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Let It Grow: Music of the Film
"Way back in the days when the grass was still green and the pond was still wet and the clouds were still clean, and the songs of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space… one morning, I came to this glorious place." -The Once-ler in "The Lorax"

Though the filmmakers wouldn't categorize Dr. Seuss' The Lorax as a musical, the animated adventure uses music extensively to further enrich the narrative. Ted Geisel himself turned to score in his animated telling of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Explains Meledandri: "The film bursts onto the screen with the townspeople of Thneedville singing about how much they love their lives. There are about five or six songs that figure prominently in the storytelling."

Meledandri, Healy and Renaud turned to multitalented composer John Powell to write the score and the songs used in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Known for his compositions for animated hits including How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda and Shrek, as well as of live-action films such as Hancock, The Bourne Ultimatum and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Powell and his musical work are quite linked to these blockbusters. Writer/executive producer Cinco Paul wrote the lyrics for the seven songs that are featured on the soundtrack. "John Powell is a composer whom I've had the privilege of working with on Robots, Ice Age: The Meltdown and Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!," says Meledandri. "He is tremendously gifted in writing melodies, and he did all of the composition on the film."

At the end of the day, the team knew they were making a fable that needed to be inspirational to children of all ages. It was a delicate balance to entertain while still maintaining the core message of the source material.

Says Renaud about incorporating musical numbers: "You can do things in songs where you can give the story a sense of irony and a sense of fun, and it helps tell this story, which is essentially a somber, dark tale. Music has the ability to give anything a lighter tone, which is important for an animated movie. We begin with 'Thneedville,' which sets up the world, and we end with 'Let It Grow,' which is the anthem of rebirth. The film starts with celebration and ends with inspiration. So those two songs were our bookends that we built from."

The Once-ler happens to play the guitar and has a number of solo songs in which he picks it up and sings. Singing is very much a part of his character. Luckily for the film, Ed Helms is an accomplished musician. He recorded all of the Once-ler's songs including "These Trees" and "Everybody Needs a Thneed," written by John Powell and Cinco Paul, and "How Bad Can I Be," written by Powell, Paul and Kool Kojak. Commends Renaud: "Ed came in and sang three songs so easily. He's a fabulous bluegrass musician, and he can play piano. He nailed them, one after another."

The logic of breaking into song must be carefully orchestrated within the narrative itself, so that it feels like a natural extension of the story. Explains Powell: "There are moments when we almost go into kitsch to punctuate the idea that it's a story being told. The opening is a proscenium arch, and we begin with the storyteller, the Lorax, who comes onstage. That's what I took my cues from when I composed the score. It's all about matching the music to the storytelling style. The story itself has quirkiness to it, and there are a few times when we break the fourth wall."

As the townspeople of Thneedville celebrate the planting of the last Truffula seed and begin to see life emerging from the ground for the first time in decades, we hear "Let It Grow," followed by "Let It Grow (Celebrate the World)," written by Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Ester Dean, Cinco Paul, John Powell and Aaron Pearce, which plays with the closing credits.

Meledandri brought in Tricky Stewart, a producer known for inventive and imaginative lyrics. Stewart has previously collaborated with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Christina Aguilera and Katy Perry, and is uniquely skilled at writing unforgettable anthems. Says Renaud about working with Stewart: "I remember listening to 'Single Ladies' and thought it was just incredible. It was so out of the box and yet worked so brilliantly. Tricky is a very proficient producer of all sorts of music, and he's got very eclectic tastes."

Explains Stewart about writing the theme song: "Ester Dean and I took the song 'Let It Grow' and did an adaptation that turned it into the record that it is now. We took the great message of showing your love for the Earth and letting your own power shine and commercialized it so that you feel as if you want to hear it a million times. The message is there, but the song strikes a chord without being preachy.

"As a producer of superstar recording artists, my ego has to be extremely involved in order to make the best decisions about music that affect pop culture," Stewart continues. "It is different in the film world, where it takes 15 to 20 great minds to make one amazing film. Your ego has to take a backseat, and you can't be married to ideas. You can't get so in love with something that you can't see it change, because it's always evolving."


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