Much like the effect that the 1971 book by Dr. Seuss has had, the animated-feature version of The Lorax will touch anyone who has felt a connection to the outdoors —especially trees. That includes the star-filled voice cast who, along with a bonus participant, leaf through the memorable trees in their lives with USA TODAY.
Danny DeVito is The Lorax, guardian of the forest
"I love my trees, I love my yard. We have a nice place in the middle of Beverly Hills and have all kinds — maple, coral, jacaranda, pepper and sycamore. And fruit — plum, orange and lemon. I planted most of these trees. There are redwoods that came with the house, which was built in the '30s."
However, he is most fond of the one tree he couldn't leave behind. "The tea tree was at another house. It was in our yard in Los Feliz (an L.A. neighborhood), and we moved it. It was weak, but it had sentimental value. It was not doing well, and it was leaning over and twisting around itself. We had a koi pond, and we lay it next to it. And it grew. It's real sturdy now."
Zac Efron is Ted, the 12-year-old who wants to bring trees back to Thneedville
Efron inherited his love of trees. "We have a tradition in my family. We go to San Francisco to visit the redwood forest. There is a tree so big you can drive underneath it. It's amazing. It makes a whole tunnel. We take a picture of it every year. It's a chronological imprint of me, my brother and our dad. The last time we were there was maybe a year and a half ago."
The High School Musical actor also has some favorite foliage right in his own yard. "I have orange and lemon trees, and I eat the fruit all the time."
Betty White is Grammy Norma, who helps Ted restore Thneedville
White is a well-known animal lover. But she is equally enamored of plant life at her Beverly Hills home. "I have this beautiful flaming eucalyptus out front. There are quite a few trees, actually, and I love them all."
But she can't forget one that got away. "I had this gorgeous huge gingko. I came home one windy night, and it was broken off. I was just heartsick. My gardener made a special effort but couldn't save it. He planted a young gingko with a trunk as big as a little finger. It took root and it is just doing beautifully."
White has only one pet, a golden retriever named Pontiac. Turns out this guide dog's bathroom habits are no threat to her gingko or any other tree. "The funny part, my boy never learned to lift his leg," she says of Pontiac, who has a bad knee. "He may be gay. What do I know? He has always squatted."
Ed Helms is The Once-ler, a hermit whose greed destroyed the trees
"I grew up in Atlanta and spent summers in the Smoky Mountains,'' says the star of TV's The Office. "I could tell about each and every one of the trees in the house I grew up in from age 0 to 18. There was a backyard oak tree that was struck by lightning. It had a gash and was torqued and split. A tree surgeon sealed it up and gave it medical treatment. It worked. The tree lived, and there is a tire swing hung on it. The canopy of it was right next to the back porch near the living room, and my mother hung bird feeders on it. It was a very alive piece of the yard."
Taylor Swift is Audrey, Ted's older high school girl crush whose wish is to see a real tree
"The special tree from my childhood was a peach tree that grew on our farm in Pennsylvania," the country-music sensation says. "I always used to climb it, and we'd pick peaches from it when they'd ripen in the spring and summer. I'll always remember that tree, and all the other trees I used to climb when we were on the farm, because they remind me of how free and imagination-filled and wonderful my childhood got to be because we lived on a farm surrounded by nature."
Audrey Geisel is the widow of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss
"There is a special tree right outside Ted's office," says Geisel, 90, who still lives in the home in La Jolla, Calif., she shared with her husband. "It might be a Torrey pine, which is unique to this area. Ted could see it very clearly from his desk, and I often wondered if this tree inspired any of his stories. Were the Truffula trees in The Lorax based somehow on this tree? It does have a unique shape. I can only guess at this point. But I will tell you that I have a bronze Lorax statue in my backyard now right under that tree. Seems fitting."