sees a Who
heard the call
and working with such a Seuss classic?
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX HOME ENTERTAINMEN T
SM: It was nerve-wracking. What made
Audrey [Geisel, Seuss” widow, who allowed
the two access to all of Seuss” original notes
and drawings], we made a commitment to
the original work. I looked at Dr. Seuss as
being the production designer. Instead of
trying to create our vision, we looked at his originals to see how to best present his vision. We
also used the theme of the book [a person”s a
person, no matter how small] as a filter. It”s
the dynamic between many of the characters
in the story.
By T. Foster Jones
HORTON IS AN ELEPHANT on a mission.
One day, in the Jungle of Nool, Horton’s big
ears allow him to hear the cries of a microscopic
community, Whoville, which rests in a speck
of dust that has landed on a flower. Though
he cannot see the residents of Whoville—the
Whos—he promises to help them.
Horton’s friends think he’s nuts, particularly a pushy kangaroo who wants to get rid of
the speck and punish Horton for influencing
his friends to use their imaginations. In her
opinion, if you can’t see it, hear it or feel it, it
doesn’t exist. Horton’s mottoes are “A person’s
a person, no matter how small” and “An
elephant’s faithful, 100 percent,” and he risks
everything to protect the Whos.
For fans of legendary children’s book creator Dr. Seuss, the moment was a long time in
coming: a 3-D animated feature film based on
one of the author’s most beloved tales, Horton
Hears a Who, which hit theaters in 2008.
Appropriately, a who’s who cast voiced the
various characters, including Jim Carrey, Steve
Carell, comic legend Carol Burnett, Seth Rogan,
Jonah Hill, Amy Poehler and Will Arnett.
Co-directing Horton were Jimmy
Hayward and Steve Martino, who had previously worked together as illustrator and art
director, respectively, on the animated feature
The Connection spoke with Martino in
his White Plains, New York, studio near the
headquarters of Blue Sky Studios, the company responsible for producing Horton.
The Costco Connection: How did
you end up co-directing this movie?
Steve Martino’s goal in creating the movie
version of Horton was to adhere as closely
as possible to Dr. Seuss’ original vision.
Steve Martino: It started with the work
that both Jimmy and I had contributed to
Robots. Jimmy comes from an animation background whose strength is story. I’m an animator with a strong background in design and art
direction—the materials, lighting and effects
that go into the making of the film. What was
seen in the two of us was two people whose
skill sets covered the broad range of needs.
Although we have two very different personalities, we have a very similar approach to the
CC: Was this a big jump for you?
SM: The level of responsibility when
you’re part of the directing team is so much
higher. You’re in the cross hairs. I was used to
working with teams of artists, so I was prepared for that aspect. The responsibility for
how the movie gets shaped—every aspect of
the movie, all the
way from start to
finish, art, music, the
full vision of storytelling—that was a
big step up.
CC: Were you
nervous, given the
expectations of fans
CC: Do you think the narrative metaphor speaks to what
is going on in the world today?
BLUE SKY STUDIOS
SM: Absolutely. It’s a message of prejudice and judgment.
Don’t judge a body of people
and classify them in a way that’s
easy and simple. Each person is
special, has his or her own
unique qualities. I think it’s a
universal, timeless message.
CC: What was the most
difficult challenge in bringing
this book to the big screen?
SM: One of the challenges was capturing
what [Seuss had] done and translating that
wonderful form and shape into a fully three-dimensional film. The other was recognizing
that we were going to need to expand this short
story into a much longer film, without departing from characters and situations that were in
the book. [To do that] we wanted to see the
work between the pages. Get to know the characters more, understand them, so we understand their motivation.
CC: What was the most rewarding aspect
of making this film?
SM: The day that I sat in the theater with
Audrey to watch the final version. This was
the culmination of the promise we had made
her. My hands were clutched on the sides of
my seat, anticipating how she’s going to react.
As the film finished, she stood up and clapped.
Anything after that, whether the film was a
success or made money, didn’t really matter.
What mattered was that we made good. And
that she felt good. C
Costco members will find the
Horton DVD, and a special gift set,
with a DVD, book and plush doll,
at most Costco locations.