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Horton Hatches the Egg is a children's book by Dr. Seuss, first published in 1940. The character Horton appeared again in Horton Hears a Who!, published in 1954. These two books later provided the thrust of the plot in 2000 for the Broadway musical Seussical.

Plot summary

The book concerns an elephant named Horton, who is convinced by an irresponsible bird named Mayzie to sit on her egg while she takes a short "break", which proves to last for months. Naturally, the absurd sight of an elephant sitting atop a tree makes quite a scene. Horton is laughed at by his jungle friends, exposed to the elements, captured by hunters, forced to endure a terrible sea voyage, and finally placed in a traveling circus. However, he refuses to leave the nest through all of these, because he promised Mayzie he would look after the egg ("I meant what I said and I said what I meant, And an elephant's faithful, one hundred per cent!") Mayzie returns to the circus once the egg is due to hatch, and demands its return without offering any reward for Horton. However, when the egg hatches, the creature that emerges is a cross between Horton and Mayzie (an "elephant-bird"), and Horton and the baby are returned happily to the jungle, rewarding Horton for his persistence.


The broadway musical Seussical centers largely around Horton the Elephant, as his attempt to protect the Whos on their dust speck is de-railed by many factors, including the animal obstacles presented in Horton Hears a Who! and, Mayzie la Bird's irresponsible parenting of her egg, which she eventually entrusts to Horton. They encounter each other at the circus in the second act, in which Mayzie give Horton full custody of her egg. In the finale of the musical, Horton's egg hatches into an elephant bird.

The musical, written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, takes characters, elements, and most of its lyrics/lines from Seuss books, including Horton Hears a Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Lorax, Green Eggs and Ham, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, Horton Hatches the Egg, I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, McElligot's Pool, Hunches in Bunches, If I Ran the Circus, The Butter Battle Book, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, The Cat in the Hat, The Sneetches and Other Stories, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?, Oh, the Places You'll Go!, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

Merrie Melodies adaptation

Horton Hatches the Egg was adapted into a ten-minute animated short film by Leon Schlesinger Productions in 1942, released as part of Warner Bros.' Merrie Melodies series. The short was directed by Bob Clampett. Horton was voiced by Kent Rogers along with the Peter Lorre fish, Sara Berner voiced Mayzie and the elephant bird, Robert C. Bruce narrated, and Mel Blanc performed most of the other voices.

In producing the cartoon, Clampett's unit did not use a storyboard, as was the customary practice; instead, they sketched and wrote additional ideas for the cartoon in Clampett's copy of Seuss' book (there is no story credit for this cartoon's original credits). Several elements not in the original book were added to the cartoon, including; 1. a fish caricature of Peter Lorre who shoots himself in the head after seeing Horton on the boat , 2. a breathy Katharine Hepburn impersonation by Mayzie, and 3.a popular nonsense tune of that era, "The Hut-Sut Song" by Horace Heidt - Words and music by Leo V. Killion, Ted McMichael & Jack Owens, sung by Horton and his son.

It may have been the only WB cartoon from the classic era (not counting specials) to exceed 10 minutes in length, the Blue Ribbon version clocks in at 9:48, and with the original titles, it would have been longer.


The gag showing the Peter Lorre-esque fish shooting himself after seeing Horton on the boat is shown edited out on Turner Entertainment channels (mainly on Cartoon Network and TNT).

Soyuzmultfilm adaptation

In 1966, Soyuzmultfilm released an 18-minute Russian film adaptation called I Am Waiting for a Nestling.[1] It was directed by Nikolai Serebryakov and won the Silver Medal for Best Children's Film at Tours in 1967.

Random House Video

In 1992, Random House released "Horton Hatches the Egg" in their series of Dr. Seuss videos, narrated by Billy Crystal and directed by Ray Messecar. The video is in the same style as all of the other Random House / Dr. Seuss videos. "If I Ran the Circus" is second in the double feature video.


Some critics have suggested that Seuss may have intended the story to increase awareness of the impact men could have on their children's lives if they would only become more involved in day to day childcare activities. Others, however, claim that it demeans the women who would stay at home to care for their children, indicts women who have interests outside the home, and feminizes men who would consider engaging in childcare activities.[2]


  1. I Am Waiting for a Nestling
  2. [Pearson, Claudia. Hidden Messages in Children's Picture Books, Look Again Press (2010).]

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