The Lorax Enlists School Children to Get Parents Into Mazda Showrooms

Caption contest: What is the Lorax saying? Photo: National Education Association

In case you needed more motivation to save the Lorax

Mazda and Universal couldn’t leave awful enough alone. In addition to the odious television spots featuring the defender of Truffula trees shilling for SUVs, Mazda is attempting to lure children and parents to showrooms with the promise of a Lorax encounter. And now the coup de grace: The carmaker is zoom zooming right into your local elementary school, abetted by the National Education Association, as sponsor of the “Read Across America Tour.”

Emma Brown at the Washington Post has the story:

At Polk Elementary on Tuesday, more than 100 kindergartners and fourth- and fifth-graders crowded into the multipurpose room for a rendition of Seuss’s classic environmentalist tale.

The kids listened as the little furry Lorax tried, furiously and fruitlessly, to defend his beloved Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots from being destroyed by the Once-ler, that greedy Thneed magnate.

Afterward, a Mazda representative — Dan Ryan of the government relations office — stood up.

He unveiled an oversized $1,000 check meant to help beef up the school’s library collection. “We think reading is very important,” Ryan said. The audience cheered.

Ryan then told the kids they could help raise up to a million dollars for other schools’ libraries — and qualify for a sweepstakes entry (trip for four to Universal Studios).

All they had to do was persuade their parents to go to the nearest Mazda dealership for a test-drive.

Ryan told his rapt audience that Mazda’s latest models get great gas mileage — at 35 miles to the gallon, the CX-5 is the most efficient SUV on American highways, he said.

“That’s the kind of car we think the Lorax would like to drive,” he said.

Shortly thereafter a very lovable-looking Lorax emerged from stage right and the kids — many of them wearing homemade striped Cat in the Hat hats — erupted in squeals.

The Lorax waved and doled out hugs. The kids serenaded him with a song.

And then everyone was ushered outside to see two cars up close — a Mazda 3 sedan and a CX-5 sports utility vehicle, both specially painted with Lorax scenes and both with what Mazda has termed “Truffula Tree-approved SKYACTIV® TECHNOLOGY.”

Says Josh Golin, associate director of the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood: “I track school advertising for a living. This is among the most outrageous examples of any school advertisement program I’ve ever heard of.”

Yet this is what it’s come to. So neglected are American civic institutions that we’re reduced to pimping out school kids to car companies. Never mind that cars are the leading cause of injury-related death for kids from age five to 19. Or that two children per week are backed over and killed by drivers who can’t see them. We’re now enlisting kindergartners to market the vehicles.

Not that kids don’t know a scam when they see one. As his schoolmates chanted “Lorax car!” in the presence of the Seussed-up Mazdas, one Polk student piped up: “The Lorax doesn’t drive a car.”