SCEC Warns about Commercialization of Dr. Seuss Film

Date of Release: 

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

November 19, 2003   For Immediate Release             

For More Information Contact:

Susan Linn, EdD   (617)232-8390  x 2328

Diane Levin, Ph.D. (617) 876-4577     

Alan Kanner, Ph.D.  (707) 824-1696

Parents Beware: Fat Cats in the Hat

SCEC Warns about Commercialization of Dr. Seuss Film

Citing excessive corporate promotions and sponsorship, the national children’s coalition Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children (SCEC) is urging parents to think twice before taking kids to see Universal Studio’s film THE CAT IN THE  HAT. Based on the beloved book by Dr. Seuss, the film arrives in theatres this Friday with no less than sixteen sponsors exploiting its popularity, including companies that market junk food to children such as Burger King, Pepsi, Hershey’s, and Frito Lay. While these brands do not appear in the film, the cat and his famous striped hat will appear on packaging for all sorts of products. Promotions include the“1, 2, 3 You Could Win a Shopping Spree” contest sponsored by Pepsi; Hershey’s “Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat Universal Orlando Resort Instant Winner Game Second Chance” sweepstakes; and the “Cat in the Hat Good Clean Fun” sweepstakes offering “Freebie Schmeebies,” a promotion which doles out “free”prizes for multiple purchases of cleaning products such as Cascade and Mr. Clean.   

“THE CAT IN THE HAT and its sixteen sponsors escalate the trend  of marketing to the youngest and most vulnerable children who can’t  defend themselves against it,” explains SCEC’s  Diane Levin, Professor of Education at Wheelock College. “Contests and promotions encourage children to choose food based on favorite characters rather than how it tastes, or its nutritional value. It’s unfair to parents already coping with marketing to children on so many other fronts.”  Corporations spend about $15 billion annually marketing to children. 

Harvard psychologist Susan Linn of Judge Baker Children’s Center, warns that parents who do take their children to see the movie should prepare for an onslaught of requests for sponsors’ products. “This is no longer just a film,” says  Linn. “It is essentially an 82 minute commercial tie-in to products ranging from candy to dishwashing detergent. By selling the Cat in the Hat icon to corporate sponsors, Universal Studios and Seuss Enterprises want parents to pay once at the theater, and then pay repeatedly at the supermarket. Which detergent parents choose shouldn’t be a source of family conflict, but you can bet that Cascade is banking on kids who see the film to put up a fight for their product.”

Child psychologist and SCEC board member Allen Kanner explains, “By refusing to take their kids to see The Cat in the Hat, parents can send a message to Universal Studios and Dr. Seuss Enterprises that they are tired of kids being sold as audience share to corporate sponsors. Enough is enough.”

Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children is a coalition of healthcare professionals, educators, advocacy groups and parents who counter the effects of advertising through education, advocacy and research.