Australian Council on Children and the Media

Horton Hears a Who

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Short takes

Parental Guidance recommended under 6 (violence and some disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Horton Hears a Who
  • a review of Horton Hears a Who completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 28 March 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 6 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes.
Children over 6 OK for most children in this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Horton Hears a Who
Classification: G
Length 86 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Horton (voice of Jim Carrey) a friendly, compassionate elephant who acts as a ‘school teacher’ to an assortment of young animals in the Jungle of Nool, hears a cry for help on a tiny speck of dust and decides to do what he can to assist. Using his extra large ears he is able to hear what others can’t and soon discovers that the speck is home to a microscopic community of Whos, a society that live in a town called Whoville and are blissfully unaware that their world could, at any second, be entirely destroyed. Horton makes a promise to the Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell) that he will do all that he can to see that the speck is deposited in the safest place possible so that the Whos can live as happily and safely as they have since the beginning of Who history.

The self proclaimed Mayor of the Jungle of Nool, a nasty Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) doesn’t like Horton or his imaginative ways. When she discovers him talking to a speck of dust clinging to a clover she uses this to incite the rest of the jungle community to ostracize him, even going so far as to hire a “hit vulture” named Vlad (Will Arnett) to attack Horton and ‘finish off’ the clover. She almost succeeds in destroying the clover and humiliating Horton, but the Whos have a special person in their town, one who doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in and who doesn’t even speak. Once he finds his voice it is he who is heard above the rest and it is his creativity and uniqueness that save his world from imminent annihilation.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Being isolated from one’s community; the destruction of a world.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Gorillas fire bananas at Horton as if they are machine gun ammunition.
  • Gorillas launch a huge ‘banana bomb’ at Horton. The result is that he slips on some peels and careens out of control through the jungle, before crashing. He is not hurt.
  • The Mayor of Whoville is repeatedly kicked in the backside after he tells a committee that they should postpone a celebration.
  • The Mayor angrily throws a staple gun at a picture of the chairperson’s head. The gun ricochets off the painting and staples his own forehead instead.
  • Horton imagines that he is a fabulous hero saving an unknown world, and conjures up a ninja sequence where he battles imaginary foes, much like a Japanese cartoon.
  • One of Horton’s students, who is hiding in the bushes, is kicked high into the sky.
  • Kangaroo repeatedly threatens Horton and incites violence against him.
  • Kangaroo hires a vulture to “take care of the speck” and consequently kill all of the Whos in Whoville.
  • Horton must outrun the vulture who tries to get the speck on the clover away from him. He hides in fields and narrowly escapes only to be faced with the vulture again. Horton eventually flings the vulture into a cliff. Moments later the vulture returns to capture the clover.
  • The vulture drops the clover with the speck over a cliff into a field full of clovers. It appears that all of Whoville has been destroyed.
  • An angry mob of forest animals gang up on Horton. They poke him with sticks, tie him down and force him into a cage.
  • The Kangaroo attempts to boil the clover, and the Whos, in oil.
  • A young gorilla is grabbed and then tossed aside.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • When Kangaroo visits the vulture she enters a very creepy, menacing, world where even she is scared as animal bones begin dropping at her feet. Vlad looks evil and nasty and as payment for destroying the clover he wants the joey that is in her pouch. Kangaroo outsmarts him but there are a tense few moments when her little joey doesn’t know what will happen.
  • When Vlad drops the clover over the cliff Horton is devastated as he believes that it could have killed the Whos. He is seen sobbing uncontrollably because he can’t locate the speck and when he finally does there is no answer, just devastation and rubble. The Whos turn out to be fine, but the suspenseful moments leading up to that discovery may worry very young viewers.
  • The angry mob of forest animals turn against Horton and tie him down, poking him with sticks and attempting to confine him to a cage while they prepare a pot of bubbling oil in which to burn the clover and destroy the speck. Horton begs them to stop and the Whos desperately try to make enough noise so that they are heard by the other animals as it is their last chance to survive. At the last second an unlikely hand reaches out to save the speck and Horton is redeemed. The scene has a number of suspenseful moments that may disturb some young children.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Product placement

The film is, in itself, a promotion of Dr Seuss products.

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • There is a frequent amount of name calling, including: “moron,” “boob,” “idiot,” “stupid,” and “jack-ass”.

In a nutshell

Horton Hears a Who is an animated adventure based on a Dr. Seuss story. It features a rhyming story line, a twisting, yet predictable, plot and a happy ending. While not perfectly suited to very young viewers it is a family friendly film.

The main messages from this movie are that “a person’s a person, no matter how small” and that just because you can’t see, touch or hear something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

  • Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:
  • being true to yourself
  • fulfilling the promises you make to others
  • compassion, forgiveness and imagination.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • following the group and taking the easy path regardless of whether or not it is “right”.

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