The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss is a Denser and Wackier American live-action/puppet television series based on characters created by Dr. Seuss, produced by The Jim Henson Company. It is notable for its use of live puppets with digitally animated backgrounds, and in its first season, for refashioning characters and themes from the original Dr. Seuss books into new stories that often retained much of the flavor of Dr. Seuss' own works.
Each episode of season one is a self-contained story based on Dr. Seuss characters (such as Yertle the Turtle and Horton the Elephant). The unifying element is that the stories are introduced and commented on by The Cat in the Hat (performed by Bruce Lanoil) who serves as host of the show. Occasionally, The Cat in the Hat himself appears in the episode, reprising his role as a bit of a trickster, as in his original eponymous books.
It was notable for hewing closely to many of the themes of the original Dr. Seuss stories, which often had a strong moral overtone. As a result, some episodes have distinctly dark or sinister elements which, like some Dr. Seuss books, may not be appropriate for younger children.
Due to complaints about how scary the first season of the series was to some children, season two was completely reworked along the lines of a more traditional Preschool Show. The Cat in the Hat (now voiced by a much less gravelly sounding Martin P. Robinson) lives in a playhouse with his Little Cats A through Z and the often flustered Terrence McBird (performed by Anthony Asbury). Aside from the residents of the house there are usually visitors based on Dr. Seuss characters.
Each episode revolves around a theme (such as family, health, art) and features one or two songs about the theme. The action shifts between The Cat in the Hat and what is going on in his playhouse and shorter related story interludes, which he shows to the audience by means of his "Wubbuloscope." These story vignettes take place in various locations like:
- Seussville A contemporary city where Sarah Hall Small and her family live.
- The Jungle of Nool A jungle that is home to Horton the Elephant, Morton the Elephant-Bird, Jane Kangaroo, Junior Kangaroo, Yertle the Turtle, the Wickershams, and the Sneels.
- The Kingdom of Didd A Renaissance-like kingdom that is ruled by King Derwin.
- Mount Crumpit Home of the Grinch and his dog, Max.
The tone of season two is much lighter, no doubt the result of bringing in a number of comedic writers such as Adam Felber and Mo Rocca. The Cat in the Hat is no longer a trickster and instead has assumed the role of a friendly and enthusiastic host who is helpful, nurturing and sweet. Although this revised format only lasted one season before the show ended, the format was recognizably previously featured in Jim Henson Productions' next children's program Bear in the Big Blue House, which aired on Disney Channel.
The show was treated poorly by Nickelodeon, which it aired on for two seasons from October 13, 1996 to December 28, 1998. It was moved to Nick Jr. once Season 1 ended, and the second season was very quickly burned off.
The Wubbulous Tropes of Dr. Seuss:
- Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal:
- The Cat in the Hat, as usual, and the Little Cats all wear said hat, bowties, and gloves. In season 2, however, Little Cat B seems to have traded in his/her bowtie for a ruffled collar.
- Terrence McBird wears a green neck collar and scarf.
- In addition to wearing blue socks on his hands and feet, Fox in Socks wears a matching bowler hat and scarf. Mr. Knox also wears a hat.
- Pam wears a green cap, but that's pretty much it.
- Adaptational Dumbass: The Wickershams tend to be portrayed as clumsy louts who talk in Hulk Speak.
- Adaptational Nice Guy: Jane Kangaroo is still pretty conceited, but we see a lot more of her redeeming qualities than in Horton Hears a Who!. Her treatment of Horton is also generally nicer (or at least well meaning). This is at least partially due to Adaptational Karma and the consequences of her nastier moments being put in front of her more blatantly than in the book.
- All for Nothing: In "Yertle the King," Yertle seizes surrounding properties around his aunt's kingdom. He cannot convince the Cat in the Hat to sell his small plot of land until in desperation he ends up trading every other piece of land instead.
- Art Evolution: While the entire series used a "digital backlot" with the puppets performing in front of a green screen and a CGI set, the second season had the Cat's playroom as the only live-action set.
- Ascended Extra: Quite a few characters, including the Little Cats (who appeared in The Cat In The Hat Comes Back), and Morton the Elephant Bird (who appeared without a name at the end of Horton Hatches the Egg).
- Beware the Nice Ones: In Season 2, the Cat in the Hat is a very warm-hearted main host, but in Season 1 he does still have shades of his trickster personality, "Yertle the King" being one of the best examples.
- Big Storm Episode: In "There is Nothing to Fear in Here", The Cat in the Hat, the Little Cats, and Terrence McBird take shelter in the Cat's Playhouse when a thunderstorm causes the lights to go out. Terrence is afraid of thunderstorms, but the cats help him overcome his fear by inventing in-the-dark games.
- Birthday Buddies: In "The Birthday Moose", the Birthday Bird takes everyone sharing the same birthday to Katroo for a huge party. In this episode's case, it's Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, Morton the Elephant Bird, Fox in Socks, Mr. Knox, and Fiona Phish. When Thidwick finds out that the Birthday Bird is unable to make it this year (due to being frozen alive in a block of ice at an arctic climate), Thidwick tries to take him and his friends sharing the same birthday to Katroo himself, disguised as the Birthday Bird.
- Birthday Episode:
- In "The Birthday Moose", it's Thidwick's birthday, and Thidwick is excited about the Birthday Bird taking him and his friends sharing the same birthday, Morton the Elephant Bird, Mr. Knox, Fox in Socks, and Fiona Phish, to Katroo for a huge party. When Thidwick finds out that the Birthday Bird is unable to make it this year, he decides to take him and his friends to Katroo himself, disguised as the Birthday Bird.
- In "The Cat in the Hat's Big Birthday Surprise", it's Terrence McBird's birthday, and he thinks his friends have forgotten. They're really planning his surprise party. In the Wubbulous World, Felix Finkledooper celebrates an extra-special 8th birthday with the 8th Birthday Glurk, and Princess Tizz is sad because all of her birthday presents are too rare and precious to play with.
- Break the Haughty: Most of Jane Kangaroo's delusions of grandeur end up in smoke.
- Blind Without 'Em: Fiona Phish from "The Birthday Moose" is an elderly fish who can't see very well without her glasses. When the Birthday Bird is unable to take her and everyone else sharing the same birthday to Katroo for a party due to being frozen alive in a block of ice while visiting the arctic, Thidwick decides to take his friends to Katroo himself, disguised as the Birthday Bird. Thidwick is able to easily convince Fiona that he is the Birthday Bird due to her poor eyesight.
- Canon Foreigner: While many of the characters on the show are pre-existing Dr. Seuss characters, others were created specifically for the series. Two of the most notable are Sarah Hall-Small and Terrence McBird, both of whom debuted in the second season.
- Cat Up a Tree: In "Cat's Play", Sarah Hall-Small imagines herself as a superhero while she waits for her grandmother's cookies to be ready to eat. In her Imagine Spot, she rescues Puffy, Felix Finkledooper's pet cat, when she gets stuck in a tree.
- The Complainer Is Always Wrong: This was the A-plot for many of the episodes of the second season. Usually, the Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats will engage in some kind of fun activity, but Terrence McBird will refuse to try it at first. When he does finally join in the fun activity towards the end of the episode, he finds out he actually had fun and it wasn't as bad as he thought it would be.
- Deadpan Snarker: The Grinch, as usual per adaptation, supplies some ice-cold retorts, case in point, the poor schmucks that drop by his door in "The Grinch Meets His Max":Salesman: Would you like to buy a raffle ticket for a good cause?Grinch: No. Would you like to GET LOST? *slams door*
- Did You Die?: The episode, "Norval the Great" features Binky telling his friends about his adventures with his pet fish, Norval. In the middle of the story, one of his friends asks, "Did you and Norval die?". The others look at her and respond, "Duh...".
- Distaff Counterpart: The second season introduces Pam-I-Am, the female counterpart of Sam-I-Am (who also debuts in the same season).
- Demoted to Extra: The Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats still appeared as a Framing Device for the Seuss stories in each Season 2 episode, but many other pre-existing Dr. Seuss characters got this.
- Dream Episode: In the first Seuss Story in "The Cat in the Hat Takes a Nap", we get to see the dreams of the citizens of Seussville. Norval the Fish dreams that he can fly, The Grinch dreams about celebrating his birthday with Max, and Sarah-Hall Small dreams that her house is a spaceship that she flies to the planet Malamaroo.
- Egg MacGuffin: The episode, "The Song of the Zubble-Wump" involves a girl named Megan and her friend Horton the Elephant trying to retrieve the priceless Zubble-Wump egg, which was stolen by The Grinch.
- Evil Chancellor: In "The King's Beard", Yertle the Turtle acts as the trusted advisor for two different kings. This is part of his plan to put the two kingdoms at war so that he can rule them both.
- Fear of Thunder: In "There is Nothing to Fear in Here", Terrence McBird is revealed to be afraid of thunderstorms, especially ones that cause the lights to go out. The Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats help him overcome his fear by inventing in-the-dark games.
- For Want of a Nail: In "The Mystery of Winna-Bango Falls," Jane Kangaroo's efforts to keep the inhabitants of Lake Winna-Bango from littering their Fruzzle Floom Fruit peels causes a whole chain reaction that stops the Winna-Bango waterfall from flowing.
- Friendly Neighborhood Spider: In "A Bird's Guide to Health", Horton meets Sid the Spider, a spider whose left legs were crushed by a fallen tree. Despite Horton's initial fear of spiders, he and Sid become friends. Horton nurses Sid back to health, but is harassed by Jane Kangaroo and the Wickershams, who all think that bugs are creepy and not friendly. Sid, not wanting to cause trouble for Horton, sweetly says his goodbyes, causing a Heel Realisation from Jane.
- Gleeful and Grumpy Pairing: The Cat in the Hat and Terrence McBird have this respective dynamic in the show's second season. The Cat is the show's warm-hearted host who encourages both Terrence and the viewers to participate in whatever activity he and the Little Cats have planned for the episode, while Terrence frequently complains and gripes about disliking things and will often refuse to participate in whatever activity the Cats have planned.
- Harmless Freezing: In "The Birthday Moose", the Birthday Bird gets frozen in a block of ice while visiting the arctic. He is soon found by an admiral, and calls for her help from inside the ice block. She uses an ice pick to break open the ice, eventually freeing him.
- Hiccup Hijinks: In "The Sounds All Around", Terrence McBird gets a case of the hiccups. At the end of the episode, Terrence follows Pam-I-Am's advice to take slow, deep breaths, and this cures him.
- Human Mail: In "The Cat in the Hat Gets a Package", Sarah Hall-Small does this in an Imagine Spot when she wonders what it would be like to mail herself to her grandmother while she waits in line at the Post Office.
- Infant Sibling Jealousy: In "Lester Leaps In", Sarah Hall-Small becomes jealous of her new little brother, Paul, because of how much time her parents spend with him, and how they hardly pay attention to her anymore. Whenever they do, it's usually to remind her to be considerate of him, such as not playing her big bass thumper bumper too loud when he's trying to sleep. Sarah eventually gets the idea of acting like a baby herself to get her parents' attention, until her parents tell her that they'll always love both her and Paul equally. Upon hearing this, Sarah changes her attitude about Paul and promises him that she'll be the best big sister ever.
- Inventional Wisdom: In "The Muckster", Jane orders the titular invention to help her clean her messy house for her appearance on The House and Home Show, with specific instructions from the Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats never to turn the dial to 6. When Jane is tempted to turn the dial to 6, Junior reminds her not to do so, to which Jane questions why the Cats would put a 6 on the machine to begin with.
- Jerkass: The Grinch and Yertle expectedly take the role of antagonists, though with Pet the Dog moments here and there.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jane Kangaroo can be overbearing and close minded like her book counterpart, but does care about her son and sometimes feels bad when she crosses the line.
- Karmic Trickster: The Cat in the Hat occasionally filled this role in the first season, particularly in episodes starring Yertle.
- The Killjoy: In the episode, "The Guest", The Grinch sees a commercial for the Lake Malloon Lodge, and hates how happy everyone is there. He checks into the lodge for the sole purpose of sabotaging the fun of everyone there, including Larry Nooly, a young boy who is dragged along by his parents, who are on their second honeymoon. Among the things The Grinch does during his stay are drain the lake, dismantle the roller coaster, and cut holes in the trampoline. After The Grinch drives everyone else away, Larry gets an idea to throw a party in The Grinch's honor, topping it off by giving him a gift. However, instead of undergoing a HeelFace Turn like his book counterpart, The Grinch is unable to handle people being nice to him, and retreats back to Mt. Crumpet.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Many of the characters from many of Dr. Seuss' works combine to form the series' adventures. Notably, The Cat in the Hat is the show's host, and The Grinch and Yertle the Turtle are the series' recurring villains.
- Minsky Pickup: Done at the beginning of the Fox and Knox intro.Fox: I'm Mr. Knox.
Knox: I'm Mr. Knox!
Fox: You're Fox in Socks.
Knox: You're Fox in Socks!
Fox and Knox: Yes, we are Fox and Knox!
- Mobile Fishbowl: Fiona Phish from "The Birthday Moose" has a one-wheeled fishbowl that helps carry her when she joins her friends sharing the same birthday on their trip to Katroo.
- Morality Pet: Perhaps a literal example with Max, the Grinch's dog. The Grinch is shown to have some odd ideas about pet ownership (having Max brush him instead of the other way round), but he's also shown to genuinely care about him. When he's actually cruel to Max in "Max the Hero", it's because he thinks he's losing him and doesn't know how to react, and he immediately regrets it (even if it takes him a while to admit it).
- My God, What Have I Done?: Said word for word in "The Muckster" when Jane Kangaroo accidentally commands the title device to "Clean up Junior".
- Mythology Gag: The sour kangaroo and her joey from Horton Hears A Who are named Jane and Junior, as they were in Chuck Jones' Animated Adaptation.
- Named by the Adaptation: The elephant bird who appears at the end of Horton Hatches the Egg is named "Morton" in the series. Also Jane and Junior Kangaroo maintain their adapted names (see Mythology Gag).
- New Baby Episode: In the second Seuss Story in "Lester Leaps In", Sarah Hall-Small gets a new baby brother, Paul. At first, Sarah doesn't get along with Paul; she dislikes how much attention their parents give him and how little they give her as a result. She also dislikes whenever her parents have to remind her to be considerate of him, such as not playing her big bass thumper bumper too loud when he's trying to sleep. After Sarah tries to act like a baby herself so her parents will pay attention to her, her parents tell her that they'll always love both her and Paul equally. Upon hearing this, Sarah changes her attitude about Paul and promises him that she'll be the best big sister ever.
- Nice Mice: Scotty from "Horton Has a Hit" is a mouse who is a friend of Morton the Elephant Bird. While the other animals of the Jungle of Nool tease Morton for being an elephant bird, Scotty assures Morton that he'll always be his friend.
- Not on the List: In "Horton Has a Hit", Morton is trying to get into the theater where his father, Horton, is performing, to stop a World Tour that Yertle the Turtle is planning to take him on afterwards. The security guard refuses to let him in, telling him he's not on the guest list. Morton asks him who is, and he checks his list and tells him, "Everyone except Morton the Elephant Bird". Upon hearing this, Morton leaves, then comes back in a Coat Hat and Mask disguise so the Security Guard will let him in.
- Parasol Parachute: At the beginning of "Norval the Great", the Cat in the Hat uses his umbrella to slowly descend as he jumps from a 15-story-high painting of his Uncle Lou.
- Passing the Torch: In "Mrs. Zabarelli's Holiday Baton", after directing the Jingle Day pageant for 49 years, Mrs. Zabarelli retires and gives the job and her baton to her prize student, Annie DeLoo. The episode ends in the future, with an elderly Annie passing the job and the baton to her prize student, Arianna.
- Picky Eater: In "The Feed You Need", Terrence McBird refused to eat birdseed brickle in any color other than red. He eventually tries both pink and blue birdseed brickle near the end of the episode and finds it isn't as bad as he thought it would be.
- Picnic Episode: In "The Cat in the Hat's Indoor Picnic", rain spoils plans for an outdoor picnic, much to the dismay of Terrence McBird, who was looking forward to playing in the sandbox. The Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats improvise by spending their picnic in the Cat's Playhouse, and making a sandbox for Terrence with his birdbath and dried corn. In the Wubbulous World, Princess Tizz imagines where the most special picnic spot could be.
- Power Outage Plot: In "There is Nothing to Fear in Here", a thunderstorm causes the lights to go out in The Cat's Playhouse. This is bad news for Terrence McBird, who has a Fear of Thunder. The Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats help him overcome his fear by inventing in-the-dark games.
- Put on a Bus: Sue Snue, Mayor Stovepipe, and Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose only appeared in the first season.
- Retool: The second season boasted a Two Shorts format, with a sub-plot involving The Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats from the second book serving as a Framing Device for each episode. The theme song and several performers/puppeteers were also replaced.
- Rhymes on a Dime: Not consistently, but given the books they're based on, more than a little rhyming peppers the dialogue. Especially apparent in Season One.
- In "Oh, the People You'll Meet", one of the people Julian meets is a teacher called Mr Moriarty Seagoon Eccles. Another is his own future self, who travels to imaginary planets via Zeta Beam.
- "The Road to Ka-Larry" is an homage to the Road to ... movies, with Fox in Socks and Mr Knox in the roles of Hope and Crosby. "The Guest" had previously stated that Fox and Knox were the stars of the movie Road to Solla Sollew.
- Sick Episode: In "A Bird's Guide to Health", Little Cat Z gets sick, and Terrence McBird is afraid he'll catch his cold. It's up to the Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats to show him how to stay healthy.
- Sleep Aesop: In "The Cat in the Hat Takes a Nap", Terrence McBird is a bit cranky, so the Cat suggests he take a nap. Terrence initially refuses as he is a bird and it's cats who are known for sleeping a lot, but with the help from the Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats, he learns the importance of taking a nap. In the Wubbulous World, we get to see everyone's dreams and meet the Yapper-Nap, a creature who looks scary but turns out to just be tired, so Sarah Hall-Small sings a lullaby to help him sleep.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Keeping with his book, Yertle the Turtle is obsessed with power plays.
- Spiking the Camera: The characters tend to do this a lot, especially in the second season.
- Stock Footage: The ending sequence of the Cat singing "Let's Shout Hooray" in almost every episode of season 2.
- Speaking of season 2, we also get stock footage of the Wubbulascope cranking up and a transition from the Cat's playroom to the setting of the story.
- Super OCD: Jane Kangaroo tends to do a lot things on a strict regiment, even lullabying her son to sleep.
- The Thing That Would Not Leave: In "Halfway Home to Malamaroo" Jane and Thidwick are visited by an alien named Alvin, however he soon drives them crazy with his destructive Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny! habits. As it turns out, his habit of only halfway finishing anything made him a pariah on Malamaroo and now he can't even finish his trip home. The two attempt to solve Alvin's problem so he won't be stuck crashing with them forever.
- Those Two Guys: Fox in Socks and Mr. Knox, who work together as a comedy duo.
- Title Theme Tune:
- "Tighten up, get loose! / In the Wubbulous World... / In the Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss! (Yeah!)"
- "Come on along, we're waiting for you (Come on!) / This is the song to welcome you to... / The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss!"
- Trademark Favorite Food: Terrence McBird loves red birdseed brickle, as revealed in "The Feed You need".
- Turn the Other Cheek: One episode revolves around a young boy named Larry Nooly, who's dragged along to a hotel by his parents who are on their second honeymoon. He attempts to enjoy himself, except that the Grinch is also a guest and goes out of his way to sabotage everyone's fun, especially Larry's. Larry gets an idea at the end however, and has all the guests throw a surprise party in the Grinch's honor, and tops it off by giving him a gift. Unable to handle people being nice to him, the Grinch leaves.
- Unsuccessful Pet Adoption: In the first episode, "The Gink", Eliza Jane wants to keep a Gink (which is a cross between a Gunk and a skink) as a pet. The Cat in the Hat sings to her to adopt a different sort of pet because although Ginks can be pets, they require a lot of attention. When Eliza adopts a pet, she becomes too busy for her friends and eventually, the Gink grows homesick, so she puts him in the jungle but promises to visit him.
- Who's on First?: In "Horton Has a Hit", Fox in Socks and Mr. Knox do this kind of routine with Cindy Lou Who.
- Wrap-Up Song: Each episode from the second season ends with "Just Shout Hooray!", a song sung by the Cat in the Hat, telling the viewers to come back next time for more fun with him. In some episodes, the Cat is accompanied by the Little Cats and Terrence McBirdHooray for us,
Hooray I say,
Hooray for all the fun that we have every day,
And all the new faces and all the new places we see,
Just you and me!
So come back soon, and when you do,
I'll have some new surprises in my hat for you!
Just one last thing, and then I'm (we're) on my (our) way,
Let's shout hooray!
Just shout hooray!
- You Mean "Xmas": In "Mrs Zabarelli's Holiday Baton", the citizens of Seussville celebrate Jingle Day. Jingle Day Eve is the shortest day of the year, with the longest and coldest night (which implies that it takes place on the same date as the Winter Solstice). The annual Jingle Day pageant is held, and although each act in the pageant is different every year, it always ends with the youngest performer tinking the tink, which makes the sun rise, ending the night and properly beginning Jingle Day.