Horton Hears a Who! (film)

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Horton Hears a Who!
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Screenplay byCinco Paul
Ken Daurio
Based onHorton Hears a Who!
by Dr. Seuss
Produced by
  • Bob Gordon
  • Bruce Anderson
Edited byTim Nordquist
Music byJohn Powell
Distributed by20th Century Fox[1]
Release date
  • March 14, 2008 (2008-03-14)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$85 million[3]
Box office$300.5 million[3]

Horton Hears a Who! (also known as Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! or simply Horton) is a 2008 American animated children's film[1] based on the 1954 book of the same name by Dr. Seuss, produced by Blue Sky Studios and distributed by 20th Century Fox. The film was directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino (in their feature directorial debuts), from a screenplay written by the writing team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. It stars the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell as Horton the Elephant and Mayor Ned McDodd, respectively, alongside Carol Burnett, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Dan Fogler, Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill, and Amy Poehler.[4] Recurring Blue Sky collaborator John Powell composed the film's musical score. It is the fourth screen adaptation of the book following the 1970 Chuck Jones television special, the 1987 Soviet animated short, and the 1992 Russian animated short.[5][6]

The film was released theatrically on March 14, 2008, to generally positive reviews, and grossed $300 million on a budget of $85 million. Horton Hears a Who! was the third Dr. Seuss feature film adaptation,[7] the first adaptation to be fully animated using CGI technology,[8] the first and so far only theatrical film adaptation to receive positive reviews, and the second Dr. Seuss film starring Jim Carrey after How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000).[8]


On the 15th of May in the Jungle of Nool, Horton the Elephant, the jungle's eccentric nature teacher, hears a tiny yelp coming from a floating dust speck and gives chase to it before placing it on top of a pink clover. Horton finds out the speck harbors the city of Whoville and its inhabitants, the Whos, led by Mayor Ned McDodd, whose family includes his wife, Sally; 96 daughters whose names all begin with the letter H; and one son, JoJo. Despite being the oldest child and next in line for the mayoral position, JoJo does not want to be the next mayor, and he does not speak due to his fear of disappointing his father.

Once Horton begins carrying the speck with him, the city starts experiencing strange phenomena, like earthquakes and different changes in the weather, and the mayor finds his attempts to caution Whoville challenged by the town council, led by the opportunistic yet condescending chairman.

After he makes contact with Horton, the mayor finds out from local scientist Dr. Mary Lou LaRue that Whoville will be destroyed if Horton does not find a safer home. With the help of his best friend Morton the mouse, Horton decides to place the speck atop Mt. Nool, the safest place in the jungle. The head of the jungle, the Sour Kangaroo, who refuses to believe that the Whos exist, demands numerous times that Horton give up the speck as she believes he's overshadowing her authority, but Horton refuses. Also taking force toward Horton are the Wickersham Brothers, a group of monkeys who like to cause havoc around the jungle. Eventually, the Kangaroo enlists a sinister but idiotic vulture named Vlad Vladikoff to get rid of the speck by force. He initially only agrees to do it in exchange for the Kangaroo's son Rudy, but when she threatens to hire the Wickersham Brothers to do it as she will probably change her mind, he eventually decides to do it for free.

Vlad makes many attempts to steal the clover, but Horton outruns him. In a last attempt to steal it, Vlad manages to steal the clover away from Horton and drops it into a massive field of identical pink clovers causing a large tremor in Whoville. After unsuccessfully picking 2,999,999 clovers, Horton eventually recovers the clover (exactly the 3,000,000th clover), also revealing himself to the rest of Whoville. The Kangaroo eventually finds out that Horton still has the speck, fires Vlad and rallies the jungle community into an angry mob, preying on their fears that their own children will become chaotic delinquents under Horton's influence.

Upon surrounding him, the Kangaroo offers Horton a final chance to renounce Whoville's existence. Horton refuses, and despite the heartfelt speech that he gives, the Kangaroo orders the animals to rope and cage him, and to boil the speck and Whoville in a cauldron of beezlenut oil. The Mayor enlists all of his people to make noise to prove the animals that they really exist, assisted by JoJo's "Symphonophone", an invention that creates a huge musical contribution and reveals that JoJo's "true" passion is music but still fails to penetrate the surface of the speck.

The Kangaroo snatches the clover from the captured Horton and prepares to drop it into the cauldron. Meanwhile, in the nick of time, JoJo grabs the horn that was used to project Horton's voice, rushes to the highest tower, and yells out "Yopp!", breaking through the sound barrier just seconds before the speck hits the oil. Rudy grabs the clover and proclaims he hears it, and the other animals of Nool notice that they hear it too. Despite his mother's objections, Rudy returns the clover to the released Horton, while the animals, realizing the truth about the Whos' existence, turn on the Kangaroo for deceiving them. While being praised for his integrity by his neighbors, Horton forgives the now-remorseful Kangaroo, who befriends him with a makeshift umbrella for Whoville. It is revealed that the Jungle of Nool (and Earth as a whole) is just one speck, like Whoville, among numerous others, floating in space.

Voice cast[edit]

Jim Carrey and his family at the world premiere of the film in Westwood, Los Angeles.
  • Jim Carrey as Horton, a big-hearted, eccentric, goofy, naive, and outgoing elephant and teacher in the Jungle of Nool who possesses acute hearing abilities and, unlike regular elephants, he lacks tusks.
  • Steve Carell as Mayor Ned McDodd, the eccentric and fun-loving mayor of Whoville who has 96 daughters, 1 son named JoJo, and a wife named Sally.
  • Carol Burnett as Sour Kangaroo, an egomaniacal kangaroo who mistrusts Horton's inquisitive nature as a threat to her legal authority over Nool.
  • Will Arnett as Vlad Vladikoff, a scary, savage, ravenous, and murderous yet goofy, eccentric, and idiotic vulture with a slight Russian accent[9] hired by the Sour Kangaroo to steal Horton's clover.
  • Seth Rogen as Morton, a mouse and Horton's best friend in the Jungle of Nool who at first does not believe his story, but still helps him.
  • Dan Fogler as the chairman, the chairman of the Whoville government and the lead Whoville councilman, who is dedicated to traditions and mistrustful of Mayor McDodd.
    • Fogler also voices Yummo Wickersham, the largest and oldest of the Wickersham apes, the leader of the Wickershams, and the older brother of Nits and Nuts Wickersham.
  • Isla Fisher as Dr. Mary Lou LaRue, a professor, scientist and inventor at Who U.
  • Jonah Hill as Tommy, a fat bear cub with a cow/hippo-like snout-shaped muzzle and tiger-like stripes and one of Horton's students.
  • Amy Poehler as Sally O'Malley-McDodd, Mayor McDodd's wife and mother to Jojo and her 96 daughters.
  • Jaime Pressly as Mrs. Quilligan, Jessica's blue-headed mother.
  • Jesse McCartney as JoJo McDodd, Mayor McDodd and Sally O'Malley's quiet (until the end) oldest son and the elder brother of his 96 sisters who does not want to be the next mayor of Whoville.
    • Fletcher Sheridan provides JoJo's singing voice in the film's final song.
  • Selena Gomez as Helga McDodd, one of the mayor's daughters.
  • Josh Flitter as Rudy Kangaroo, Sour Kangaroo's doubtful son who is much kinder than his mother.
  • Niecy Nash as Miss Yelp, Mayor McDodd's secretary.
  • Laura Ortiz as Jessica Quilligan, a Red-Headed Palooski, Mrs. Quilligan's daughter, and one of Horton's students.
  • Colleen O'Shaughnessey as Angela, a female Glummox and one of Horton's students.
  • Joey King as Katie, a cute and eccentric yet odd Yak-like creature and one of Horton's students.
  • Bill Farmer as Willie, Tommy's father.
  • Marshall Efron and Tim Nordquist as the Wickersham Guards/Nits and Nuts Wickersham, Yummo's two younger brothers and his Henchmen. Efron and Nordquist also voiced the rest of Yummo's henchmen.
  • Heather Goldenhersh as Who Girl
  • Charles Osgood as the Narrator
  • Laraine Newman as Glummox Mom, Angela's mother.[10][11]

Animals from The Jungle of Nool[edit]

Other animals that appear as residents of The Jungle of Nool are Deer Whose-horns-are-connected-from-one-to-the-other from If I Ran the Zoo, Zatz-its from On Beyond Zebra!, Long-Legger Kwongs and Ruffle-Necked Sala-ma-gooxes from Scrambled Eggs Super!, other yaks (which resembled the Yawning Yellow Yak from Dr. Seuss's ABC),[citation needed] other bears (which like Tommy and his father Willie and unlike regular bears have cow/hippo-like snout-shaped muzzles and tiger-like stripes), Zongs (anteater-like creatures which resemble walking vacuum cleaners) from Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, and lizard-like creatures (which have bird-like beak-shaped snouts), which were designed by Jason Sadler, a former animator, storyboard artist, designer, and voice actor on Dick Figures, who also works for Blue Sky Studios as a character designer, and was also famous for Happy Tree Friends as an animator, storyboard artist, director, and writer. He would later work as a character designer for Rio.[12]


After the critical and commercial failure of the 2003 film The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss' widow, Audrey Geisel, was so dissatisfied with the film that she then decided not to allow any more live-action feature films based on his work.[13] In March 2005, as Blue Sky Studios was completing Robots, the studio and 20th Century Fox Animation president Chris Meledandri approached Geisel about getting the adaptation rights for Horton Hears a Who!.[14][2] The art director for Robots, Steve Martino, along with story consultant and additional scene director Jimmy Hayward,[15] created a model of protagonist Horton and some animation tests to showcase their design ideas to Geisel,[14] who eventually agreed on "a seven-figure deal" for both the book and its predecessor Horton Hatches the Egg. Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio were then hired to write the script,[16] to be directed by Hayward and Martino with a set release date of early 2008.[15]

Geisel was credited as a supervising producer and watched production up close,[14] and also gave the directors full access to her late husband's archives, including his original sketches, 3-D sculptures, work done for the film The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953), and even memos Dr. Seuss traded with Chuck Jones during the production of the Grinch TV special.[17] For references in doing the character animation, along with footage of the voice actors performing their lines, the Blue Sky animators recorded themselves performing the script in an "acting room" to see what of their body language could translate well into the film.[18]

To make Horton different from the mammoths Blue Sky created for the Ice Age series, he would at times stand and walk upright in a way that made him look like "a fat man in an elephant suit". The directors noticed Horton's design in the book varied according to his emotion, and the 3D wireframe tried to allow for the same effects, with a bigger mouth to allow for wider facial expressions like those of Jim Carrey.[19]


Horton Hears a Who!
(Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Film score by
ReleasedMarch 25, 2008
LabelVarèse Sarabande
ProducerJohn Powell

The original score for the film's soundtrack album was composed by John Powell. A soundtrack consisting of the film's score was released on March 25, 2008, by Varèse Sarabande.[20][21] Near the end of the picture, the cast comes together and sings the song "Can't Fight This Feeling" by REO Speedwagon.[22]

Other songs featured in the film include:[23]

Title Performer
"Can't Fight This Feeling" Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, Carol Burnett, Dan Fogler, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett and Fletcher Sheridan
"Quickie" Thomas Foyer
"Swingville Sashay" Muff & Rezz
"Agua Melao" Gilberto Candido
"The Blue Danube" Johann Strauss II


Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes 79% of 136 reviews were positive, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's consensus reads, "Horton Hears A Who! is both whimsical and heartwarming, and is the rare Dr. Seuss adaptation that stays true to the spirit of the source material."[24] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 71 out of 100 based on 31 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[25] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film version an "A−" grade on an "A+" to "F" scale.[26]

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter called it "a delight, brimming with colorful, elastic characters and bountiful wit."[27]

John Anderson of Variety wrote: "The real stars of the movie are the animators, who imbue even the overgrowth in Horton's jungle with a certain floppy Seuss-ishness."[28]

Box office[edit]

Horton Hears a Who! grossed a total of $298.5 million on an $85 million budget. $154.5 million came from the United States and Canada, and $145 million from other territories.[3][29]

In its opening weekend, the film grossed $45 million in 3,954 theaters, averaging $11,384 per theater in the United States and Canada, and ranking #1 at the box office.[30] The film also had the strongest opening for a film starring Jim Carrey since Bruce Almighty, with the same applying to his costar in both films, Steve Carell.[26]

The film previously had the fourth-largest opening weekend in March, behind Ice Age, Ice Age: The Meltdown and 300, and as of September 2012, it ranks on the 15th place.[31] In the United States and Canada, Horton Hears a Who! was also the #1 film its second weekend of release, grossing $25 million over the Easter frame, in 3,961 theaters and averaging $6,208 per venue. It dropped to #2 in its third weekend grossing $17.8 million in 3,826 theaters and averaging $4,637 per venue. At the international box office it remained at #1 in its third week.[32]


Horton Hears a Who!, like other Dr. Seuss creations, contains layered subtexts and messages. A major theme regards learning about universal values between vastly different places and people, as shown by the quote "A person's a person, no matter how small". This is employed on many levels: primarily with Horton and the Mayor of Whoville making contact and championing each other to the point where everyone around them eventually learns the truth about the speck that Whoville resides on; but also with the Mayor and Sour Kangaroo's relationships with their respective sons, Horton and the Mayor being challenged by Sour Kangaroo and the chairman, the fickle herd mentality of the jungle community (save Horton's students and Morton) and Horton still forgiving Sour Kangaroo, and the ending shot of all of the worlds being specks in space.[33]


Award Category Nominee Result
Annie Award[34] Best Animated Effects Alen Lai Nominated
Best Character Animation in a Feature Production Jeff Gabor
Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Sang Jun Lee
Best Music in an Animated Feature Production John Powell
Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio
ASCAP Award[35] Top Box Office Films John Powell for Bolt, Hancock and Jumper Won
Golden Trailer Award[36] Best Animation/Family TV Spot for "Whomongous" Horton Hears a Who! Nominated
IFMCA Award[37] Best Original Score for an Animated Feature Film John Powell
Golden Reel Award[38] Best Sound Editing - Sound Effects, Foley, Music, Dialogue and ADR Animation in a Feature Film Randy Thom (supervising sound editor, sound designer)
Dennis Leonard (supervising sound editor)
Jonathan Null (supervising dialogue/adr editor)
Sue Fox (supervising foley editor)
Thomas A. Carlson (music editor)
Steve Slanec (dialogue editor)
Colette D. Dahanne (sound effects editor)
Pete Horner (sound effects editor)
Kyrsten Mate (sound effects editor)
Mac Smith (sound effects editor)
Jeremy Bowker (foley editor)
Andrea Gard (foley editor)
Ronni Brown (foley artist)
Ellen Heuer (foley artist)
Dennie Thorpe (foley artist)
Jana Vance (foley artist)
OFCS Award[39] Best Animated Feature Horton Hears a Who!
Satellite Award[40] Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media Horton Hears a Who!
Best Original Score John Powell
Young Artist Award[41] Best Performance in a Voice-Over Role - Young Actress Selena Gomez, Shelby Adamowsky and Joey King

Home media[edit]

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! was released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 9, 2008. Three versions of the DVD are available: a single-disc edition, a 2-disc special edition, and a gift set packaged with a Horton plush. All three versions included the Ice Age short film Surviving Sid.[42]

In the United States, the film earned $77,630,768 from DVD sales and $180,434 from Blu-ray sales for a total of $77,811,202 in video sales.[29]

The film was released on Disney+ on January 1, 2021.[citation needed]


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External links[edit]