Newer versions of older works: the downfall of Dr. Seuess

Ian Postal

Every so often the big movie companies will acquire the rights to some book and bring it to life on the big screen. This will often instill equal parts joy and horror in the fans of the original material. I, however, have been mostly left puzzled over a trend in the last decade to go through this process with children’s books, ranging from Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas to Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. 

Standard books of fantasy, science fiction, or whatever else are understandable. After all, a novel of several hundred pages certainly gives you something to work with when making a feature length film.

But most of the works of Seuss, and others like him, rarely top more than 50 pages or so. And most of that filled up with illustrations and drawings. In fact, going strictly by the book leaves you with nowhere near enough to cover 2 hours in the theatre.

So what ends up happening is the companies expand the work far beyond its original points and works in all sorts of back story or extra events not found in the books themselves. Sometimes far and away leaving the original material behind.

The results? The Cat in the Hat spends some time in a rave and Where the Wild Things Are becomes about a metaphorical tantrum and what it means to have a certain amount of responsibility.

Does this sound like something you expect in a kid’s movie? Does this sort of existentialism even sound like something kids would be interested in seeing? Not many in the under 10 market that I’ve seen would.

In fact, the makers of the recent “Where the Wild Things Are” movie even went to say that their film, though based on a children’s book, was not even meant to be marketed toward children.

How does this work exactly? Where is the logic in making a movie out of a children’s book and not gearing the finished product toward the children who might be reading it?

This isn’t to say that the ones that are do much better in my opinion. As fun as it may be to watch Jim Carrey’s antics throughout the live action version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, I can’t say I enjoy the film much more than the animated version of the 60’s.

I suppose it’s rather silly to get so worked up over this specific branch of the movie industry, when my experience with any book being made into a movie hasn’t all that well, save a few rare examples. Disappointment just seems to come naturally with the territory.

Then again, as I mentioned earlier, my main problem really stems from how much is added to the original story simply to justify its transition into a full-length film. I can at least see where they’re coming from when they take a complete book and hack, slash, and burn their way toward a finished product, because there’s enough room there for them to both add and subtract, or just mess things around all together.

Still, maybe it would be better if I stopped complaining about how bad these supposed kid’s movies can be and started watching movies made more for my age group. Chances are that I’ll still have plenty to complain about, but I’ll feel a little less silly bringing it up in conversation.

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