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Case Number 25368: Small Claims Court

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Hats Off to Dr. Seuss (Blu-ray)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas
1966 // 26 Minutes // Not Rated
Horton Hears A Who!
1970 // 26 Minutes // Not Rated
The Cat In The Hat
1971 // 25 Minutes // Not Rated
The Lorax
1972 // 25 Minutes // Not Rated
Green Eggs And Ham And Other Stories
1973 // 25 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // March 3rd, 2013

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All Rise...

Of course, Judge Jim Thomas hears a Who! The Doctor did do audio dramas.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Cat in the Hat (1971) (Blu-ray) (published August 20th, 2012), Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Blu-Ray) (published October 13th, 2009), Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas: 50th Birthday Deluxe Remastered Edition (published December 13th, 2006), Horton Hears A Who! (1970) (Blu-Ray) (published October 22nd, 2009), Horton Hears A Who! (2008) (Blu-ray) (published December 24th, 2008), Horton Hears A Who! (1970) Deluxe Edition (published March 4th, 2008), Horton Hears A Who! (2008) Special Edition (published December 18th, 2008), How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) (published December 18th, 2001), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) (published November 15th, 2001), The Lorax (1972) (Blu-ray) (published August 6th, 2012), and The Lorax (2012) (Blu-ray) (published August 2nd, 2012) are also available.

The Charge

Dr. Seuss is on the loose!

The Case

Dr. Seuss' work had been adapted previously. In 1942, famed animator Robert Clampett directed a version of Horton Hatches the Egg under the Looney Toons banner. However, the true watershed moment for Seuss was the 1966 debut of Chuck Jones' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Its success spawned several additional specials—Horton Hears a Who! arrived in 1970, The Cat in the Hat in 1971. As the environmental movement gained steam in the early 1970s, Seuss wrote The Lorax as a cautionary fable, and it was adapted the following year. In 1973, they went the anthology route, combining The Sneetches, The Zax, and Green Eggs and Ham into a single special, Doctor Seuss on the Loose!.

The television specials continued after that, though in most cases, Seuss wrote original stories instead of adapting his existing works. The quality of the later specials is questionable (the less said about Halloween is Grinch Night!, the better; the first five specials, on the other hand, continue to win audiences through the years, establishing them as true classics. All five have seen DVD releases in one form or another, and over the past four years or so, they have received the Blu-Ray treatment. Warner Bros. now packages these five classics together as Hats Off to Dr. Seuss (Blu-ray).

It's a tossup as to who is happier about this development—my kids or I.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas! About fourteen years ago I stumbled across an animation gallery in downtown Philadelphia. They had a lot of production art, and as I was looking through, my heart stopped—there, in paper and pencil, was production art from How the Grinch Stole Christmas; better still, it was a shot of the Grinch glowering at Max. I knew I didn't want to know, but I asked anyway—they only wanted a mere $7,000. Without hesitation, I offered one of my kidneys. The deal fell through when they couldn't figure out how to make change.

A near-perfect blend of slapstick and sentiment, How the Grinch Stole Christmas stands alongside A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as the best in Christmas specials. Chuck Jones' frenetic animation, the incomparable Boris Karloff's narration, and Albert Hague's music (aided and abetted by Thurl Ravencroft's deep, deep voice) beguile every time.

The VC-1 encoded video is superb; the rich colors pop off the screen, and there's nary a scratch or blemish to be found. The audio is good, but that's all—there's no lossless audio, and there are just enough sonic issues to be noticed—a hiss here, some slight distortion there. A full re-mastering would have been more than welcome—I cannot help but wonder how the sleigh ride from the Grinch's lair and the final sequence would sound in full surround. There are no new features with this release, but the Blu-ray includes a number of specials produced by TNT in the nineties, which are good but somewhat dated and a little cheesy (one of the specials has rap narration. Swear to God). The commentary track with June Foray (Cindy Lou Who) and animator Phil Roman is entertaining, but limited.

Trivia: For reasons as yet unknown, Albert Hague was never asked to score another Dr. Seuss special.

Horton Hears a Who!
"A person's a person, no matter how small."

The second special is a sweet affair, with kindly Horton determinedly protecting a dust speck that only he knows contains an entire civilization (cue the pot-smoking scene from Animal House). It's a great tale about sticking up for what you believe in, even if it is not as memorable as the previous outing. The Haversham Brothers are suitably creepy, but veteran voice performer Hans Conried never has that elusive spark that grabs your attention.

Trivia: Director Chuck Jones also provided the voices for Junior Kangaroo, Whizzer McWoff, JoJo, the little boy who must decide between a yip and a yop.

The VC-1 video is a notch below the Grinch's disc; there are more discernible problems with the image—inconsistent colors, and digital artifacts are a bit more noticeable. Audio is on a par with the Grinch.

Extras are somewhat beefier than the previous disc, with a full-length documentary on Dr. Seuss, In Search of Dr. Seuss (a perfect example of what happens when a documentary is more interested in being hip than in documenting the subject), along with two lesser-seen works, Ralph Bakshi's adaptation of The Butter Battle Book, and Daisy-Head Mayzie. These extras (as well as the specials included as extras on other discs) have not been re-mastered, and it shows.

The Cat in the Hat
If Horton was just a slight step backwards from the glory of the Grinch, then The Cat in the Hat represents a return to form. Just as the Grinch's success was borne of Boris Karloff's narration, here the production team had lightning strike twice, this time in the form of Allan Sherman, a comedy writer and producer who had started recording song parodies in the late fifties/early sixties—the original "Weird Al," if you will. Sherman brought a balanced combination of sweetness and infectious energy to his performance, and it carries you through the special before you realize that none of it makes a lick of sense—which is more or less exactly how those two kids must have felt.

Technically, this disc is on a par with the Grinch. The extras include a repeat of Daisy-Head Mayzie, along with The Hoober-Bloob Highway.

Trivia: Mike Myers' abomination of a movie so outraged Audrey Geisel, Seuss' widow, that she decreed that no more live-action adaptations would ever be made. It took some time to get her to agree to the computer-generated The Lorax. Speaking of which…

The Lorax
In the seventies, Seuss's work took on a more socially conscious vibe, most clearly evident in The Lorax. Different in tone, and sporting a surprisingly complex narrative structure, it's certainly an ambitious special—in fact, I can remember my third-grade teacher asking the class to watch it as a homework assignment. Though some have called the special manipulative and overly simplistic, the underlying theme is well-presented and hard to refute—if you are living off the land, being a good steward of that land is in your own best interest.

Like the other specials, we get pretty solid VC-1 video. Unlike the other specials, The Lorax gets a DTS-HD makeover—though it's still a mono mix. Features include a featurette and two other shorts, Pontoffel Pock and His Magic Piano, and another repeat, this time of The Butter Battle Book. I don't know what the deal is with repeating specials, but if the alternative is to get the later Grinch specials, I'll gladly take the repeats.

Green Eggs and Ham and Other Stories (originally broadcast as Dr. Seuss on the Loose)
Most of the other Dr. Seuss specials, beginning with the Grinch, had to pad out the story to fill a 25-minute running time. This time out, they decided to keep things simpler, and do three stories in one special—Green Eggs and Ham, The Zax, and . The result is a solid outing. The shorter running times are effectiveâ"only The Sneetches gets any substantive padding—and everything is tied together with narration from the Cat in the Hat, once again voiced by Allan Sherman—in what would turn out to be his final project before his death in 1973. The VC-1 video is not quite up to the same standards as earlier outings—things have not been cleaned and/or repaired quite as meticulously, but the audio is acceptable.

The Verdict

It's difficult to find fault with Hats Off to Dr. Seuss—at least with the five main features, which are some of the best animated specials of the era. The extras are somewhat weak, particularly as a group, since the overlaps appear more egregious. Particularly with price points hovering around $40, this is an easy recommendation. Not guilty.

If any of you have some Grinch production art, I still have a kidney for sale…

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Genres

• Animation
• Blu-ray
• Christmas
• Comedy
• Concerts and Musicals
• Family
• Fantasy
• Television

Scales of Justice, How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Judgment: 94

Perp Profile, How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 26 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, How The Grinch Stole Christmas

• Commentary
• Featurettes
• Music Tracks

Scales of Justice, Horton Hears A Who!

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Horton Hears A Who!

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 26 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Horton Hears A Who!

• Documentary
• Bonus Shorts

Scales of Justice, The Cat In The Hat

Judgment: 92

Perp Profile, The Cat In The Hat

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 25 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Cat In The Hat

• Bonus Shorts

Scales of Justice, The Lorax

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, The Lorax

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 25 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Lorax

• Featurette
• Bonus Shorts

Scales of Justice, Green Eggs And Ham And Other Stories

Judgment: 86

Perp Profile, Green Eggs And Ham And Other Stories

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 25 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Green Eggs And Ham And Other Stories

• None








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