Horton Hears A Who – Power of Imagination
“On the fifteenth of May, in the jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool, he was splashing…enjoying the jungle’s great joys… When Horton the elephant heard a small noise.” This Dr. Seuss rhyme, narrated by Charles Osgood, starts off the wonderful film, Horton Hears A Who.
Only Horton (Jim Carrey) can hear the noise but he is utterly convinced that it is a signal that someone is in trouble. His conviction that he can hear something no one else can hear makes Horton a classic Power of Imagination character.
The Power of Imagination character is someone gentle, unassuming and rather meek. These characters are the naifs, innocents, eccentrics and dreamers, seemingly the last person one would think of as a hero.
Horton is a gentle and slightly goofy elephant who leads a troop of children around the jungle exploring and appreciating the environment. He simply enjoys being part of the group. But Horton, as unlikely as it seems, is a hero inside. Greatness is thrust upon him via that special message only he can hear.
Power of Imagination characters believe absolutely in whatever is calling them. They never doubt the “reality” of their call, whatever form it takes (no matter how strange, unusual, mystical or incomprehensible). Horton’s seemingly absurd call from an invisible world is very threatening to Kangaroo (Carol Burnett).
Kangaroo is a rigid authoritarian Power of Conscience character. In her view, right is right and wrong is wrong. She is the moral authority in the jungle and can’t allow deviation from the norms of accepted behavior. She insists, “If you can’t see, hear or feel something it doesn’t exist. And believing in ‘tiny imaginary people’ is just not something we do— or tolerate around here.” She strictly enforces these rules “for the sake of the children.”
But Horton is undeterred by her scolding and threats. He believes, “A person is a person no matter how small.” He fully understands the risks as he travels to find a safe spot for the speck that contains Whoville. He tells the speck, “We must become invisible, travel silently, for there are forces that would seek to destroy us.”
Whoville is too small for Horton to see and Horton is too big for the citizens for Whoville to see. But each must believe in the other. Horton saves and transforms the Mayor of Whoville’s life and all Whoville citizens by the sheer tenacity of his belief in their world. The Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell), with Horton’s help, empowers his small silent son, JoJo, to add his voice to the chorus. The Whoville collective cry is faint but clear. And finally heard by all.
Kagaroo is defeated by this demonstration of mutual faith and collective action. She slumps away in shame. Horton, being the Power of Imagination character that he is, can’t help but be inclusive. He extends a hand to her and she is welcomed back into the jungle family. Horton is celebrated for the hero he is.
Horton, the unlikely hero, joins other well-known and well-loved Power of Imagination characters in cinema.
These include young character such as:
Elliot in E.T., the younger brother who has a special kind of communication with the alien, and gathers his older brother’s friends to help E.T. get home.
Frodo, in The Fellowship of the Ring, a young hobbit who has a special connection with the One Ring, and leads men, dwarves, hobbits and elves in a quest against The Dark Lord Sauron.
Luke Skywalker, in Star Wars, a young farm boy who has a special connection with The Force, and leads a space pirate, a Wookie, a robot and a droid in a quest against The Empire and the Death Star.
Power of Imagination adults in cinema have a child-like ingenuity and visionary call. These characters include:
Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, who is intuitively drawn to Devil’s Tower after contact with a UFO and unites a band of like-minded people to make a pilgrimage to contact the aliens.
Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams, who hears “build it and they will come.” He carves out a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field, is united with his father and helps the disgraced baseball player, Shoeless Joe Jackson, find peace.
As the formerly jaded author, Terry Mann, says of the cornfield: “Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children… And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters… People will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
The ability to unify others toward a common goal or cause and/or connect with magic, the miraculous or the metaphysical is the hallmark of Power of Imagination characters.