some parts were really fast and i found it hard for my eyes to keep up with all the movement.

Other than that, I seriously enjoyed it and it's one of the movies I have to buy when it comes out on dvd :p

Mitch said...


*This comment contains spoilers, do not read on if you want to enjoy the film*

There where some scenes where I thought that Jim Carrey was holding back his loud usual self. But I had a closer look, and it was every time he had his trunk wrapped around the clover. It was just his way of sounding like his nose was too busy doing other things instead of help project his voice.

Also frank I see where you're coming from with Jojo changing character right at the end. But the narrator did point out that he didn't talk because he was too afraid to let down his dear old dad. So maybe it was just a melodramatic way for him to show the audience his pent up emotions bursting out with relief. MAYBE. I mean, he DOES save the day. Even I'd be a little "obnoxious" if I saved all of whosville with my excellent singing talent.
*puts on cool sunglasses*.
And yeah, melodrama and over-the-top acting is (imo) a strong key towards putting things in context for the little ones.

We're spending too much time asking ourselves why, when in reality, this is a Dr. Seuss movie, And I don't know about you guys, but I read Dr. Seuss to my nephew alot and there's ALOT of "why not" happenings in his books.

Also, the "falling whistling" noise (imo) was symbolic towards horton's thoughts, hence why the sound effect stops as soon as he opens his eyes. I'm sure he was screaming in his head "I'VE GOT SO MUCH TO GIVE!!!".

KATIE is good for the subject on "why and why not". (imo) They made her do out of the ordinary thing's to give Horton's world a little more variety. There were very few characters in the Jungle of Nule (if Nule is how you spell it) that stood out from the pack.

My theory is, (and its a very far fetched theory at that), is that Katie wasn't from the Jungle of Nule at all, and was part of the world Horton starts to put together could be possible for it to be in exsistence, where even HIS world is really small, and bigger people are looking down on him, and have fights, where bricks are involved etc. I think this mainly because ONE Kellie is FAR too wierd for the rest of the animals, TWO Maybe I'm wrong but I didn't see any parents that belonged to her in the mob scenes when all the animals where present, and yet every kid in the movie had an adult version of them at least somewhere in the mob. and THREE, she does indeed "ascend into the heavens" at the end of the film, amongst all the other "specks"... and she just decides to come visit Horton's world for a while.
Feel free to shoot down my theory with evidence of Others that look like her in the movie.

Which brings me back to my theory on Dr. Suess and his "why not" imagination, and Dreamworks trying to mimic his imaginative view

(imo) The whole "not answering enough questions and not putting in too much potential depth into the story line was deliberate"
Personally I believe that over-the-top crazy movies like this one will encourage children of the new generation to start asking more and more questions about life. I think if the directors summed things up for the children, it wouldn't spark that little imaginative spark in their minds to think about whats beyond their PlayStations and beyond their backyard.
But at the same time, The storyline was simplified enough to not hurt the little heads of the poot little boys and girls.

Please, feel free to shoot me down if i'm wrong. It seemes to be ARC's new hobby. *puts on helmet*

frank said...

Ahhh yes, the days of watching a film and liking it without having to know why. Dana, it's a good point well stated.

Also a great approach to movie going, but don't you want to know why you enjoyed it?

What did the animators do that made it appealing?

frank said...

Mitch I like your comments.

The 'why?' I look for is not questioning Dr. Seuss's fantastical ideas and your "why not?" interpretation.

The "why?" I look for is basic motivation to initiate an action.

Katie was a random character and humour was generated from her unexpected actions and reactions. But each action she took was initiated by something.

There just seemed to be sequences in the film that were put in because the directors thought they'd be 'entertaining' rather than the actions of the characters involved responding to an initiating factor.

I did feel the heavy hands of the bean counters (Ian calls them 'shareholders') on the story steering wheel at times and that's when the film got wobbly for me.

I'm sure I saw a couple of Cassies at the film. I wonder what they thought?

Dana said...

You have a good point Frank. Next time I sit down and watch it I should figure out what made me like it and what teh animators did to make it enjoyable ^__^

Ian said...

I loved it.

On a technical level I thought the character animation was rock solid. Every issue I have seen raised here has been pretty subjective (proffering one style of movement to another). The bottom line is that there wasn’t a single moment where the movement didn’t feel believable and cartoony at the same time. I’d have to say it’s the first non Pixar 3D film I’ve seen where I could say they had nailed that at every stage, and I’d say it’s the first time I’ve seen Blue Sky distinguish themselves from the other Pixar followers. All the animators working on these big budget films are amazing, but there are still moments in Sony, Zemeckis, and Dreamworks films that don’t seem quite on the money with me (Dreamworks seem to have a problem in particular with the more realistic human characters)

The combination of the Dr Suess designs with the standard commercial 3D look, made for some of the most unique characters I’ve seen in 3D so far (when was the last time you saw a female character as bizarre as the kangaroo in a feature film). Although it did still conform to the standard slightly plastic, perfectly shaded, intricately covered in fine details like wrinkles and hairs formula that all the major US 3D players churn out these days ( a quick look through the 3d films linked to on this blog will show that 3D is capable of so much more aesthetically). But I don’t know if we can single this one film out for criticism there, they are all guilty of that, I would like to have seen them take the abstraction a little further at is all.

Its perfectly fine to ask “why?” in fact I would encourage it. The thing is that in the context of a US feature the answer is often so simple it can’t be seen for the trees. Because we thought it would be funny, make the kids laugh. That’s what they set out to do, and I think they nailed it here. I think they crossed the line for me in this regard with the song tacked on the end, man what were they thinking.

On the whole I really enjoyed myself. I don’t think I’ll go through and respond to any particular criticisms others have raised, unless you want to press me on anything in particular. I’ll just say it all came together very nicely for me.

Mitch said...

The song at the end was just a "band wagon" opportunity to add something "Random" at the end of the movie.

Shrek has it's funky musical numbers "which horton's ripped off completely"

Pixar movies have thier "blooper reels"

Ice Age have their "Scrat moments"

I think personally it's just a little bit extra added for the kiddies to cheer them all up after seeing the huge cliffhanger near the end of the film.
And in Dreamwork's and in Pixar's case, it's just there to say, "It's alright kids, it's only a movie. LOOK :D they are all having the fun times and making with the singing etc."

I'll admit that I'm a softy when it comes to movies and emotional scenes. And I found that the musical number just gave me that extra feeling of relief.

And, it's awfuly popular at the moment. "highschool musical, all the singing Idol shows, not to mention, there was a time when all disney movies had a musical number in them "looks far off into the distance".

I bet you any money, even the director cringed when he was sorting out the musical ending, but it's a smart move on their behalf, because there are going to be a whole bunch of kids eagerly awaiting this film to come out on DVD so they can skip straight to the singing at the end. when I was 12 and shrek had just come out, My friends and I found so amusing at the end of the movie when they all burst into song. And then we all rushed off home and Kazzaa'ed and Limewire'd, NOT to MENTION BearSHARED the crap out of "shrek ending musical" because the song was still up there in our heads. So I truely believe that the creators knew all along that this was a crappy idea and it made no sence to us "adults" but in the end it's all about the money, and if you can make cute little characters that sing and dance to up beat songs, CHILDREN...WILL...COME... and they will fill your pockets with sweet beautiful gold.

if my memory serves me right, I remember WAY ages ago, I saw a review for The Iron Giant "although I've never seen the film myself" I head that it was one of the first successful disney-esque movies NOT to get all musical on all y'all asses.

This is because from my understanding, Brad Bird was part of the team. and he was probably trying to make a point. Now although I take his "Why the hell should a character do THAT?!?!" talk to heart. I also believe that if a big elephant and a tiny mayor burst into a musical number because the children population of the world wanted music more than the in depth philisophical storyline of believing in more than what you can see in your backyard. Then FREAKEN give it to them. And reap your precious reward.
For all those who still don't get where I'm coming from...Paris Hilton is discustingly famous.. "Why?" Brad Bird might ask?. Because she is.

Horton was good for the kids. But not exactly a new world record for animation or direction (apart from the wonderful portrayal of Dr. Seuss's imagaintion in Whoville). Yet something tells me Blue Sky isn't going bankrupt any time soon.

turbo said...

Where do kids get their gold?

frank said...

[First up, it's been a tough day at work]

I appreciate the comments and ideas presented in these excellent reviews. The following comments are generalist and not aimed at anyone in particular, except maybe the whole world.

The 'why's', I present, maybe are a cultural mismatch rather than a generational thing? And me, living in a minority Australian multiculture, just can't accept what is normal in a film generated in a philosophically divergent culture.

Superficiality, 'cheapness' in the form of invoking culturally taught emotional responses from children, stuff that used to be called 'cheap laughs', 'cheap thrills', I think detracts from a piece of work (or outside of the 'bu$ine$$' of animation/ film making/ story telling, an artistic endeavour).

I don't want to go to a film to feel like I'm watching people make money. I want to be entertained (in the very least), but I really hope to connect and empathise with the characters and story.

Here's a why; Why can't that be achieved in a film that's outwardly vaunted as entertainment for children?

Formulaic fist pulled "yesses", "high fives", "woo-hoo air punches", "whah! (you said what?) looks", "cliche'd singalong lyrics" all that borrowed evocitival cheapness from another culture that values things, and now children's emotional responses as well, it seems, in monetry terms, presents as false to me.

'A mask of falsity sits uncomfortably on a true face.'

What about reaching for real, instinctive, humoral (as in internal glandular and body chemical) responses that require a tiny bit of thought and a sprinkle of magic to draw out, rather than a learned response (for example, sit-com canned laughter, or, a charcater describing what you should be feeling), that has just been remixed over and over in the same shallow ideas pan because it made some money last time.

I don't think the responses we aim for as animators, as manipulators of emotions, should be brought forward by the means of learned, giving-the-kids-what-they-have-been-taught-to-want responses.

I would hope the emotions that we try to massage to the surface as tears or laughter in our audience should be from the inexplicable depths.

That's why the lame cues for emotional responses, the use of borrowed formula in this film, I felt, detracted from the result leaving me dissatisfied.

I fear it has reinforced the cues in an unaware or pre-conditioned accepting audience, so that next time they see a film based on the same emotional cheapness, they will be convinced that they are satisfied because the reviews and box office receipts tell them that they should be.

I look forward with trepidation to Ice Age 3. (yup, it looks like there'll be a dinosaur in it. That's 1950's Fred Flinstone cheap from the outset).

Luckily for everyone, this topic has moved down the list, so will be missed by most of the "Now" generation and only stumbled upon by blog archeologists.

Keep asking 'why?'!

*air punch*

Ian said...

Frank that’s all fine. But I'm afraid I gave up expecting such lofty aspirations from the main stream US film industry long ago.
I think Mitch was a little more forgiving than I would be, but I think even judging by your criteria, this film was above average from that group.

This why I am the biggest Brad Bird fan in the world, he seems to be the only producer who aspires to break the mainstream mould. But I think the best we can realistically expect from most others is that they will follow him.

This is also why the net has been such a revelation for me of over the last few years. Since I got broadband my eyes have really been opened to what animation can be. So much more (visually and in other ways) than the commercial money crunchers would have us believe.

I salute your lofty ideals, but I've been burnt too many times to come along for the ride. These things are commercial exercises, I usually go along now expecting them to be shallow and predictable. That way I'm pleasantly surprised when there are good bits.

This gets back to the "Holly Grail" idea people have about features that was brought up in the comments for the post about the Southpark creators. People expect more from features, more creativity, more risk taking, more cred, more freedom. The opposite is true, the bigger the checks being signed, the more everyone’s sphincter shrivels up. Its easier to take risks with smaller amounts of money.

Independent films are where you can and should expect producers to aspire to push the envelope. The capitalists will pick up on the marketable aspects of what they do and exploit it. That’s Hollywood.

I might add that its also the lowest common denominator among us, the audience. The sad truth is that predictable films do better at the box office. Is it any wonder that shrewd business men want to take advantage of that.

I enjoyed the film. It made me laugh.

frank said...

*smoke cloud*

Apologies to asthmatics, that was just my smouldering ideals.

The bigger the finacial input, the bigger the committee, the more mediocre the result. I get it now.

I lament and continue to rale against the tempest that silly hand juvenile gestures, and humour at the expense of discomfiture in others (the ol' kick in the groan) jokes, is what we have served up to us in the forseeable future at the cinema.

No wonder the Internet is the new, immediate, risky, edgey, (better) visual media frontier. And maybe that's where the artisticlly better animators will exhibit the craft, rather than slaving away on a nauseating, risk managed, whyless feature film (not Horton, but Horton's descendents).

Ed Hooks Craft Notes said...

"Precisely 31 minutes into "Horton Hears a Who", there is a delightful sequence in which Horton the Elephant has to get from one side of a wood-and-rope swinging bridge to the other. If he doesn't make it, he'll surely fall to his death on the rocks waiting thousands of feet below the bridge. He hesitates at the start, tries a couple of baby steps and avoids looking down. But he is an elephant, after all, and the bridge was built for the weight of relatively normal sized humans. Finally, he just goes for it and, sure enough..." ,Read more by clicking on the name link for this post.

frank said...

I wonder what the sequence was? ; "that there is a one-minute sequence twenty-nine minutes into the film that they could have
lived without."

2 minutes before the rope bridge sequence.


frank said...

"This why I am the biggest Brad Bird fan in the world, he seems to be the only producer who aspires to break the mainstream mould."

I agree that Mr. Big, Brad Bird, appears to break out of the formulae that the accountants set for feature films.

I just wonder, if he consciously sets out to do so? Or, if his style and focus in directing a feature film makes it turn out that way?

Maybe someone could put that question to him? Or they already have and it's recorded in an interview somewhere?

I would hope it is the latter case. It would be a dimming of his light, I think, if he conciously set out to break molds. I like to observe that they are broken along the way to creating a film that has greater universal appeal and satisfaction than a share holder driven one.

Let the love-in commence...

Ian said...

This link might give you some insight into his point of view.


frank said...

If you're going to get fired from a global multimedia corporation, do it with dignity and the shiny, silver bullets of truth blazing from your six guns.

Take that beancounters!

Well done Mr. Bird.

I only hope this story is true.