Toronto is the first place in the world to get the Dr. Seuss Experience, because we are BIG Dr. Seuss fans. “We’ve had a lot of success in Toronto,” says Susan Brandt, president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, from the headquarters in San Diego. “Our books do very well there, we’ve had a number of musical stage shows in Toronto—the most played stage show—we know that we have huge fans in Toronto, and we want to reward that.”
Opening this past weekend, the Dr. Seuss Experience garnered international media coverage (The Today Show even flew up correspondent Morgan Radford), and the next four weekends are already fully sold out. The Seuss fans are flocking.
Having worked at Dr. Seuss Enterprises for more than twenty years, Susan knows the brand well, but more than that, she knows the family. “I started in 1998, and at the time, I worked for Audrey Geisel, the widow of Ted Geisel [the mastermind behind the books]. The company started in 1993, after Ted’s passing in 1991. She ran it on her own until she realized she needed help in the licensing area.”
It’s rare that the books our parents read when they were young are the same books our children love. The first Dr. Seuss book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, was published pre-WWII, in 1937 (hard to imagine, given the off-the-wall language). But it was when The Cat In The Hat hit shelves in 1957 that Dr. Seuss became a household name: “It broke the rules as to what reading was.”
Since then, the brand has always maintained a daring spirit; giving kids, caregivers, and educators something unusual. “We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to engage our fans, to allow them to experience the property in new and different ways, in ways that break boundaries. That’s really what Ted Geisel was all about.”
As a child, my favourite Dr. Seuss book was Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, and I remember the excitement I felt when I first read it to my son—the rhymes and the excessive nature of the story make it an incredibly fun book to read. For my high school graduation, my mom gave me Oh, The Places You’ll Go, and I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life when that book hasn’t helped me, even now at age 40 I get so much from it. But I absorb the text differently than I did at age 18, 25, or 32. I asked Susan what she believes is the biggest gift that Dr. Seuss brings to the world, “We’re dedicated to delighting and entertaining children, and at the same time promoting diversity. We want to provide opportunities to teach the beautiful life lessons that are found in these books, like the story of inclusion, or how to be a good friend.”
In a drab parking lot located about 200 feet from Square One Shopping Centre, guests will first notice enormous pictures of their favourite characters. Entering the building, they will have the opportunity to give a hug or handshake to Thing 1 or Thing 2. Bright colours will pull them into the experience that begins with an All The Places You’ll Go maze. Following, attendees move from room to room, exploring various Dr. Seuss worlds, interacting with the characters, and even jumping on a small ride. It’s colourful, wacky, fun, and surreal—just like the books. “Expect the unexpected!”, says Susan. We would expect no less.