Did you have a great weekend?
I watched The Lorax movie last Sunday—the one with voiceovers by Zac Efron, Taylor Swift (yes, THAT Taylor), Betty White, and Danny DeVito (hilariously good as the furry forest-protector, by the way).
“The Lorax” is based on the Dr. Suess book of the same name. And this won’t be a review or anything, just some of my thoughts on both the movie and the book.
Dr. Suess is one of my favorite children’s authors (is for me, and was for him, since he’s not with us anymore).
I watched this movie because of its connection with the book, and because of the book’s connection with me personally (I had it read to me as a kid, probably more than 20 times).
And I loved it, despite how long it was (which deserves another post in itself).
One of the reasons the book impacted me so much was because of the powerful setting—especially in the beginning. The roads and woods are beat up, smogged up, and otherwise nasty-looking.
Another reason was the ending—it usually made me sad. The door was left open for the story to be continued. And Dr. Suess himself never did anything about it, that I’m aware.
And then came this movie. It starts out with people delivering and consuming air from bottles and jugs—oxygen is literally for sale.
And then it mixed in the story from the book, from there.
The movie impacted me so much because it ends well (of course), but also because it taught a big lesson about business (which was brought up to me by my brother, actually, and that we’ll get to later, with others peppered in along the way).
Okay, okay…we’ve got a feel-good, fuzzy movie here (literally). And it’s based on a good book. And it does have hidden gems in it for fiction writers and persuasive writers.
Let’s get to it…
If you’re a fiction writer, the theme of redemption is HUGE. We’ve got a kinda hermit Onceler guy who lives in a beat-up house far out of town, who knows the story of the Lorax, Barbaloots, the fish, and everything else. And he’s willing to tell people about it, for a price. Because nobody else knows the story.
We find out that he’s actually the cause of all their woe. And he feels guilty about it. For YEARS. Because The Lorax tried to tell him he was doing wrong, and he was right, and the Onceler ignored him.
(Another tip on character, right there—lots of good characters have a reason in their own minds for doing what they do. And that doesn’t mean they run around yelling “bwa-ha-haaaaaaaa!” every eight seconds. And by good, I mean “believable.” Even Darth Vader was a character with a reason. And he’s the evil guy).
The Onceler’s crack at redemption here, is to do his best, in his own small way, to undo the damage he did years before. He has a conscience. He has regrets.
Just like people do. Real people. With real-life problems that they try to solve (sometimes successfully, sometimes, well, not so much).
And his regret (although, in a bit of a rush at the end), is what drives the story—and his willingness to tell his One Big Secret, basically.
And for me personally, ever since I was about 6 or 7 or what-have-ya, this was one story—one of the only stories ever, I might add—that I had thought about adding more to. Or, at least trying to imagine what happened. The book ends like this:
“Grow a forest, protect it from axes that hack. And the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.”
Well, DID they come back? Why? What did the little boy do to help that along? We’re not told. Things are hinted at (because the boy gets the seed from the Onceler, which is another reason why implied story endings can work, in some cases).
And I liked the movie because it picked up and tried to continue the line the book left—to show what happened after the boy plants the seed, and ends up getting the girl (who isn’t a character in the book at all).
The lessons for copywriters and marketers here are in the business aspect of the Onceler’s setup.
The Onceler, who seems like a good guy, had a vision for a product (the Thneed). A revolutionary, multi-use product that appeals to a wide audience. In the book he pushes on with his concept even after The Lorax ridicules the idea. The Onceler makes one of these things, and it almost immediately sells.
In the movie, the Onceler tells a crowd the Thneed is great, and has to adjust his marketing, which for him means persisting for a week and a half or what-have-ya, and then giving up.
Not a good model for the real world (although playing guitar while being pelted by tomatoes required guts, I gotta say).
And then the Thneed he throws away ends up coiled on some woman’s head (demonstration), and a crowd of people gets interested in buying.
He shifted focus off of himself and what HE wanted to do.
The Onceler expands his business, and then things get out of control. Which is another business lesson. The way my brother expressed it was:
If the Onceler would have been planted more trees as he went along, he may have ensured the growth of his business (although that would have required patience, which was something he lost more and more of throughout the story, in the book, as well as the movie).
And of course, he probably wouldn’t have polluted the forest, either, or deforested nearly every inch in sight if he had the patience to think long-term.
What if he had decided to partner with the Lorax and the creatures to harvest the Truffula tufts instead of chopping down the trees? Or focused on building relationships with his customers, instead of resorting to a big-box mentality? Maybe he could have diversified his product base, used the lumber from the trees, or what-have-ya.
What about you? Was there a story you liked as a kid that you thought should’ve gone on longer? Drop me a line in the comments—I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I enjoyed this movie, and for a cartoon, it was nice (especially since they tried to bring the Onceler full circle).
It’s like Danny DeVito’s Lorax said to the Onceler at the end…
“You did good, beanpole. You did good.”
Until next time,