DR. SEUSS' HORTON HEARS A WHO!
Sound And Music
With the word “Hears” figuring so prominently in the title and storyline, it will
come as no surprise that sound design and score were two of the film’s most critical
elements. “The film’s central conceit is that the two main characters never meet – they
can only hear one another,” Hayward elaborates. “Each has to believe what they’re
hearing. And if that’s not the basis for a wonderful sound design, I don’t know what is.”
The film’s intricate and at times majestic marriage of sound design and music
stems from the talents of two-time Oscar® winning sound designer Randy Thom (“The
Incredibles,” “The Right Stuff”), who has also worked on films ranging from “Raiders of
the Lost Ark” to “Ratatouille”; and composer John Powell, whose credits include
“Shrek,” “Happy Feet,” “Ice Age: The Meltdown” – and the three “Bourne” films.
Thom and Powell began collaborating unusually early in the process. “John and I
brainstormed with the directors over a year before the movie’s release,” says Thom. “We
all understand the film was going to be a real playground for sound. It’s a rare treat to
share sounds with a composer, and we worked to integrate the two areas as much as
Thom endeavored to open the audiences’ ears to different perceptions of sounds –
suspending disbelief that a microscopic man and a five-ton elephant could actually hear
one another. The first contact between Horton and the Mayor involves complex sound
transitions: As the speck flies through the air, we see the adrift Whos yelling (or, more
accurately, “yelping”) for help. The filmmakers cut back and forth between the pointsof-
view of Horton – whose over-sized ears pick up the “microscopic” sounds of tiny
voices coming from the speck – and of the airborne Who-ville, where we hear the Whos
full-bodied cries of surprise.
Looking to make contact with whoever is behind the tiny sounds, Horton bellows,
“HELLO!” to the speck. We follow the sound wave as it travels down to the speck like a
spaceship flying towards Earth. It hits the clover, passes through a blanket of clouds, and
then disappears into a giant funnel, traveling through a maze of ducts – until it emerges
from a drainpipe outside the Mayor’s office.
As the voice makes its journey through the atmosphere, Thom modulates it in
various ways, such as altering its pitch and creating what he calls a “warbling sound” –
all to complement the sound-wave visual. For its journey down the drainpipe, Thom adds
a bunch of “clinks” and “clanks” and other metal-stretching sounds that accompany the
continuing “Hello” sound.
It’s a fun moment for the audience – and an astounding one for Horton. “We’re in
the middle of some kind of amazing cosmic convergence!” Horton exclaims to the
Mayor. “Two vastly different worlds miraculously crossing paths! Mine colossal, and
yours miniscule, yet somehow we’ve managed to make contact!”
Sound takes center stage for the film’s epic climax, in which every Who comes
together, using whatever they can to make noise to make themselves heard – and save
themselves from certain doom. In unison, they shout, “WE ARE HERE! WE ARE
HERE!” Help comes from an unexpected source: the Mayor’s son Jo-Jo, who contributes
his Symphoniphone – a wondrous musical instrument he’s rigged from non-musical
objects – to the multi-layered, city-wide symphony.
As the filmmakers put these finishing touches on the film, Audrey Geisel, w
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