Islands of Adventure theme park.The company that licenses Dr. Seuss announced today that it has stopped publishing six of the late author's children's books, including one that provides the theme for a play area at Universal Orlando's
Dr. Seuss Enterprises issued the statement on the Seussville website:
Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.
We are committed to action. To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer. These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.
Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.
"If I Ran the Zoo" is also a maze/play area in the Seuss Landing land at Islands of Adventure, so Dr. Seuss Enterprises' decision to stop licensing that title could affect the future of that attraction.
Granted, I suspect that many of the guests who wander through this area fail to notice its name and that a measurable percentage of those who do happen to note the name do not connect it to a Dr. Seuss book. The 1950 book has been chastised for its racist stereotyping of African and Asian people, though I don't recall that any of those depictions were reproduced at the park, where the focus is on the book's imaginary animals. (Confession time: My kids are in their 20s now, so it's been years since I spent any significant time in that attraction. Correct me in the comments, please, if my memory is wrong about the play area.)
I have reached out to Universal Orlando for comment and will update this post when I receive it.
Update: Here is the response from a Universal Orlando spokesperson, "Seuss Landing continues to be very popular with our guests and we value our relationship with Seuss Enterprises. We’ve removed the books from our shelves as they have asked and we’ll be evaluating our in-park experience too. But our guests can plan on continuing to be able to enjoy their favorite experiences at Seuss Landing."
For what it's worth, "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" was the first book I remember reading, so I felt a pang of nostalgia seeing its name on that list. That one got dinged for its "Chinese man with sticks" caricature.
Coincidentally, my newspaper column this week addresses the issue of racial stereotyping, so I am not about to attack the decision to withdraw Mulberry Street. Furthermore, Dr. Seuss Enterprises owns the work - at least for the next 12 years, when books from 1937 are scheduled to enter the public domain. It has every right to stop selling or licensing its properties in the meantime.
And having raised two kids now, I am happy to report that there are many more great children's books out there that can entice kids into a lifetime of reading, so Dr. Seuss has no monopoly there.
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