The first image of the eco-unfriendly Once-ler from the 3D CGI adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax has gone online. In the book, the Once-ler’s face is never seen, probably because he’s meant as a stand-in for everyone responsible for abusing our natural resources (he’s also meant as a stand-in for all those bastards with spindly green arms). But EW reports that in the new movie, “he’s a misguided, fresh-faced young man (voiced by Ed Helms), whose destructive actions warp not only his world, but eventually himself.” That actually sounds kind of neat and reassuringly tragic. Keep in mind that while Dr. Seuss’ book is filled with rhymes and colorful images, it ends where the only hope is a one-word message carved into a tree stump.
Hit the jump for a first look at the Once-ler and an explanation of how Illumination Entertainment came up with the design. The film also features the voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, and Betty White. The Lorax opens in 3D on March 2, 2012. [Update: We’ve updated the article with high resolution versions of the images].
“[Seuss] gave us the clues on the page,” says The Lorax producer Christopher Meledandri, CEO of Illumination Entertainment, which has worked closely with the author’s estate and widow to begin adapting his books into animation. Melandrani tells Entertainment Weekly:
“If there was a clear sign this character was something other than human, we would have abided by that,” says Meledandri. “But okay, he’s wearing gloves. You’re not going to put gloves on a monster.”
“The minute you make the Once-ler a monster, you allow the audience to interpret that the problem is caused by somebody who is different from me, and it ceases to be a story that is about all of us,” says Meledandri. “Then it’s a story about, ‘Oh I see, the person who led us into the predicament is not a person. It’s somebody very, very different.’ And so it takes you off the hook.”
And here’s a look at the movie-version of the Once-ler at the end of his days and closer to how he appears in the book.
Melandrani explains that they chose Helms for the voice because of his everyman quality, and says of the Once-ler:
“He’s pure of heart when we meet him. He has no nefarious agenda,” Meledandri adds. “He’s just going off to follow his path and seize his piece of the American dream. He’s in this frontier doing that, in this beautiful setting. Had he not been carried away by greed, everything would have gone okay.”
More than the new images, I find these comments incredibly encouraging. Now the only question mark left is DeVito as the Lorax, since I always thought of the Lorax as a voice of sage wisdom as opposed to The Penguin.