America's favourite tree-hugger hawks gas-guzzlers
For more than 40 years, liberal America's children have been enchanted by the Lorax, a furry Dr Seuss character, with an extravagant moustache who sums up his role in life with an oft-repeated catchphrase: "I speak for the trees!"
The book, a cautionary tale about what happens when big logging firms wield chainsaws with impunity, is such a compelling call-to-arms for young eco-warriors that it has been banned from schools and libraries in regions dependent on the forestry industry.
But now Hollywood is calling. With a star-studded cartoon version of his story about to hit cinemas, the Lorax has a new role in life. He no longer speaks for the "Truffala" trees of his native land. Instead, this orange-haired so-called environmentalist speaks out on behalf of the makers of SUVs.
In a move that exhibits a very un-American grasp of irony, Dreamworks, the studio behind the big-budget project, has negotiated a string of lucrative endorsement deals for its supposedly anti-industrial protagonist. As a result, the Lorax, an alleged opponent of naked capitalism, now boasts roughly 70 "promotional partners".
Most unlikely of them all is Mazda, maker of petrol-guzzling cars. After cutting a large cheque, the firm has been allowed to use the film to promote its new CX-5, an SUV. A new television ad says the vehicle, which is not even a hybrid, has been "Truffala tree approved".
The firm has meanwhile been touring US schools. Their mission: to talk Lorax fans into persuading parents to visit their local Mazda dealership for a test drive. Each child who does so, will earn $25 for their school's library.
All of which is sparking a furious backlash. "I track school advertising for a living," Josh Golin, of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told The Washington Post. "This is among the most outrageous examples of any school advertisement programme I've ever heard of. It's absolutely jaw-dropping."
Stephen Colbert, the satirist, devoted a segment of his show this week to explaining the "thick irony" of the Lorax "hawking" SUVs. Multiple bloggers expressed outrage at what they saw as a campaign to "indoctrinate" children.
The affair illustrates a growing problem: in an era of rising budgets and flat box-office receipts, film studios increasingly-reliant on tie-ins. Although Dreamworks admits the Mazda deal sparked "a big discussion," a spokesman told The Los Angeles Times they had deemed it a "good choice" because the CX-5 is 15 per cent more fuel efficient than rival cars.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson-fronted Marvel superhero movie
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: ITV drama to return in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming in September 2014
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain