The Cat in the Hat is possibly the most recognizable Dr. Seuss character there is. He is basically the trademark for Dr. Seuss. He is a mischief causing cat that is always traditionally stirring up trouble and then fixing the trouble he has caused. In the illustration off to the side one can see just how much of a handful this cat really is. Being “The Cat in the Hat” has really proven to be quite the juggling act. This cat proved to be a hassle for Seuss as well, “Writing such a book was apparently so difficult that Seuss almost gave up. The popular story behind the writing of this book says that in frustration Seuss was looking through discarded sketches when he happened to spot one of a cat. Seuss took another look at the word list and two words which rhymed jumped out at him: cat and hat”(Moje, and Shyu 670-676).
Not just your ordinary feline
Thankfully Seuss didn’t give up, instead he created what is possibly one of the most famous children’s stories of all time. The cat is very symbolic of everything Seuss, he is quirky, fun and full of creativity. I mean who else could clean a rug with a wall?
Prior to taking this Children’s literature class I was not very familiar with Puss in Boots, in fact most of my knowledge of the character was attributed to Shrek. After reading the Puss in Boots story for class and learning how much of a trickster figure he really is I wondered if perhaps there was any connection between Seuss’ Cat in the Hat and Puss in his boots? Cat’s traditional role is to stir up and fix messes that he ultimately causes all in the name of fun whereas Puss’ role is tricking and manipulating to get what he wants, both are very likable characters even though they seem to be trouble makers.
Recently there has been an addition to the televised cartoon world with the introduction of “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That” which is essentially a newer version of “The Magic School Bus.” Instead of Ms. Frizzle you have the Cat (voiced by Martin Short) who plays the part of ‘ignorant’ supervisor, instead of a class of children you have neighbours Nick and Sally, rather than a pet iguana there’s the pet fish and lastly the ‘magic school bus’ that changes size, form and function is replaced by a ‘thing-a-majigger’ that essentially does the same thing. The only real difference between the two shows is that The Cat in the Hat seems to focus its learning on plants and animals, whereas the Magic School Bus was open to anything Science.
The Cat in the Hat knows A Lot About That has come out nearly 19 years after the passing of Dr. Seuss, yet still does an excellent job of holding true to its creators vision. Many of the same lines are used from the original book such as “your mother will not mind at all if you do” which is said by the cat to Nick and Sally before any adventure, at which they immediately ask their mother(s) if it is okay that they go to “such and such” place. What is best in my opinion is how great the illustrations are, I think that the creators of the show have done an excellent job of keeping the illustrations very “Seuss” like, in fact why don’t you take a look at the video below and judge for yourself.
I think it is clear that after looking at the show there is one main difference between Seuss’ vision of the cat and the new cat used in “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That” this new cat is a lot less mischievous. He spends his time learning and helping rather than causing trouble. I wonder how Seuss would feel about this. In The Cat in the Hat stories by Seuss the Cat is a menace and not liked by the fish, in fact the fish warns the children that “this cat should not be here when your mother is out.” Whereas in the new adaptation of this classic tale the fish is all for the cat and both Nick and Sally are happy to see him. I suppose that like anything else things change with time. Perhaps Seuss would have welcomed the change, and now “good doing” cat. Comparing newer cartoons with cartoons from the 1950’s and 60’s is somewhat shocking anyhow, what was acceptable then would never be acceptable now. As an example the Sesame Street clip that we watched in class about the little boy who got lost would probably never be aired along with the “Play With Me Sesame” shows of today. Perhaps the change in the cat’s attitude and personality are not surprising at all.
Below are two video’s, one is the Sesame Street clip that was shown in class, and the other is a clip from the “new” Sesame Street. I thought it would be fun to watch both and compare how far this children’s show has come, and perhaps because of its flexibility toward change. I do not think it is necessarily a bad thing that the idea behind the Cat changed in the new televised show, I think like anything else, in order to progress and move forward one has to be willing to adapt and change. Even if the cat changed Seuss’ overall goal of entertaining children has remained the same.