groundzero: thneedville

Potential Original Script--Lorax

So I was talking to my friend about something and I wanted to post a thought about it. I’ve wanted to talk about for a while–The Lorax. 

Ha ha, you wish. Try again. 

Yeah, there it is…everyone’s little hypocritical marketing whore. There’s nothing I can say here that hasn’t already been said when it comes to the actual content of the movie and Illumination’s unreasonable treatment of the character. A quality and inspiring story taken and reduced to all the substance of a wet piece of paper, Illumination sold out an environmentalist character to Mazda (and 70 other companies), it shifts blame, etc. 

But as some of you may have noticed, there are a lot of signs that this mess of a film is something put together from an entirely darker script that took its story more seriously. There is no pre-production script available to prove this, only the script that ended up as the movie in the end. However, the proof lies in the storyboards and soundtracks. Specifically two songs, Thneedville (Original Demo) and Biggering. But within these two songs are clues to a different story than what we ended up having to suffer. 

So let’s start with the wide eyed Zac Efron fuck up himself, Ted Wiggins (almost insultingly named after Dr. Seuss’s birth name, Theodore Giesel). 

Probably the biggest hint of a major script change is in the original demo version of the opening song, Thneedville. In it, a huge portion that was cut out of the final version of the song is revealed–specifically a solo given to Ted. In it he gushes over a newly released toy called a Whosit and how its everything he’s ever wanted….aside from all the other extravagant things he has wanted, including but not limited to a sports car and a robotic twin of himself. In the proceeding lyrics he wails over the happy tune about how desperately he wants it, needs it, that ‘all he’s ever wanted is the stuff that he doesn’t have’. 

From this its pretty easy to figure out that in this missing pre-script, Ted’s character was not trying to impress Taylor Swift (yeah, I know the character has a name, I just don’t care). In fact, its entirely possible that Taylor Swift’s character might have not been in the original script at all, since her only real role in the final movie was to be the motivator to Ted’s actions. But here it seems Ted’s motivation is his role as the consumer–he WANTS things, he wants it all, he’s not satisfied with anything. I’ve heard rumors that his original goal was that he wanted the tree just so he could HAVE it and be the only one who had it. I have no confirmation on this but it seems about right. 

So, to put it simply, the bland as dishwater protagonist of the Illumination movie was meant to serve the purpose of rounding off the Trinity: the defender, the corporation, and the consumer. Within the original book there was very little sympathy, if any at all, for the issues a corporation can have. The television special improved on this, pointing out that there is no answer as simple as ‘just stop it’ because corporation of course employ people and provide products. But something that never has been properly addressed has been the role of the consumer in all of this. What fuels the corporation is the ‘need’ from the consumer and in thus the consumer has a role in the issue of corporations and environmentalism. While the Once-ler may be the dealer of the drug, it is the choice of the consumer whether or not to turn the other way and ignore the consequences behind the product they purchase. In this the consumer is just as responsible for this cycle as the corporation. 

This, to me, would’ve justified the creation of the new Lorax movie because it would’ve addressed something that the book and television special had failed to fully address. Yes, its a little weird that the Once-ler has a face despite purposely being kept out of view in the previous iterations but the true failing of the final movie is that it doesn’t truly add anything to the source material and in fact very well may take away from it. Pretty boy Once-ler is just a weird choice, not the true failing of the film. 

Speaking of, why don’t we talk about how Once-ler adds into this.

I’m not sure at what point that his song was changed from Biggering to How Bad Can I Be (though you’ll notice many of the lines in the latter are just repurposed from the former), but the fact remains that it is another refugee of the original plot. In this, its noticeable that it fits in better with the original song as well. Biggering and the original Thneedville seem to draw a bit of an interesting parallel between the Once-ler character and the Ted Wiggins character that was inexplicably dropped from the film: the parallel of greed and pride. 

The original lines talk about how the Once-ler wants to ‘bigger’ everything. He wants a bigger office, a bigger chair, a bigger staff, a bigger hat, and that all this biggering is ‘triggering more biggering’. Basically, he wants stuff because it’ll make him look better to everyone. More and more stuff. He will never be satisfied no matter how much he has similar to how in the original Thneedville song, Ted only wants everything that he doesn’t have and is jealous that anyone else has anything. This shows that the original intention was not just for the Once-ler to tell Ted about what happened in the past, but to curb Ted from spiraling down like he did. To keep Ted from ‘Biggering’. 

As far as the final script is concerned, there is very little that can be said for the ‘expanded’ protagonist other than Ted is so underdeveloped that you’ll probably forget that he’s there. It has been often pointed out that the Illumination film makes the problem too black and white, framing a ‘good’ side and a ‘bad’ side with the good side being the audience proxy therefore failing to teach people that this kind of indulgence could happen to them just as easily as anyone else. Ironically it seems that this major flaw might have been the POINT in the original script, with the consumer (Ted) being cast as the one who has to choose between his lavish behavior and the sacrifices that have to be made.

I’m not really sure what was responsible for these changes, perhaps Illumination Animation not wanting to make people feel bad about themselves, but it definitely happened and it ultimately hurt the film. Ted as a parallel for the Once-ler makes the film more viable because it inevitably presents the question that the book always begged to all of us. 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”

I think by now I’ve listened to Thneedville a lot more times than is probably healthy

And the thing that really gets me about it is how good it is as an example of reverse logic

Like how How Bad Can I Be is a song made entirely of hypocrisies/fallacies

Thneedville is about how GREAT everything is because everyone has everything they could possibly want

Nobody actually thinks or cares about how it all came to be, (they almost did in the demo version), but this isn’t a regular town that grew up via normal means, this is a specially commissioned luxury place. One guy planned it, bought it, and put in every possible convenience and attraction. Nobody remembers that far back, so to them, it’s just “things are perfect, they always have been, and always will be”.

And because the city they have is that GOOD none of them can believe that there’s anything wrong with it. And that is an actual, damaging mentality people have, when they have it ingrained in them somehow that their lives are great, they’ll get hostile if you think it’s not or that something could be improved.

So the whole song, an anthem about their city, is reinforcing all the great stuff they’ve got which they mistakenly take to believe that it couldn’t possibly get any better so they actively refuse to notice anything being wrong. And this is a really great setup - the tycoon who created a dreamlike world who was quickly forgotten as they wiped out any thoughts of progress just so they could believe in their pride at having a perfect city. That’s the kind of plot that could be a deep, dark, fully-fledged adult dystopia novel.

There’s something that gets me about the enforcement of perfection by denying people the ability to question anything.

There’s also a line in there where they “thank the Lord” for what they have, which is a pretty good stealth joke. They want to attribute their standard of living to a higher power, to imply that they deserve this somehow, when in reality it was some guy with an incredible amount of money. That’s how deluded they are. It’s like, you know when people say they’re thanking god for having lived through surgery or surviving a plane crash? And they don’t actually thank the surgeon or the pilot who have trained carefully and learned and practiced and done their damn best to help? And then they go on to sing “…like this parking lot!!!” which just drives it home that they’re too shortsighted to remember that a NEW parking lot was the product of necessity and corporate decisions, not divine intervention. They have this HUGE disconnect from reality to be praising something so mundane so highly.

I think it’s so good that they went this route instead of the demo version, where they were in actual smog, described themselves as having more than they needed and that the town was like a weed - it’s much more powerful if they truly do overpower you with the sheer force of WOW WE HAVE THE BEST CITY EVER!!!!! (Exceptionalism AND capitalism skewered in a kid’s film, wow)

It reminds me of that bit in ‘Biggering’ where the Lorax criticises the Once-ler’s greed, saying that it’ll never stop - but alsopicks out his pride as the thing keeping him going. Because yeah greed was what started the whole thing, the pursuit of riches and never having enough of it, but while that was the catalyst, pride is what sustains that and keeps it from changing. The Once-ler could’ve stopped at ANY point and tried to make amends, but it was pride that stopped him from admitting he could ever have been wrong, backed up by how much more powerful he’d become. His pride was arguably just as important a vice as the greed we tend to attribute everything to. And when he built Thneedville just to prove what he could do with all that money, it was infused with that pride, like how he believed he deserved all that money (he didn’t) the people who live there believe they deserve their glorious city, which infects them with pride in turn and stops them from stopping to consider what might be going wrong. The whole place was founded by mindless consumerism and that also persists in everyone’s mentality for decades, enabling shady businessmen like O'Hare to dominate the market, for kids like Ted to do nothing but want 'the stuff that they don’t have’ mindlessly, for trees to run on 96 batteries, and so on, and they have yet to break out of this cycle. They also caught his inability to think outside of the present or consider the implications for the future, and apparently they inherited his entrepreneurial mindset and held it as gospel. It’s become self-perpetuating and there’s no way they could probably stop without an outside influence creeping in, like an inbred gene crippling everyone until an injection of diversity from elsewhere straightens it out and WOW I USE A LOT OF BIOLOGY METAPHORS WHEN I’M TIRED

Anyway yeah that is my post about how much I like Thneedville as a song and a concept and oh my god I love this movie too much but honestly there is so much going on you can look for and contemplate and there’s so much potential for it to have been a Deep Dark Dystopia if they had wanted to do that

Headcanon time!

I believe that this woman…

…is Audrey’s grandmother.

Which would of course make THIS guy…

…her grandfather. I don’t see why they couldn’t have married and had a child, maybe before the valley was destroyed and Greenville was replaced with Thneedville.

And I can honestly see the resemblance. It’s so scary, I swear it was intentional.

6

“The Once-Ler Tower”

The model building the Once-Ler is reaching for in the fist picture does not appear in O'Hare’s Thneedville. This building was meant as an in-city headquarters for the Thneed factory that would also be where the Once-Ler lived.

In the later pictures, a lot of buildings have the definite “O'Hare Flair” including a museum, mall, and generic, possible office, building. The Once-Ler Tower was the tallest building in the model city, but the tallest building is the Chalet (ski and snow boarding).