J.J. Abrams Producing Three Dr. Seuss Animated Movies, Including ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’

     October 1, 2020

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The Broadway musical appropriately called Seussical already does a pretty good job of collapsing Dr. Seuss‘ whimsically rhyming worlds of children’s books into one universe. But now, this impulse of cross-pollinating Seuss’ influential, charming work is going to make it to the big screen; in other words, we’re about to get a DSCU. Per Vanity Fair, three upcoming Dr. Seuss animated films are coming from Warner Animation Group, Bad Robot, and producers J.J. Abrams and Hannah Minghella.

First on the docket? A new, animated take on The Cat in the Hat, ostensibly since the live action Mike Myers version scarred too many people’s souls when it was released in 2003. This version, planned for 2024, has directors Erica Rivinoja (South Park) and Art Hernandez (Tinker Bell). After that, we’ll get a new piece of material based on the world of Cat in the Hat — a spinoff focused on Thing One and Thing Two (also the title), that Cat’s chaos-loving compatriots, scheduled for 2026. And finally (for this slate anyhow), the first-ever big-screen take on Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, that inspirational piece of direct-address coming-of-age journeying that’s since become a standard for graduation ceremonies, scheduled for 2027. And yes, these projects are all being described as taking place in a “Seuss universe.” Oh the places we’ll go, indeed!

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Image via Random House

Allison Abbate, executive vice president of Warner Animation Group, put it bluntly:

“Seuss builds worlds. There are so many questions that he posits, which is why we can read and reread those stories. It has been exciting for us to think about it as world building and not just a single story… For the first time we’re not just doing one film for one book. We’re going to franchise-build beyond the initial story of these books and find out what happens next. I call it stretching the fabric. How far can it go, to go a little bit deeper with our characters.”

Me? I think I’d prefer telling a single story as best you can before thinking about the scope beyond and, um, ripping the fabric, but also, I’m no Grinch. I love Dr. Seuss and the idea of spending a bunch of time in an interconnected world of his sounds delightful on paper! Plus: The “universe” won’t necessarily involve characters visiting each other, a la Seussical: “The Cat in the Hat will not meet the boy in Oh, the Places You’ll Go, nor would the Things go visit the Lorax. While it will all feel like part of the Seuss universe, they live in their worlds, and they’re not necessarily going to interact in the same films… Our goal would be to mirror the way Ted did his portfolio of books. The color palettes are different, the architecture is different, but you look at those and go, ‘That’s a Dr. Seuss book.’ If we properly translate Ted’s characters and his messaging, each one creates a different story, but it’s still Seuss DNA. That’s what we’re going to go try to do.”

The team also spoke about heading back-to-basics with the playfully anarchic yet sentimental tone of the original books, with Susan Brandt, president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, reminding us that “there’s teeth to these stories.” Brandt seems especially excited about the uncharted territories of the Thing One and Thing Two spinoff, since there’s no pre-existing base reality or adaptation to have to stay faithful to: “All ages delight in the wackiness, the carefreeness, the silliness that are the Things. We don’t know where they come from. They’re just free spirits, man. They run about, they thump and they bump, and they have all sorts of fun.”

As for Minghella, the president of Bad Robot? She spoke passionately about the care, inspiration, and responsibility she has for adapting the material, especially Oh, the Places You’ll Go: “We take that very seriously, and think we have an opportunity to make a movie that can be a wonderful complement to the book. It can follow Seuss’s lead and bring the world of the book to life beyond the page. That’s what movies do. A film can put you on that journey experientially. It can give you the breathless sense of flight of being in that balloon or letting you hear the jubilant music of the boom-boom band. A movie has to use all the tools of filmmaking to evoke the same feeling of hope and wonder.”

We’ll keep you updated on the jubilant music of the boom-boom band that is the Seussiverse as soon as we hear more. For more on the good Doctor, here’s our review of Netflix’s Green Eggs & Ham series.

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