The Set

Dr. Seuss' The Cat In The Hat

HOUSE OF THE RISING FUN

In Bo Welch's adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic, the mischievous Cat (Mike Myers) and the Walden kids (Dakota Fanning, Spencer Breslin) discover that their suburban home has been converted into a funky wonderland. ''We decided to go more for the spirit of Dr. Seuss rather than slavishly copying his line and drawings,'' says production designer Alex McDowell (''Minority Report''). ''[His] drawings work well in two dimensions, but they're difficult to translate into three.'' To construct the parallel universe, McDowell and his designers made a model of the home and distorted it ''like taffy'' on a computer program. The full-size floor plan (60' x 80', built on a Universal soundstage) took a crew several months to carve from foam. ''No one has ever tried to sculpt a piece of architecture out of foam at that scale before,'' says McDowell. ''So everyone was learning as they went along. It's more a sculpture than a piece of architecture.'' A really bright piece of sculpture: The yellows, lilacs, and greens were chosen so that the Cat, in his blacks, reds, and whites, would jump off the screen.

DR. SEUSS' NEIGHBORHOOD

The final shot was realized on a 13-acre ranch in Simi Valley, Calif., where McDowell and his crew spent four months planting the grass, paving roads, and building 22 houses proportioned to appear large to children. ''It was really like doing a tract-home development,'' he says. ''Except that all the houses were purple and 50 feet high.'' A greens crew cobbled together the flora from fake leaves and flowers. The lawn trees, dubbed ''mullet trees,'' are based on those seen in the Seuss book; the swirling clouds and sunset were added in postproduction. ''The idea,'' says McDowell, ''was that the film should look like an illustration.''

Originally posted Nov 14, 2003 Published in issue #737 Nov 14, 2003 Order article reprints