Making movies based on the works of Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, is a risky business. The ranks of potentially horrified Dr. Seuss purists basically include every English-speaking person who ever opened a book as a child. They definitely include Geisl’s widow, who reportedly put the kibosh on plans for any more live-action adaptations after getting a load of the Mike Myers Cat In The Hat monstrosity. The new animated feature The Lorax, directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) and Kyle Balda, isn’t set for release until March 2—marking what would have been the good doctor’s 108th birthday—but the promotional tie-ins that are part of the marketing push sure don’t seem designed to reassure anybody.
The Lorax’s environmental parable about one of nature’s protectors and his failed efforts to prevent a rapacious capitalist villain from wiping out his beloved Truffula Trees is one of the most explicitly message-y stories ever published under the Dr. Seuss—a message apparently lost on both Mazda and Universal Pictures, who this week announced they’re joining forces for a series of commercials showing the “Seuss-ifed” 2013 Mazda CX-5 crossover SUV driving through the “Truffula Valley.” According to the apparently irony-impervious Chris Meledandri, CEO of Illumination Entertainment, the production company responsible for the film, “The Lorax character’s view of the environment fits in exactly with Mazda and SKYACTIV® TECHNOLOGY, so the two were a perfect match for a commercial.” The creator of the character in question was unavailable for comment.