A Look Back on The Cat in the Hat (1971)

I’ve made it clear a couple of times that I think that the 2004 cinematic adaptation of the Cat in the Hat is without a doubt the worst Dr. Seuss adaptation out there with its horribly dated pop culture reference, unnecessary adult humor, forced morals, and horribly miscast Mike Meyers as the titular character. None of the movie’s elements had any respect for the source material and Seuss’ wife rightfully refused to allow any further live action adaptations of her late husband’s books. But once again we have a TV special from the 70s that nailed it far better. Seuss wrote the screenplay for this one and it does deviate from the book but the changes actually make sense and don’t deviate from the heart.

The set up for the story is pretty much the same: Mom leaves the two bored kids at home alone on a rainy day, The Cat in the Hat comes in and him and the Things teach the kids to have fun, they wreck havoc, and the fish tries to get them to leave.

Probably the best part of this special is VA Allan Sherman as the Cat in the Hat. He gives the Cat a fun, loving, humble, and witty demeanor. At the same time he never gets too over the top to the point that you want to see him get out of the house. His sense of humor is also very fun, it’s not too adult but at the same time it’s not too juvenile. Just about any audience can enjoy it. In regards to the rest of the characters they’re crafted well too. The kids aren’t given much of character but they are still endearing and innocent in a way that they are fascinated by the antics of the Cat and it shows the effects of his antics on them as they get more and more livelier. And it works into the message of knowing how to have fun well.  The two Things look amazing and much like the Cat never come off as obnoxious. And finally you have Mr. Krinklebein aka the Fish and much like the Cat he’s got a great voice actor behind him being so funny in how strict he is and his rivalry with the Cat making him just as fun without making him into too much of a party pooper.

Another aspect I liked about the story is the fact that the Cat does have a reason to stay as he claims someone stole his moss-covered three-handled family gradunza. It really gives more backbone to the story rather than just teaching a lesson and it works in a way that keeps to it in the process that doesn’t feel unfocused.

This special also has songs. Did it need them? No. But they are very catchy. Nothing to be Done sets up the tone and feel nicely. Calculatus Eliminatus and Anything Under the Sun are earworms from start to finish. Cat Hat,  a song about learning the word Cat in different languages is funny in how Cat is said in different languages. The last song, Sweep Up The Memories, is a beautiful and heartwarming melody that closes up the cartoon and really gives that Dr. Seuss feel to it.

Chuck Jones did the animation for this and it is great. It’s colorful, creative, and it’s almost like watching a Dr. Seuss book come to life. There’s a lot of funny moments like when the Fish tries to call the FBI to report the Cat it’s so absurd and yet it fits perfectly.

This special is pretty much a must-watch for any fan of Dr. Seuss’ books. It crafts the author’s vision in a unique manner but makes changes that make sense that are surprising. It knows how to use its characters, catchy songs, colorful animation, and an overall feel to genuinely have fun there is a lot of passion put into this thing than anyone would think. This is one special that knows to have fun and knows how to have it.