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Western Animation / Horton Hears a Who! (2008)

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Horton: I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.
Morton: (sighs) An elephant's faithful one hundred percent.
Horton: That's my code, my motto.

Horton Hears a Who! is a 2008 All-CGI Cartoon made by Blue Sky Studios that is an adaptation of the 1954 book of the same name. This is the first feature-length animated film adaptation of any Dr. Seuss book, after his estate swore off any more live-action adaptations after the financial and critical failure of 2003's The Cat in the Hat.

The elephant Horton (Jim Carrey) lives a normal life in the Jungle of Nool. One day, he finds a speck that he is certain contains an entire town called Whoville. In his attempts to have a conversation, he meets the Mayor of Whoville, an overworked and paranoid man named Ned McDodd (Steve Carell), who, in the commotion of raising his 96 daughters, has left out his only son Jojo. Realizing they have a lot in common and knowing the stakes of saving the speck are, Horton must convince an unmoved jungle that this tiny speck is worth saving while the Mayor must convince his town about the reality of their situation. They must pull it off before the Sour Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) gets rid of the speck forever.

The 2008 adaptation of Horton Hears a Who! provides examples of:

  • Accidental Good Outcome: When Horton accidentally bumps the clover that carries the dust speck upon which Whoville is, it accidentally causes a condo to build itself.
  • Acrofatic: For an elephant, Horton is quite graceful from doing a perfect swan dive into the river to climbing up a steep cliff.
  • Acting Out a Daydream: Horton imagines himself as an anime action hero and starts doing ninja moves in the real world.
  • Actor Allusion: Just like Ice Age: The Meltdown, Will Arnett appears in a Blue Sky Studios property as a sinister-looking bird. Extra points for both of them being vultures.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
    • A downplayed case, but after the Whos are confirmed to exist on the speck, the other animals are visibly not happy at all with the Sour Kangaroo for assigning them to destroy it (especially given the more vindictive measures she took against Horton in this interpretation), leaving her shunned and remorseful until Horton shows her sympathy. In the book and special, the animals merely accept and celebrate the Whos with the kangaroo Easily Forgiven.
    • Played for Laughs with the Mayor, who upon first hearing Horton, has trouble believing their co-existence, and upon finally realizing, essentially has a Freak Out.
  • Adaptation Expansion: As necessary to make a short children's book into a feature-length movie.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Rudy. While in the book his character amounted to simply echoing his mother's "Humph," in the film he has a curious and skeptical personality regarding his mother's actions, even being the one to personally save the clover from falling into the beezelnut oil.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Though he retains his stoic dedication and good heart, Horton, once a soft-spoken Gentle Giant, is presented here as a spastic gag machine (More accurately, Jim Carrey in an elephant suit). Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.
    • In the book, the joey willingly agrees with his mother's belief that a civilization cannot exist on a tiny flower. In the film, the joey (named Rudy here) is more accepting of Horton's assertions and does not like it when Sour Kangaroo (named Jane here) accuses Horton of being crazy.
  • Adaptation Species Change: Vlad goes from a "black-bottomed eagle" to a vulture.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original story, Sour Kangaroo was a Well-Intentioned Extremist who was grumpy, but not really much of a villain. Here, she's a straight-up sadist who cares more about her own ego than the other jungle animals and seems to have a lot more fun in torturing Horton than she should. Not to mention being portrayed as borderline abusive toward the children that she claims to be protecting.
    • Look at the way the animals are cowering in fear of her at the beginning. Did she previously abuse them in the past?
    • And possibly genocidal (toward the Whos) as well. Notice how she tried to take the clover away from Horton even after she heard the Whos' "We are here".
    • Vlad Vladikoff as well. In the original story, he didn't have much of a role. He simply just carried the clover off and dropped it. In the film, on the other hand, he's upgraded to a genuinely terrifying, dangerous, and feared character, with sharp teeth and a sadistic sense of humor. Just look at his gleeful grin when he tells Kangaroo to offer her son to him as food.
  • All-Loving Hero: Horton. He even forgives and makes peace with the Kangaroo, despite everything she's put him through.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming: The mayor's 96 daughters all have names that begin with H.
  • Art Shift: Happens twice. The first time is a 2D animated sequence drawn completely in Seuss' distinctive style. The other is an animesque parody action sequence/daydream, complete with mouth movements that don't match up to the voices.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: When Morton warns Horton that Kangaroo has sent Vlad to destroy the clover.
    Horton: Is it the Bad Vlad or the Bunny Vlad that makes the cookies?
    Morton: Yeah Horton. She's sending you a bunny with cookies. I think we can assume it's the Bad Vlad!
  • The Atoner: Horton makes his peace with Sour Kangaroo having her Villainous BSoD, who in response gladly protects the Whos as much as he does.
  • Backing Away Slowly: At one point in the movie, Horton shouts, "I'm talking to the mayor!". However, because the mayor is invisibly small, a nearby bird is confused and slowly backs away.
  • Big Bad: The Kangaroo serves as this, hunting down Horton so she can make him admit that he's supposedly wrong about the speck having living people inside of it.
  • Big Little Brother: The mayor of Whoville is always the oldest child of the previous mayor of Whoville. The oldest child of the current mayor of Whoville, Jojo, is not only the smallest child but also the smallest of his ENTIRE kind.
  • Bitch Alert: Sour Kangaroo is first seen hopping across the jungle "Hmphing" to herself. Even a nearby deer gets out of her path when he sees her approaching. As soon as she sees Horton, she lets out a big, agitated "Hmph!"
  • Bits of Me Keep Passing Out: The Mayor is at the dentist when an earthquake (caused by the speck the Whos all inhabit moving) occurs, and the Novocaine needle ends up in his arm, which remains limp and useless for some time afterward.
  • Breakout Character: Jojo quickly became the most popular character in the film adaptation.
  • Brick Joke: The other Vlad.
    • When the Mayor first hears Horton, he asks if his voice is Burt from Accounting. Later when the Mayor introduces most of his fellow Whos to Horton, Burt from Accounting actually makes a physical appearance.
    • On the rope bridge, Horton thinks that inhaling deeply will make him lighter. Near the end Katie inhales deeply... and floats away.
  • Call-Back: Horton's catchphrase in the movie was, of course, imported from Horton Hatches the Egg.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Despite Morton's warnings, Horton cannot resist telling the children of Nool about the dust speck on his clover.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody in Whoville believes the mayor when he tells them he can communicate with the mysterious voice in the sky named Horton or that something bad will happen to their world. Until it's almost too late that is.
    • Nobody in the Jungle of Nool believes Horton when he says there's a tiny village of Whos living on the dust speck he protects.
  • Canon Foreigner
    • Morton the Mouse.
    • Additional children are seen aside from Rudy. Horton starts the movie off tutoring the yak Katie, the bear Tommy, and the bird Jessica.
    • Jessica's mother, Mrs. Quilligan, is a Russian Palooski who serves the same purpose Mrs. Toucanella did in the 1970 special. Tommy's father, Willie, also appears.
    • All of the named Whos aside from Nedd and Jojo McDodd.
    • The other Vlad (the bunny one who bakes cookies).
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Katie. Her mind's really out there.
    • Horton himself. Just the sheer fact that Horton is voiced by Jim Carrey in the film qualifies him for this.
  • Creepy Child: Katie in the movie. "Aaah..."
  • Crowd Song: The end of the movie.
  • Crying Critters: Happens twice in the movie, first Horton breaks down crying when he's searching for the Whos in the clover field, and second Vlad cries when he witnesses an emotional moment at the end.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: There are two Vlads living in Nool; one's a fiendish buzzard, the other a friendly bunny.
  • Death Glare: After the other animals finally hear the Whos, Sour Kangaroo still tries to rally them to continue the plan. They all shoot a very sharp one of these her direction, promptly shutting her up.
  • Delayed "Oh, Crap!": Eventually Horton catches on to the angry mob.
    Horton: Oh! I see! It's an angry mob! Coming right... for... (Starts getting it) Oh no...
  • Disney Death: Inverted. After Vlad drops Horton's clover into a field of over 3,000,005 clovers, Horton manages to find his last clover, inside the speck where the entire Whoville is almost demolished by an impact. Luckily, the Mayor and the Whos survive.
  • Easily Forgiven: The animals in the Jungle of Nool. Parodied when Horton says he couldn't have done it without their utter lack of support and naked aggression.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Vlad. He speaks in an exaggerated Transylvanian accent and is not very subtle when he starts attacking Horton.
  • Explosive Breeder: The McDodd-O'Malley progenies, consisting of ninety-six daughters and just one son named Jojo.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Vlad.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you pause on the wedding photo of Ned McDodd and his wife, you'll notice that Ned McDodd looks identical to their son Jojo when he was younger.
    • Look at the photos on the wall in Ned and Sally's bedroom, there's one where Ned is skiing with Jojo.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: The Kangaroo refuses to believe Whos live on the dust speck Horton guards and is against her son and other children "behaving like wild animals" and make-believing they have people on their dust speck clovers too. Going as far as to smash up her son's clover.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Jojo has a natural talent for creating machines that make a lot of noise.
  • Goth: Jojo shows some shades of this.
  • Groin Attack: The mayor gets wedged between a door as a large fishbowl strikes him in the crotch.
    • Which is to say nothing of what happens later during the Vlad chase. The Mayor rolls out onto his balcony, hits one of the railing pillars between his legs, then is shoved in further by his desk, a couch and a refrigerator. Safe to say there probably won't be a 98th child.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Kangaroo and makes peace with Horton and the other animals by the end of the movie. Even Vlad to an extent goes through this at the end as well.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • "He has the nerve to call me a boob? I would never call somebody a boob. HE'S a boob!"
    • Sour Kangaroo's claiming for the children's safety, then suddenly punting Katie out of the jungle.
  • Ignored Expert: The Mayor of Whoville.
  • I Love the Smell of X in the Morning:
    Horton: I love the smell of bananas in the morning!
  • Imagine Spot: See Art Shift above.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Downplayed. Horton doesn't exactly look like Jim Carrey here, but after he was cast, the more faithfully designed Horton model was updated to include Carrey's expressive mouth.
  • Iron Lady: Sour Kangaroo is the de-facto authority figure in the jungle of Nool, instead of the moral guardian of the children she claims to be, quickly punishing anyone who defies her.
  • Jump Scare: Vlad's introduction.
    • Made fun of later on when Horton thinks he's lost him:
    Horton: (out of breath, panting) I just know he's gonna jump out somewhere.
    Vlad: (right in front of him, softly) Hello.
    Horton: (screams)
  • Karma Houdini: Sour Kangaroo. Word of God says that in the movie she was originally going to get much better comeuppance in the form of all the other animals turning their back on her, but the writers decided to cut that out saying that "Dr. Seuss wasn't big on revenge".
  • Knight Templar Parent: Mother Kangaroo.
  • Large Ham: Subdued, compared to his other performances, but Jim Carrey as Horton.
  • Laughably Evil: Vlad, of course.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Watch the "We Are Here" chorus - if that's not the Grinch playing that tiny set of pan pipes, he's one heck of a doppelganger.
  • Lost in Imitation: The film borrows some concepts from previous adaptations of the story:
    • The mayor (or Dr. Hoovey in the 1970 special) trying to prove to the people of Whoville that life beyond their world exists, but is not believed and ridiculed by the citizens, which comes back to bite them later.
    • The concept of Jojo being an Ascended Extra as the mayor's misunderstood son and the fact that Whoville is somehow not damaged in the slightest from the fall into the cloverpatch both come from Seussical, which uses this story as one of the main plots.
  • Medium-Shift Gag: The previously All-CGI Cartoon briefly shifts into an Anime parody as Horton imagines himself as a ninja sworn to protect the tiny world on the clover.
    • There's even a brief traditionally animated segment drawn in Dr. Seuss' style when Horton imagines a Who on the speck "calling for help".
  • My Beloved Smother: Sour Kangaroo is this to Rudy, refusing to let him leave her pouch. Well, until the end of the film at least...
  • Mythology Gag: The abandoned clifftop observatory outside of Whoville strongly parallels the design of Eiffelberg Tower that Dr. Hoovey operated from, and similarly ended up being the very spot where the last "Yopp!" needed was shot.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Rudy Kangaroo in the movie; his mother is still just "the Sour Kangaroo" or "Mother Kangaroo". Also Mayor Nedd McDodd and Jojo McDodd by relation.
  • Narrator: Charles Osgood narrates the film.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: During the We Are Here climax, once Horton is in the cage, the wickershams hit Horton in the head with the cage door, jab him with sticks, and then yank his tail and trunk to try to force him to drop the clover. Once we return to him after Ned and Jojo leave the observatory to head back to Whoville, he then collapses on the cage ground in exhaustion
  • Obliviously Evil: While the Kangaroo is rather unambiguously cruel towards Horton, she honestly didn't realize that the speck did have living people inside of it.
  • Odd Name Out: Ninety-six of the Mayor's ninety-seven children all have names beginning with the letter H. Jojo, the Mayor's only son, is the Odd Name Out.
  • One-Steve Limit: There are two Vlads that Horton knows: one is an evil vulture, the other one is a bunny that bakes cookies. They both actually exist.
  • Only Sane Man: In the movie, Rudy [the joey] and possibly Jojo as well.
  • Recursive Reality: Horton discovers a whole world in a tiny dust speck. At one point in the film, Horton wonders whether the universe he inhabits could itself exist as a speck of dust to another universe.
  • Resentful Outnumbered Sibling: The Mayor has ninety-six daughters, and only one son, Jojo. No wonder Jojo feels left out.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In the original book the Mayor and Jojo are unrelated. Here, they are father and son.
  • Rhyming Names: Both Sally O'Malley and Dr. Mary Lou LaRue.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Again, Katie.
  • Rope Bridge: Horton has to cross one on his way to Mt. Nool.
    Horton: This looks...kinda...precarious. Well, no need to worry. Obviously, when they build a bridge like this, they take into account that elephants will be crossing here
  • Shaking the Rump: After crossing the bridge, Horton’s rear ends starts bouncing happily, while he obverses it, seemingly impressed, saying “Wow, I feel really good right now. Maybe it’s my new sense of purpose.”. A few moments later, he starts twerking vigorously to hip hop/techno music, while jumping closer to the screen before carelessly colliding with a tree.
  • Shaming the Mob: Subverted, along with the Rousing Speech.
  • Shout-Out: Several to various Dr. Seuss works.
    • One Who has a blue hat similar to the one worn by The Cat in the Hat, as well as a few of The Cat's mannerisms (including a smaller version of himself underneath his hat).
    • The Mayor and his family eat Green Eggs and Ham for breakfast.
    • The city council seems to consist of Grinches.
    • Rudy's imaginary clover friend is named "Thidwick", a reference to the eponymous capriole of Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose.
    • Mayor McDodd has a red fish as a pet in his office, possibly a reference to One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, or Carlos K. Krinklebein from The Cat in the Hat.
    • Several recognizable species can be seen amongst Nool's fauna, such as the Russian Palooski and Glummox seen in If I Ran the Zoo and the Zatz-it from On Beyond Zebra.
    • One of the portraits of past mayors was Dr. Seuss himself (specifically, the one of Ned's father)!
  • Silent Snarker: Jojo, up until he begins talking again.
  • Stealth Pun: In the original story, Vlad was described as a "black-bottomed eagle". Here, he looks more like a vulture, without feathers on his head. So wait, does that make him a bald eagle?
  • Straw Hypocrite: Sour Kangaroo, obviously cares more about putting down others than actually caring about the children. It's followed by kicking Katie across the jungle.
  • Stylistic Suck: The music during Horton's Animesque Imagine Spot, which sounds like the soundtrack to a cheesy '70s kung-fu movie being played on a beat-up 8-track tape.
  • Suddenly Speaking: Jojo shouts "YOPP!", and finally speaks for the first time.
  • Sudden Musical Ending: And how. "Can't Fight This Feeling", out of nowhere.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: At one point the Mayor tries to pop the inflated ball in an attempt to demonstrate how easy the world on the speck could explode. The key word is "tries": the tool he chose for that (a ball pen) is nowhere near sharp enough to pop the ball outright and only proceeds to puncture it, with air leaking out very slowly. And of course, it fails to convince the rest of Whoville about the incoming danger.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The Mayor constantly reassures the Doctor that he absolutely did not have a conversation with an elephant in the sky.
  • Take That!: The film takes a shot at home-schooling families by having the Hate Sink Sour Kangaroo boast about "pouch-schooling" her child.
  • Think of the Children!: The kangaroo rallies all the other animals in the jungle against Horton with this cry.
  • Toothy Bird: Vlad Vladikoff, a toothy vulture.
  • Totally Radical:
    • When the Mayor tries to relate to Jojo at the beginning of the film. It fails.
    • Vlad Vladikoff also talks like this, when he's not being threatening.
  • Traveling-Pipe Bulge: This happens when Horton's voice first travels down the pipe to the mayor's office.
  • Tree Buchet: How Horton gets rid of Vlad in the movie.
    Horton: Sorry, this is where we get off. (lets go of tree, catapulting Vlad away) Cool line. Usually I can't think of those until later.
  • Tremor Trampoline: Happens to the world of Whoville several times; after all, a small bump from Horton's perspective is a big bump from the Whos perspective.
    • One time when it happened, was while a house was under construction; when everything was bounced skywards, the house came back down fully built.
  • Unlikely Hero: Although you can see it coming a mile away, the mopey, silent Jojo is, of course, the one who comes through in the end.
  • Vertigo Effect:
  • Visual Pun: Quite literally a gaggle of Gossipy Hens deride Horton.
  • Wham Shot:
    • The reveal that Vlad has just dropped the clover containing Whoville into a thousand-mile-wide patch of identical clovers. In the book, it's a simple page turn, while in the movie, it's a dramatic camera pan, and both hit the viewer smack in the face with that massive field of solid pink.
    • The narrator reveals at the end that the Jungle of Nool (and Earth as a whole) is just one speck, like Whoville, among numerous others, floating in outer space.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Subverted; the main villain is a kangaroo.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Jojo's main reason for never talking is that he thinks that if he does, then he'll disappoint his father.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Kangaroo is actually a subversion. It's pretty obvious that she's enforcing her rules for the sake of her own ego instead of actually protecting anybody (She goes on about protecting the children, then kicks Katie clear across the jungle).
  • Witch Hunt: There's a bit of this in the 2008 movie as well.
    Kangaroo: If the children hear stories about worlds beyond the jungle, they'll start to question authority! Which leads to defiance, which lead to ANARCHY!


Video Example(s):


Vlad Vladikoff

Horton gets rid of Vlad the vulture this way in The Movie of Horton Hears a Who!. The elephant manages a Pre-Asskicking One-Liner (''Sorry, this is where we get off!'') before he does, then mentions that he usually doesn't come up with those until later.

How well does it match the trope?

4.93 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / TreeBuchet

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