As the screenwriters behind both The Lorax and 2008’s Horton Hears a Who!, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio have become the go-to guys for bringing Dr. Seuss to the silver screen. As such, they well know the unique challenges presented by adapting the works of one of the most beloved writers of all time. Not the least among these challenges is the pressure put upon them by legions of fans, not to mention the Seuss estate, to get the author’s timeless and instantly recognizable stories right.
For Paul and Daurio, staying true to the whimsical-yet-cautionary tale of the Lorax, an environmental guardian (“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”) who tries to protect his forest from the corporate greed of the Once-ler, is made at once easier and more difficult by the fact that they are themselves huge fans of Dr. Seuss. “[We] consider him a genius,” notes Paul, “and didn’t want to do anything to tarnish or water down what he’s done.”
Upon the film’s release this Friday, March 2nd, both nostalgia-driven adult fans of Dr. Seuss and children (who are, after all, the film’s target audience) will be able to see if the film lives up to its source material. So far, things are looking good: With a voice cast that includes Ed Helms (as the Once-ler) and Danny DeVito (as the Lorax) and a striking visual style, the movie looks sure to be a treat for adults and children alike.
Paul and Daurio, whose credits also include Despicable Me and Hop, took the time to chat with MovieMaker about the challenges of adapting such a beloved children’s book, which Dr. Seuss books they wouldn’t say no to taking a crack at next and the status of the upcoming Despicable Me 2.
Rebecca Pahle (MM): Much of the charm of Dr. Seuss’s books is in the language, how it’s nonsense poetry, in a way. The language and the characters, more than the plot, are the focus. How did you go about beefing up the plot for The Lorax? Did you outline everything before you started writing?
Cinco Paul (CP): The big break-through with adapting The Lorax came when we realized we could keep the core story of the book just as Seuss wrote it but just expand on either side. That is, what happened to the boy before he came to visit the Once-ler for the first time? And what did he do after he got the seed? Once we had that, we knew we had a movie. And we absolutely outlined the whole story before we started writing. That’s a crucial part of the process, especially with a story as complicated as this one, that goes back and forth through time.
MM: So far, your credits include Despicable Me, Horton Hears a Who!, Hop… how did you get into writing children’s animation, and what are some of your favorite films in that genre?
Ken Daurio (KD): Our first family movie was The Santa Clause 2, and once we did Horton Hears a Who! it became clear that we were in that genre to stay. We each have three kids, so it was a natural evolution! We’re big fans of the Pixar classics like Toy Story and The Incredibles and also some of the older family movies like E.T. and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
MM: Cinco, you said in an interview from around the time of Despicable Me that The Lorax is your favorite Dr. Seuss book. Does being a fan of the book change how you approach the script, compared to when you’re writing an original screenplay, as with Hop?
CP: Loving the book and working closely with the Seuss estate definitely create a feeling of responsibility to be true to Dr. Seuss. We are both huge fans of what he’s created; [we] consider him a genius and didn’t want to do anything to tarnish or water down what he’s done. We didn’t feel any of that pressure with Despicable Me or Hop. It could definitely be considered an extra challenge, but one we were honored to have.
MM: You’ve done two adaptations of Dr. Seuss books so far. Is there another one of his books that you’re itching to get your hands on? In a perfect world, which one would you tackle next?
KD: That’s a good question. Maybe One Fish Two Fish or Hop on Pop—so we wouldn’t be bound by narrative!
MM: What’s the status on Despicable Me 2? Do you have any projects lined up after that?
CP: We finished the script a while ago (although in animation the script’s never really finished), and they’ve begun storyboarding and animating it already. We’re very excited for it. It was great to get back in the studio with Steve Carell—he launched into the Gru voice as if he’d never stopped using it. It’s been so much fun to dive back in with these characters… and create some new ones, too.
We have some other projects lined up, but nothing we can talk about… yet. Our bosses at Universal and Illumination like us to keep tight-lipped.
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax comes out in wide release across the U.S. and Canada this Friday, March 2nd. For more information, visit www.theloraxmovie.com.