Released between 2009 and 2012, five animated adaptations of Theodore "Dr. Seuss" Geisel's most celebrated books made their Blu-Ray debut courtesy of Warner Bros., who also did wonderful restoration work on Charles Schulz' beloved Peanuts animated shorts. Presented as either regular or deluxe editions, these five stand-alone releases have recently been collected in Hats Off to Dr. Seuss, a five-disc Blu-Ray set in slimmed-down packaging. For obvious reasons, the main content, A/V quality and extras are exactly the same, except without separate DVD copies that were included the first time around.
It's not exactly the first adaptation of Dr. Seuss' work, but The Cat in the Hat (1971) showcases the good doctor's most iconic and enduring character. This entertaining rainy day diversion is a bit more verbose than its famously simple printed counterpart, but enjoyable music cues and memorable voice work ensure that The Cat in the Hat still holds up more than 40 years later. My two-and-a-half year old daughter has been watching it almost daily for the last two weeks...so that's a good sign, right?
The Lorax (1972) is Seuss' environmentally conscious story which, like many of the good doctor's classic tales, was adapted into a less-than-effective motion picture. Luckily, this animated adaptation is more in line with the original, and the themes of consumption, greed and the perils of consumerism are still as timeless as ever. As expected, there are minor omissions (and additions) that set this 'toon apart from the original book, but its heart is definitely in the right place. Just don't buy the movie promotional tie-in lunchbox or toys, as they'll eventually end up in a landfill next to your Wall-E motorized thingamajigs.
Horton Hears a Who (1970) was directed by animation giant Chuck Jones, who also helmed How the Grinch Stole Christmas (also included with this collection and summarized below). This charming tale of an elephant and the microscopic world he discovers---and eventually protects---is another simple lesson told with skill and wit, even though it's no substitute for the original book. It's as socially conscious as it is enjoyable, while the expected amount of animated flair will undoubtedly win over kids of all ages.
Green Eggs and Ham & Other Stories (1973) feels like the odd man out, and not just because it's still re-titled from the original Dr. Seuss on the Loose. The Cat in the Hat returns as host of this variety short, which also includes bite-sized adaptations of lesser-known Seuss stories The Sneetches, The Zax and, of course, the self-titled original. It's also worth noting that Allan Sherman once again voices The Cat, and just before he died unexpectedly the same year. As a footnote, his biography is depressing.
It's doubtful that any fan of Dr. Seuss doesn't own How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) in one form or another, as this perennial holiday favorite is easily the best of the bunch. Featuring haunted, ghostly narration by horror icon Boris Karloff and the memorable, burly vocal talents of Thurl "Tony the Tiger" Ravenscroft, this tale of selfishness, cynicism and redemption is hard not to get a little choked up over, even if you find the Who brats as annoying as I do. Beautifully remastered like all the other shorts, The Grinch will undoubtedly still be seen, enjoyed and passed down for many generations to come.
NOTE: These five Blu-Rays are completely identical to the previous Deluxe Edition releases, save for the missing DVD copies.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Without question, these 1080p 1.33:1 transfers are uniformly excellent, and they're easily on par with Warners' Peanuts Deluxe Editions. Colors are crisp and vibrant with no excessive bleeding, while contrast, image detail and black levels are all consistently strong. No major digital imperfections could be spotted along the way, aside from minor banding and a few random artifacts. These mild problems are a bit more prevalent during Horton Hears a Who...but they're almost inevitable with animated transfers, and it's nothing that you'll notice without specifically looking for it. Also, please note that the images used for this review are strictly decorative and do not reflect the Blu-Rays' native 1080p size or exact shape.
The audio presentation is only slightly disappointing, as Horton and The Grinch (both released in 2009) are still limited to Dolby Digital mono tracks; to Warners' credit, the other three (released in 2012) were given the bump to DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio. I doubt a lossless presentation would've made a world of difference, but it's not like these recycled discs didn't have room to spare. Dialogue and music cues are nonetheless crisp and clear, so fans shouldn't find much to complain about, save for the limitations of the original source material. Optional English (SDH) subtitles are included during the main features only.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu interfaces combine smooth design and simple navigation. The main features have been divided into roughly four chapters apiece. This five-disc release is housed in a multi-hubbed slim keepcase; also included is an embossed matching slip sleeve and a condensed Booklet
with rarely-seen Seuss artwork and historical trivia. All five discs are locked for Region A playback only.
Same as before. Cat in the Hat
's only film-specific extra is an enhanced Sing-Along Option
. We also get two other Seuss animated shorts: The Hoober-Bloob Highway
(1975) and Daisy-Head Mayzie
(1995), which are definitely less than classics but still worth a watch. Unfortunately, Hoober
is heavily pixelated with jagged edges, while Daisy
is downright bootleg quality with faded colors and noticeable ghosting.
The Lorax includes Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You?, a 1979 animated Seuss adaptation featuring music by Joe Raposo (Sesame Street), as well as the excellent adaptation of Seuss' The Butter Battle Book (a childhood favorite of mine) and a thinly-veiled promotional EPK about The Lorax's environmental themes.
Horton serves up the well-meaning but ineffective "In Search of Dr. Seuss", a 1994 live action/animated hybrid that explores a number of Seuss' most popular books and features a handful of celebrity guests. The animated adaptations of Daisy-Head Mayzie and The Butter Battle Book also appear here a second time for whatever reason, and we also get a condensed Sing-Along for several of Horton's songs.
Green Eggs' only extra is a collection of four Interactive Puzzles featuring themes from the respective shorts on the disc. It's a relatively simple interface that kids should have no problem figuring out.
Grinch includes the hip-hop influenced "Dr. Seuss and the Grinch: From Whoville to Hollywood", which is as grating as it sounds. We also get an Audio Commentary with voice actress June Foray and animator Phil Roman, a Song Selection shortcut, the excellent "Songs in the Key of Grinch" featurette, Text Bios for Foray, Seuss, Jones and Karloff, the corny but entertaining "How the Grinch Stole Christmas Special Edition" featuring the late Phil Hartman (above right) and three vintage Storyboard Pencil Tests.
All extras are presented in a mixture of 480p or 1080p (mostly the former), and none include subtitles.
As expected, Warner Bros.' Hats Off to Dr. Seuss is just a collection of five existing Blu-Rays, for better or for worse. The total package includes a fairly solid A/V treatment (with a few minor drawbacks) and a handful of hit-and-miss bonus features spread across all five discs; otherwise, the only difference from the stand-alone releases is slimmer packaging and no DVD copies. As for the 'toons, they're still top-tier family entertainment that kids of all ages should enjoy. If you're a Dr. Seuss fan and haven't indulged on Blu-Ray yet, go for it; otherwise, you may just want to choose your favorites. Mildly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art and runs a website or two. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.