- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Theodor Geisel’s cautionary tale about industrialization and ecological destruction came to computer-animated life earlier this year from the creators of “Despicable Me.”

Starring the voices of Ed Helms (as the mysterious Once-ler) and Danny Devito (as the grumbling Lorax, the guardian of the forest), the colorful musical adaptation follows a 12-year-old boy named Ted (Zac Efron) and his quest to find a real Truffula Tree to impress his new love, Audrey (Taylor Swift).

The film’s Blu-ray release, Dr. Seuss‘ The Lorax (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated G, $34.98), dazzles with eye-popping color, high-speed chases, lots of loud, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 enhanced sound and enough hints of three-dimensional brilliance to give parents a headache.

Younger children, however, won’t mind the 86 minutes of stimulation and they certainly will appreciate most of the generous supply of virtual activities found on the disc.

Let’s start with an Expedition of Truffula Valley. This stroll through the cartoon’s locations uses the Blu-ray controller’s directional pad to navigate in and around Thneedville and click on characters ranging from Pip the furry Pipsqueak to Big Bear Lou to Bill the Swan, Fin and Gil the Humming Fish, and even Aloysius O’Hare.

A tab opens, revealing icons that lead to resource material including text biographies, production illustrations, animation tests, a featurette with story artist Mark O’Hara giving lessons on how to draw some of the characters, behind-the-scenes snippets, cast interviews, storyboards and concept art. It’s a bundle of information worth diving into.

Next, the subtler Grow Your Own Truffula Tree simply requires a child view the beginning animation of a seedling being watered, look around the disc extras and return to watch the tree start to grow, with characters helping during each visit.

Finally, a trio of challenges offers players gaming geared toward different age groups.

* Once-ler’s Wagon — The really young fan, one just able to react to onscreen directions, can select an item sitting next to a wagon for the Truffula animals to play with. For example, touching the egg leads to a cute animation of a Swomee Swan hatching the egg and out pops a furry Bar-ba-loot.

* Truffula Run — For the pretween, a player guides the Lorax on a race down the screen, collecting berries for points while avoiding stubbing his toe on tree stumps. Find Pip the Bar-ba-loot who will jump on his shoulders and light up berries for extra points.

* Get Out of Town — For the tween and older, a player controls Ted on a scooter as he bounces around and over obstacles in this platforming, side-scrolling challenge. Built most like a video game, it feels like a rudimentary Mario Bros. game as Ted collects flowers to restore his health, jumps high using springs and avoids the mayor and his henchmen while moving from blocks to fan-propelled girders and pipes. The game’s confusing controls and shoddy execution are sure to confound gamers.

Under least-favorite extra, avoid the obnoxious O’Hare TV that cuts into the movie and bombards viewers with unfunny commercials.

I’m also going to toss in my best Lorax grumblings to mention a glaringly missed piece of bonus content.

In this high-tech age, how about including a version of the original book for children to read from the screen or even download onto a mobile device. Surely, Universal could have cut a deal with Oceanhouse Media and Dr. Seuss Enterprises. By the way, the iPad version of the book is great ($1.99).

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