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FOX

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino
Cast:
Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Dan Fogler, Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill, Amy Poehler, Jaime Pressly
Writing Credits:
Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul, Dr. Seuss (book)

Tagline:
One Elephant. One World. One Story.

Synopsis:
One of Dr. Seuss' most beloved stories roars to life as never before in this enormous animated adventure that proves "a person's a person no matter how small."

A playful pachyderm named Horton becomes a reluctant hero when he discovers the microscopic city of Who-ville on a floating speck of dust and embarks on a hilarious adventure to save the town from the dangers of the jungle. Featuring a who's who of superstar voice talent, including Jim Carrey, Steve Carell and Carol Burnett, this heartwarming hit comedy delivers loads of laughs and tons of fun for the whole family!

Box Office:
Budget
$85 million.
Opening Weekend
$45.012 million on 3954 screens.
Domestic Gross
$154.529 million.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Cantonese
Mandarin
Korean
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 86 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/9/2008

One of the "Easter Basket Approved" Titles from Fox/MGM.

Bonus:
Disc One:
• Audio Commentary with Directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino
• “Watch Horton Hears a Who! With a Who” Feature
• Deleted Footage
• Animation Screen Tests
• “Bringing the Characters to Life” Featurette
• “The Elephant in the Room: Jim Carrey” Featurette
• “That’s One Big Elephant: Animating Horton” Featurette
• “Meet Katie” Featurette
• “Our Speck: Where Do We Fit In?” Featurette
• “Elephant Fun: The Facts” Featurette
• “A Person Is a Person: A Universal Message” Featurette
• “Bringing Seuss to the Screen” Featurette
• “We Are Here!” Game
• Trailers
Disc Two:
• Digital Copy


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Horton Hears A Who!: Special Edition (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 4, 2010)

After two terrible big-screen adaptations of Dr. Seuss books, fans can be forgiven for their concerns about the cinematic version Horton Hears a Who! from 2008. Both 2000’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and 2003’s The Cat in the Hat earned scathing appraisals from fans, so there didn’t seem to be much reason to expect much from Horton. Sure, it would be animated and not live-action, but would that make any difference?

Apparently yes, as the cinematic Horton works pretty darned well. As with the book, we meet an elephant named Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey). One day he comes across a speck on top of a flower, and he hears sounds from it. Horton comes to believe that an entire civilization lives on this speck, though all his jungle peers – led by Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) - think he’s nuts.

We know he’s right, though the citizens of Whoville, the town on the speck, don’t know that there’s a much bigger world out there. Mayor Ned (Steve Carell) senses that something’s wrong when some natural disasters affect this paradise, and he gets the scoop when he hears Horton through a horn. Horton tries to find a secure resting place for the speck while Ned attempts to convince the other Whos that they’re not alone in the universe.

Since Horton barely offered enough story to flesh out a half-hour TV special, it seems like a stretch to expand it to a nearly 90-minute movie. Indeed, the flick does add lots of elements not in the original tale, but it doesn’t ramble or lead into areas that don’t mesh with the source. Instead, the new characters and plot components fit in well with the original concept and come together well. Nothing here feels forced or like padding.

That doesn’t mean Horton lacks any signs of the current world, though. The film does display a moderate modern sensibility, though it’s essentially free from the random pop culture references that dominate many animated flicks. Sure, we get a few minor nods in that direction; for instance, we find the ubiquitous ironic use of a crummy rock tune that the whole cast sings at the end. Carrey does a few impressions as well, though the fact he tosses in JFK and Kissinger makes it tough to criticize the flick for dated cultural references; those clearly aren’t hip and modern.

Horton also delivers Dr. Seuss to the world of computer animation in a dynamic way. It doesn’t slavishly adhere to the standard Seuss style, but it maintains the writer’s iconic cartoon look. The CG animation provides a nice 3D look that actually reminds me a bit of claymation; the flick boasts a fine feeling of depth with its pleasing visuals.

And it comes with a solid cast, too. Some feared that Carrey’s trademarked theatrics would overwhelm the material, but that doesn’t occur. He shows signs of his usual nuttiness, but he stays true to the sweetness of the Horton character.

If I had to knock any aspect of the casting, it’d stem from the fact that Carrey and Carell are rather similar performers. Carrey’s the more manic of the pair, of course, but the guys still come across as an awful lot alike in many ways. This makes the shift from Horton to the Mayor less effective than I’d like, as the two actors occasionally feel a bit interchangeable.

Nonetheless, I think there’s a lot to like about the cinematic Horton. It moves at a good pace and never wears out its welcome. The movie boasts a sweet lightness and charm.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the movie looked great.

Sharpness was always excellent. Virtually no instances of softness appeared, as the flick demonstrated nice clarity and delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained absent. Source flaws also failed to mar this clean, fresh image.

With its bright storybook setting, Horton boasted a broad palette. The movie featured a wide variety of hues, and the DVD made them look quite good. The tones seemed lively and full throughout the movie. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows looked clear and well-delineated. Overall, the presentation was quite strong.

Though not quite as good as the visuals, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Horton also satisfied. The soundfield wasn’t super-active, but it provided a good sense of place. The flick featured enough action-oriented scenes to add a reasonable amount of pizzazz to the package. Most of these stemmed from Horton’s attempts to save the speck and ward off aggressors. Those sequences allowed a lot of information to spread to the side and rear speakers. The elements opened up matters well, with nice localization and integration. While I couldn’t identify any real standout segments, the mix provided a good overall impression.

Audio quality always pleased. Speech was natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns. Music showed fine vivacity and depth, and effects also delivered solid presence. Those elements were consistently full and clear; no distortion interfered, and bass response seemed fine. Again, this was a very good mix that worked well for the material.

How did the picture and audio of the Blu-ray compare to those of the film’s DVD version? Audio seemed very similar, but the visuals got a nice boost. Though I felt pleased with the DVD’s transfer, it couldn’t compare to the depth and accuracy on display here. The Blu-ray offered a good upgrade in terms of picture quality.

All of the DVD’s extras repeat here, and we find one new component. We begin with an audio commentary from directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss adapting and expanding the source material, cast, characters and performances, music, visual design and animation, and a few other production topics.

Hayward and Martino maintain a peppy tone throughout the chat, which is good and bad. On the negative side, they often simply tell us how much they love various aspects of the film. Nonetheless, they balance this with a lot of useful info about the flick. We get a well-rounded glimpse into the production despite the happy talk.

Fun with looping: a couple of times during the chat, the directors refer to a name-brand soft drink. I guess the suits at Fox didn’t like this, so the commentary awkwardly dubs “soda” over top of the specific beverage. This delights me.

Obviously intended to help promote the then-upcoming Ice Age sequel, we get a short called Surviving Sid. It runs seven minutes, 59 seconds and shows Sid the sloth as a camp counselor. Slapstick hijinks ensue, with a little amusement as well.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray, Watch Horton Hears a Who! With a Who provides an interactive feature. With this activated, JoJo the Who will occasionally appear on screen. He simply watches the film with you and reacts to its events. Sometimes he raises a sign, and that’s the cue for you to hit the red button on your remote to “help” him. Not much comes of any of this; it’s a painless extra but not an interesting one.

Deleted Footage lets us look at a bunch of cut sequences. After a glib 24-second intro from Hayward and Martino, these break down into three areas: “Storyboard Versions” (nine sequences, 14:50 total), “Rough Animation Versions” (two sequences, 2:39 total), and “Almost-Final Versions” (two sequences, 1:09 total). The “Storyboard” scenes allow us to view the segments at their most basic, which is why we find so many of them; these sections got the boot pretty early in the film’s production. “Rough Animation” shows some works-in-progress, while “Almost-Final” gives us clips that fell out of the flick late in the production.

Did any interesting segments appear? Sure – a few of them seemed pretty fun, though most deserved to be cut. For instance, some let us hear JoJo speak well before the film’s end, and that would’ve been a mistake. It’s good to see the storyboarded “Alternate Ending”, though, and some other intriguing pieces emerge. This becomes a good collection of deleted material.

We can watch the “Footage” with or without commentary from Martino and Hayward. They give us some info about the sequences and usually let us know why the elements didn’t make it into the movie. The directors continue to be chatty and reasonably informative.

Under Animation Screen Tests, we get early glimpses of some characters. After a 43-second introduction from animator Nick Bruno tells us what to expect, the pieces allow us to check out Horton, the Mayor, and the Whos. In the “Horton” area, we first find an “Original Horton Short” (0:59), which you can watch with or without commentary from Hayward and Martino. An additional nine “Horton” clips last a total of one minute, 59 seconds.

From there, we get 10 clips for the Mayor (3:47) and two for the Whos (0:22). The “Original Horton Short” lets us a fully-rendered Horton; created as a demo to show to the Seuss estate, its Horton looks fairly different from the final film’s, so it’s interesting to examine. The other bits exist to provide basic movement demos; they’re crudely animated but fun to check out.

A slew of featurettes follow. Bringing the Characters to Life goes for five minutes, 28 seconds and includes notes from Hayward, Martino, Bruno, animation supervisor James Brenahan, animation character leads David Torres, Mark C. Harris, and Jeff Gabor, and animators Jackie Fortin and Patrik Puhala. They tell us a little about how the animators act out the roles to create their work. We also see a little of some voice actors in the studio, though the show mostly deals with the acting of the animators. I especially like the shots of the animators and voice actors as they perform; some decent info emerges otherwise, but the behind the scenes stuff works best of all.

For the eight-minute and seven-second That’s One Big Elephant: Animating Horton, we hear from Hayward, Martino, Torres, Harris, environmental modeling lead Salvatore Melluso, character technical direction supervisor Stephen Unterfranz, sculpting supervisor Mike Defeo and supervising animator Michael Thurmeier. The program digs into the character design and animation for Horton. Despite the program’s brevity, it provides a nice look at the subject matter. Lots of useful test footage helps make the show a winner.

Meet Katie runs three minutes, 47 seconds and features Hayward, Martino, story artist Eric Favela, and animator Jason S. Martinsen. They tell us a little about the minor character of Katie and her development. Like “Elephant”, “Katie” proves illuminating and fun.

We look at the story’s adaptation in Bringing Seuss to the Screen. The eight-minute and 13-second show provides statements from Martino, Hayward, executive producer Chris Wedge, art director Thomas Cardone, screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, modeling supervisor David Mei, materials supervisor Brian Hill, and actor Carol Burnett. The program looks at the source work and how the filmmakers expanded the short story and adapted its visual style. While I’d have liked more info about the new elements added to the tale, this still becomes a nice look at the thoughts being the book’s big-screen adaptation.

Info about the lead actor arrives via The Elephant in the Room: Jim Carrey. It goes for four minutes, 53 seconds and delivers notes from Hayward, Martino, and actor Jim Carrey. As implied by the title, “Room” looks at Carrey’s take on the lead character. I like the shots of Carrey at work, but too much of the material simply praises the actor.

The film’s theme comes to the fore with the three-minute and 41-second A Person Is a Person: A Universal Message. It includes Hayward, Wedge, Martino, Daurio, Paul, and actors Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, and Will Arnett. They chat about the movie’s message in a basic way that adds virtually nothing to its interpretation. Carell tosses out a few funny lines, at least.

Our Speck: Where Do We Fit In? runs three minutes, 59 seconds and presents precocious kids as they try to teach us an ecological message. Obviously intended for a young audience, it won’t do anything for adults.

For the final featurette, Elephant Fun: The Facts lasts five minutes, 27 seconds. As expected, it gives us info about elephants; we hear from elephant expert Hayden Rosenaur as he tells us the pachyderm basics. As with “Speck”, this one’s meant for the kiddies, but it provides a decent overview of its subject, so adults will learn something as well.

Next we find We Are Here!, a game related to the film. It requires the player to remember the order in which some musical instruments play. It’s pretty forgettable.

Under Fox on Blu-ray, we find ads for City of Ember and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. No promo for Horton appears.

Only one feature appears on Disc Two: a digital copy of Horton. This allows you to copy the film to your computer or to a portable digital device. If that suits you, go nuts!

After a few crummy Dr. Seuss adaptations, I had low expectations for 2008’s Horton Hears a Who!. Happily, the flick proved to be pretty entertaining. It remained reasonably true to its source and provided a nice piece of entertainment. The Blu-ray offered excellent picture and very good audio along with a mix of fairly interesting extras. I like this amusing flick and think the Blu-ray brings it home in a satisfying manner.

To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of HORTON HEARS A WHO (2008)

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main