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First Look At The Villainous Once-ler From Dr. Seuss's The Lorax

Big-screen adaptations of the works of Dr. Seuss don't have the greatest of track records. While 2008's Horton Hears a Who! received mostly favorable reviews, it still hasn't washed the bad taste of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat out of our collective mouths. That hasn't quenched Hollywood's desire to milk Seuss's beloved works, however, and this March will see the release of the latest Seussian outing: an adaptation of 1971's The Lorax. Whether it proves to be worthy of Seuss's legacy remains to be seen, but one creative choice may prove controversial to fans. The movie will reveal the full appearance of the Once-ler, the tragic villain of The Lorax, and EW has a first look.

You can click through to EW for the full, larger shot.

If your childhood memories are a little rusty, The Lorax is a fable about the clash between industrialization and nature. Specifically, it's the tale of a being called the Once-ler, a faceless, long-armed fellow who recounts his story to a nameless little boy who comes to hear the story of the Lorax. The story unfolds in flashback as the Once-ler explains how their desolate world was once a colorful paradise. Unfortunately, the young Once-ler discovered that the Truffula Trees could be harvested to make Thneeds, an all-purpose garment that "everyone needs." As the Once-ler begins chopping down more and more Truffulas, the strange creature known as the Lorax appears to "speak for the trees." The Once-ler doesn't heed the Lorax's warnings, however, and his greed grows as fast as his business, devastating the forest.

Where the film may hit some controversy is that in the storybook the Once-ler was never fully seen, shown only as a pair of long arms and a set of eyes. For years, Seuss fans have been imagining their own versions of what he might look like, and the mystery also allowed him to serve as a faceless personification of industrial greed. He could have been some strange creature, he could have been anything. The minds behind the Lorax film, however, decided audiences needed to get a better look at him. Producer Meledandri explained their choice to EW:

“The minute you make the Once-ler a monster, you allow the audience to interpret that the problem is caused by somebody who is different from me, and it ceases to be a story that is about all of us,” says Meledandri. “Then it’s a story about, ‘Oh I see, the person who led us into the predicament is not a person. It’s somebody very, very different.’ And so it takes you off the hook.”

Their attempts to make the Once-ler a relatable villain will only be strengthened by having him voiced by Ed Helms. Their logic is understandable, but that won't be much solace if the producers are hunted down by angry, torch-wielding Seussites. All I know is, when they get around to it, they better not screw up Bartholomew and the Oobleck.

The Lorax opens in theaters on March 2nd, 2012. You can find out more about it in our Blend Film Database.