From Horton Hatches the Egg (1942) directed by Bob Clampett.


Original Medium: Children's Picture Story
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: Dr. Seuss
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In the 1930s and '40s, Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel was busily making a name for himself in a variety of related fields. In animation, he co-wrote the "Private Snafu"

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… military training cartoons. In advertising, he was responsible for the "Quick, Henry, the Flit" campaign that made the insecticide it promoted a household word. His magazine cartoons appeared in Judge, Vanity Fair, Life, and others. He created a short-lived but delightful comic strip named Heiji. Today, of course, he is best known for his many illustrated children's books.

His fourth book, Horton Hatches the Egg (1940), concerned an appealingly put-upon elephant who agrees to egg-sit for an irresponsible bird. The bird then disappears for months, but Horton, whose motto is "I meant what I said and I said what I meant; an elephant's faithful, 100 percent", never abandons his post, despite the amazing (and amusing) difficulties this entails.

The book was a favorite of Bob Clampett, the animation director responsible for Russian Rhapsody and Beany and Cecil, — and one of Seuss's collaborators on "Private Snafu". Clampett pitched it to studio boss Leon Schlesinger, and on April 11, 1942, Horton Hatches the Egg became the first and only Warner Bros. cartoon adapted (and very faithfully so) from a book. (In fact, they only licensed one other property in their entire history, Jimmy Swinnerton's Canyon Kiddies.)

In 1954, Seuss wrote a sequel, Horton Hears a Who, in which poor Horton is again victimized and ridiculed for his big-hearted protection of the helpless — this time, a race of microscopic folks who live on a dandelion. (The Whos returned in Seuss's 1957 book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but in that one their diminutive size is not a factor.)

The second "Horton" book, too, was faithfully adapted into a cartoon when, in 1970, producer/director Chuck Jones — another of Seuss's "Private Snafu" collaborators — turned it into a prime-time animated TV special. For this, Jones won a Peabody Award for outstanding children's television.

Dr. Seuss died in 1991, and so there will be no more Horton stories by him. But the two that he did compose not only stand as excellent children's books — they also inspired two outstanding gems of animation.


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