Horton Hears a Who! (also known as Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!) is a 2008 CGI-animated feature film based on the Dr. Seuss book of the same name, the fourth feature film from Blue Sky Studios, and the third Dr. Seuss-based feature film, following How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat. It was the first Dr. Seuss adaptation fully animated using CGI technology. This also marks the second Seuss adaptation to feature Jim Carrey in a lead role, the first being 2000's How the Grinch Stole Christmas (it also reunites him and actor Steve Carell who worked together on Bruce Almighty). Unlike the first 2 Dr. Seuss films, this film is rated G by the MPAA. This is also the first Blue Sky Studios' film to be rated G. Ice Age, Robots, and Ice Age: The Meltdown are all rated PG by the MPAA.
In the jungle of Nool on the fifteenth of May, a caring, imaginative elephant named Horton (Jim Carrey), the jungle's nature teacher, takes a dip in the pool. A dust speck floats past him in the air, and he hears a tiny yelp coming from it. Believing that an entire family of microscopic creatures are living on that speck, he places it on top of a clover that he holds in his trunk.
In fact, he finds out the speck harbors the city of Whoville and all its inhabitants, led by Mayor Ned McDodd (Steve Carell). He has a loving wife, Sally (Amy Poehler), 96 daughters (all voiced by Selena Gomez), and one son named Jojo (Jesse McCartney), who, by Who custom, is next in line for the mayoral position. Jojo does not want to become mayor, which leads him to become sullen and refuse to talk, despite Ned's giving him extra attention.
All the small incidents that Horton experiences on his trek across the jungle have a catastrophic effect on Whoville. He almost falls off a rickety bridge over a gaping chasm with no visible bottom, which causes a dentist's needle to accidentally slip into the Mayor's arm while getting a root canal. When Horton left the clover outside overnight, it frosted over, which created winter in the summer down in Whoville. As the other Whos become suspicious, the Mayor finally reveals the truth, but at first, the Whos don't believe him any more than the animals believe Horton.
Kangaroo finds out that Horton still has the speck, and, as her patience completely runs out, forms a mob by telling lies to get rid of the speck once and for all. The animals plan to rope and cage Horton, but Kangaroo turns this into a chance for attention, and offers Horton an ultimatum: give up the speck and "admit" he was wrong and that she was right, or pay the price. Despite a heartfelt speech from Horton that clearly touches the animals, Kangaroo still takes this refusal as an insult to her authority, orders them to proceed, and drop the speck into a pot of boiling beezlenut oil to "teach him not to make up stories of people on specks!"
Hearing the Whos' cries, Rudy (Josh Flitter), the Kangaroo's son (who has been in his mother's pouch the whole movie despite being old enough to be out and too large for her pouch), grabs the clover and returns it to Horton, refusing his mother's orders to return to her pouch. The animals finally realize the atrocity they almost committed. The Kangaroo is sad and sorry for her bad behavior, but Horton forgives her, and offers his friendship, which the Kangaroo accepts. At the end of the film, everyone helps Horton carry the speck up to the top of Mt. Nool. After a big number of the cast singing REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling," the camera zooms out, revealing that along with numerous other worlds in our universe, the jungle of Nool is just one speck among numerous others like our planet.
Traditional cartoon animation
Two traditional animated sequences were featured in the first act of the film, both representing Horton's over-active imagination. The first (which is shown twice; the first time being a single person and the second time being a family) is rendered to resemble Dr. Seuss's original pen-and-ink illustrations from the book, shown when Horton first hears a Who. The second is a more elaborate montage inspired by Japanese anime cartoons. In this sequence, Horton is seen fighting off "enemies" and defending the speck; this is shown promptly after Horton's quote of "We must become invisible, travel silently, for there are forces that would seek to destroy us." During this scene, the characters' mouth movements do not match the spoken dialogue, which is overblown and exaggerated, spoofing how many anime are dubbed in English. Both sequences were created by House of Cool. The end credits feature still drawings resembling Dr. Seuss's illustrations as backgrounds. Also, as in Dr. Suess' books, all of the plants are red and blue, contrasting a white background, most of Nools' plants are red and blue.