DR. SEUSS' HORTON HEARS A WHO!
Squah and Stretch...Cause And Effect
Endeavoring to fully capture the wondrous and wildly imaginative worlds of Dr.
Seuss, the filmmakers push the animation and rigging beyond the traditional boundaries
of animation physics and character performance and believability.
They employ “squash-and-stretch” techniques to push Horton and the Mayor to
extreme looks and movements. In traditional 2-D animation, squash-and-stretch gives
characters elasticity and movement. But Hayward, Martino and the Blue Sky artists,
animators and technicians take the technique to a new level.
Perhaps no scene better demonstrates the effectiveness of their squash-and-stretch
techniques than when Horton – clover in tow – attempts to cross a long, rickety bamboo
bridge overhanging on a deep gorge. At the same time, the Mayor is visiting the dentist,
who is about to use a giant hypodermic needle on the Mayor. Hayward and Martino
intercut the two hyper-precarious situations, creating an intricately constructed scene of
cause-and-effect. Every Horton action (or stumble) has an equal (or equally crazy)
reaction on the Mayor.
In the sequence, the filmmakers employ squash-and-stretch to inflate Horton’s
trunk – the ten-thousand-pound elephant (and eternal optimist), thinking air to be
“lighter” than anything, believes he can float across the bridge like a dirigible. Needless
to say, Horton’s expectations aren’t quite fulfilled. As Horton, inflated trunk and all,
continues to stumble, leaving broken pieces of the bridge behind every step, the dentist’s
hypodermic ends up in the Mayor’s arm instead of his mouth. The filmmakers again
seize the opportunity to push the animation, stretching the mayor’s injected arm 30-feetlong.
As the Mayor flees the office, his newly-elongated and flaccid limb accidentally
smacks a few people across the face.
Hayward credits Jim Carrey with coming up with the idea for the situation: “Jim
asked, ‘If an elephant was carrying your world around on a speck, where would be the
worst place for the Mayor to be?’” remembers Hayward. “After suggesting something to
do with power tools, Jim asked, ‘What if the Mayor was at the dentist – who’s wielding a
The animators also used squash-and-stretch for a “smear” effect, where, for
example, a character’s legs move so quickly, they begin to smear – and look like they’re
doubling or tripling in number.
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