The role of the passionate and curious 12-year-old named Ted went to Zac Efron, known to audiences for the High School Musical series and the hit musical Hairspray. Though the character is much younger than the actor, the filmmakers knew that Efron’s charm and youthful spirit would serve the character well Efron vividly remembers his parents reading “The Lorax” to him as a child and credits the book as “planting the seed of an environmentalist” in him.
Reflecting upon his character, he states: “Ted is a regular kid growing up who is hungry for adventure. He’s got a crush on this girl, and he has a crazy grandma and a mom who is too strict, so he wants his freedom. He lives in a world in which there is virtually no nature—no trees and no plants. Everything exists through technology, so it’s fun to see him navigating a similar family life that we have today.”
Voicing an animated character was a new experience for Efron. He notes that though the process of recording alone in a booth felt a bit awkward at times, he enjoyed the challenge. “I thought back to my childhood and put myself in these awkward, hilarious situations that this kid finds himself in. The variations between something being funny and something not quite fitting are so slight, but they can make all the difference. It’s fun to really let go, though I’m sure it looked ridiculous when I was in the sound booth.”
How was it to play Ted in THE LORAX?
It was awesome. Ted’s a little rock star. He’s an ambitious, driven AND crafty young guy. He would do anything for the girl he loves. He’s a cool, cool cat.
What did you bring to the character when you were doing the voice over?
I wanted Ted to be enthusiastic and energetic. In the beginning he was naïve but he really turned into quite an admirable young man. In the end, Ted saves the day!
What did you imagine when you were doing the voice over?
A lot of it was imagination but we also had incredible animators feeding us little details and kind of teasing us by showing us what the world might look like in the movie. We were able to use that to kind of create our own world in our minds. It was fun.
What is it like to voice an animated character? How does it differ from acting with a partner?
You just have to throw all of your inhibition out the window. I had to leave my ego at the door. My favorite animated performance probably ever was Robin Williams in ALADDIN, when he plays the Genie. When they showed the video from recording that movie, Robin is all over the place. He's practically doing back flips. He's doing crazy faces, voices and gestures. He actually looks absolutely ridiculous but the performance that he got out of that was extraordinary. I'll never forget it. So I just tried not to worry about what I looked like or how I felt or how embarrassing it was. I just tried to go nuts and have fun. As long as you're having fun you can't really go wrong.
Which scene did you most enjoy doing the voice over on?
I think I like the scenes between Audrey (Taylor Swift’s character) and my character the most. They came out really well. I had known Taylor before, but we didn’t rehearse this. We did the voice overs separately and it all fit together really well.
Are you a big fan of 3-D?
I’m a huge fan of 3-D. The way 3D can be executed is amazing. When you’re immersed in the beautiful world of THE LORAX, the 3D element really adds a special dimension. It’s really cool.
Do you think there is a message in THE LORAX for children?
I think it’s going to inspire courage in a lot of kids. In THE LORAX, you see that you can incite and inspire change. All it takes is one seed to change the world.
What made you want to become an actor?
This is a funny story. When I was twelve-years old my family stopped at a hotel in Las Vegas and while we were there we went to see a sketch comedy show. I got dragged on stage by one of the ladies and in that moment realized that I love being on stage. It was hilarious.
Even though this movie is animated, for the promos they built actual sets. What is it like to look behind you and see Truffula trees right here in the studio?
It's pretty crazy. I have the images in my head from when I was a child and read the book. It was a great experience to watch the Truffula trees come to life. I loved being a part of it. It's a great feeling.
What was it like to immerse yourself in the world of THE LORAX?
It was fun and kooky and weird and everything you dreamed it would be. We had a great time.
Had you read the book The Lorax as a child? If so, can you remember what you got from the story?
I think that it was read to me. The message that I got, loud and clear, was don't cut down trees. But the story has evolved a little bit since then. I think this film does a great job on the message of the story. And we’ve done it in a very big, fun, and adventure filled-way. It's really something special. I'm very excited about it.
Can you talk a little bit about the courage that your character Ted displays?
Everyone's in this sort of world where they have everything they need and ignorance is bliss. Ted is a young, curious and passionate guy. He's driven by love to think outside the box, to push himself.
Ted goes to some extraordinary lengths to get the girl. Can you think of something, crazy, that you would do for a girl?
There can’t be anything more extraordinary than finding something that’s thought to be extinct. That’s what Ted did. It was the most amazing gesture.
Since the animators used you as part of their character design, were you happy with the end result?
Yes, Ted looks cool. The first time I saw him he looked like a regular twelve-year old kid. But what's important is what's going on up here in his head. That was up to me.
What messages do you think kids and adults will take from this movie?
I think the biggest message is that the smallest gesture can change the world.
If there was a real, live Lorax in the world today how do you think he would behave?
I think that he probably wouldn't drive a car at all. He would probably be an organic farmer that skateboards and uses solar electricity.
Have you ever planted a tree?
My dad and I planted orange trees in the backyard a couple of years ago. It's amazing to watch them grow. You feel a personal connection to them. It’s also pretty cool when you're actually eating the fruit from a tree that you planted.
When you are doing voiced over work you are essentially in a booth by yourself. Do you miss the interaction with other actors?
I really enjoy working with other actors. Probably the biggest bummer for me on this project was not being able to meet, Danny or Taylor. But here we are at this press event together and we get to hang out now.
How did you get this role?
I met with Chris Meledandri (Producer) and he said that he had an idea for a movie that he wanted to talk about. He told me about THE LORAX. I was immediately interested. It seemed like a really fun project.
Would you want to work again on another animated feature?
I would love to. I'd like to do an animated musical. I think that that would be so fun.
“Dr.Seuss’s The Lorax” released and distributed by United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment Corp. Showing on March 14, 2012. Nationwide!