Source: Mother Jones

The Lorax, Dr. Seuss’ classic tale of conservation gone 3-D, opened in N. Am. theatres this weekend at an unexpected $70.7 million in gross earnings. Ironically enough, much of its success it no doubt due to the heavy promotion it received from its marketing partners, including Mazda, HP, Pottery Barn Kids, and IHOP.

The internet is abuzz with appropriate cynicism, and there’s not much more I can add to the conversation. I’ve gleamed excerpts from some thoughtful articles to contextualize the original book, the film, and materialism.

From The Washington Post’s The Lorax helps market Mazda SUVs to elementary school children nationwide:

The Lorax — that squat orange creature Dr. Seuss created to speak for the trees — is now hawking SUVs at elementary schools across the land. The sales pitch is part of the National Education Association’s “Read Across America tour — Driven by Mazda,” which arrived at Alexandria’s James K. Polk Elementary School on Tuesday. It was a hybrid event: a celebration of reading, a fundraiser for public-school libraries, and an opportunity to market Mazdas to the pint-size set. While they don’t buy many cars themselves, they have direct access to parents who do.

[A] Mazda representative — Dan Ryan of the government relations office — stood up. Ryan then told the kids they could help raise up to a million dollars for other schools’ libraries — and qualify for a sweepstakes entry (trip for four to Universal Studios). All they had to do was persuade their parents to go to the nearest Mazda dealership for a test-drive.

[T]he CX-5 is the most efficient SUV on American highways, he said. “That’s the kind of car we think the Lorax would like to drive.”

GreenBiz distinguishes among the film’s corporate sponsors those who lead in environmentalism and those artful in band-wagon jumping in Did The Lorax sell out?

For companies that are taking sustainability seriously to get the credit they deserve, it’s important to try to make distinctions between leaders and followers. HP, for instance, ranked second (behind IBM) on Newsweek’s annual list of green companies. By contrast, IHOP’s environmental program is about as vague and unimpressive as they get. I’d say Toyota, Ford, Nissan and Honda have all done more for the environment than Mazda.

From Mother Jones, The Lorax: in Thneed of Some Marketing Help:

“They had an opportunity to partner with brands that could have wowed us with what they were doing in the world,” Bittel told Mother Jones. “Instead they found a brand that sort of worked. In the end, [the Mazda SUV is] still a combustion engine, and it’s still a movie about overusing resources, and that just doesn’t match up.” He likened it, colorfully, to the film Finding Nemopartnering with a company that makes fish sticks.

While [Joel Makower, the founder of GreenBiz.com] hasn’t been following The Lorax debate all that closely, Makower says it probably won’t do much to damage the film’s reputation: “You’d have to commit some pretty awful sins of greenwashing to besmirch The Lorax.” And maybe we should have faith that kids are smart enough to see through the smogulous smoke. In a Washington Post article on the partnership, one of the kids was on point: “The Lorax doesn’t drive a car.”

You can Save the Lorax: Shun the Stuff:

The real Lorax wouldn’t usurp valuable school time to sell cars. Nor would he leverage children’s love for him to lure kids to IHOP or Pottery Barn or encourage them to nag their parents for an SUV. If that notoriously reclusive Lorax ever agreed to appear in a film, he would say a resounding “NO” to any commercial tie-ins. Instead of promoting a slew of “greener” products, he would tell corporations to stop bombarding kids with materialistic messages. He would never immerse children in the false corporate narrative that we can consume our way to everything, from happiness to sustainability. Instead he would join everyone who cares about children and the earth to give kids time and space to grow up free of commercial pressures.

So here’s where we are. The products have been produced and distributed, and the airways are filled with commercials featuring the Lorax hawking this and that. Guys in synthetic Lorax suits are waiting to meet and greet in stores around the country. The phony corporate Lorax is out of the bag — we can’t stop the current promotions. But we can refuse to participate.

If you have children, check out the Huffington Post article for other environmentally-themed films.

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