In the dark of The Web
Where the Grumpy Grumps go
And the air smells foul of old Cheetos
Is the place to turn if ye wish to know
Of the Poorly-Adapted Lorax.
In the time long ago, some people say
If you ask the right folks you can still hear, today
That The Lorax was good
Before Ol' Hollywood
Came and "Re-Imagined" The Lorax away.
What was The Lorax?
Why was it so good?
And how was it spoiled by Ol' Hollywood?
Could its fate have been different? Did it have to be so?
Mister MovieBob still lives there.
Ask him. He knows.
The Lorax is, famously, the "sad" Dr. Seuss book, second only in tales of traumatized childhoods to The Butter Battle Book (the "scary" Seuss book). They are sad and scary primarily because they both ultimately concern The End of The World. When Theodor Seuss Geisel had a point to make, he did not screw around.
Butter Battle is a Cold War allegory, and cuts out on an ambiguous note, with two pointlessly squabbling nations poised to incinerate one another in mutually assured destruction. Lorax, on the other hand, is a slow-burn chronicle of armageddon, opening in the wake of an Arboreal Apocalypse before tracking back to explain how things got as bad as they did. It's by far Seuss' gloomiest story, reflecting the end times tenor of the environmental movement during its 1971 original publication and the urgency of its author's intentions. Its conclusion is ostensibly more hopeful than Battle, but also bluntly insistent, a direct call to activism, and comes only after the reader has effectively watched the world slowly die.
The story opens with an unnamed young boy in a grim, pollution blighted world who seeks out a hermit called "The Once-ler" on The Street of The Lifted Lorax, seeking to know, well, "What was The Lorax? And why was it there? And why was it lifted and taken somewhere?"
The Once-ler then relates the main story, revealing that it was he who killed the world. As a young man, he'd come to an edenic paradise and begun felling rare Truffula Trees to make a very useful (he insists) omni-product called a Thneed. He was repeatedly warned against the effect of his ever-growing industry on the ecosystem by The Lorax, a mustachioed nature spirit who "speaks for the trees," but chose to ignore him until it was too late. By the time the last tree has been felled (bringing an end to the forest and Once-ler's Thneed empire), The Lorax has already been forced to send the region's poisoned/malnourished animals away to seek greener pastures. As a final act, he solemnly lifts himself away into the ether, leaving behind a stone marker cryptically inscribed with the word "UNLESS." Back in the present, Once-ler gifts the boy with a treasure, the last Truffula Tree seed on Earth, effectively telling him (and the reader) that the repair of the future is now in his hands.
Unlike many other Seuss works, it's not hard to imagine how you'd adapt that into a movie (and, indeed, it was already turned into a well regarded animated TV special). The basic structure is right there; Once-ler has more than enough ambiguity to be a proper feature film character (he's not "evil" so much as stubborn and shortsighted, and his self-imposed exile is a immediately compelling penance) and the premise is as timely as ever. All one might need do to flesh it out would be to beef up some individual characters among the various forest creatures, give them arcs of their own so that the end of their world is all the more relatable, perhaps even balance out the message by having some otherwise decent people working at Once-ler's Thneed factory, to at least partially explain why so many chose to look the other way while the operation poisoned the land. That, one imagines, could be a good movie. Perhaps even the first truly great (recent) feature film of a Dr. Seuss book.