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Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
~ The Once-ler to Ted.

The Once-Ler is the anti-heroic main protagonist and narrator of Dr. Seuss' 1971 book The Lorax, and its TV adaptation and both the secondary antagonist and deuteragonist of the 2012 film adaptation of the same name. He is an enigmatic individual who seeks to expand his business of making Thneeds, confronting the Lorax in his endeavors. The book and TV special makes his physical appearance mostly a mystery, while the film adaptation shows his full body.

In the 1972 animated special, he was voiced by the late Bob Holt. In the 2012 film, he was voiced by Ed Helms, who would later voice Mr. Krupp in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.

Story

Now listen here, Dad! All you do is yap-yap and say, Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad! Well, I have my rights, sir, and I'm telling you I intend to go on doing just what I do! And, for your information, you Lorax, I'm figuring on biggering, and BIGGERING, and BIGGERING and BIGGERING...! Turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!
~ The Once-Ler showing his true nature.
The Once-ler is a man who came to a bright and magical forest of "Truffula Trees" long ago to set up a business making garments called "Thneeds" out of the trees' fluffy foliage. The titular Lorax appears from the stump of the first tree he chops down and insists that he stop, but the Once-ler dismisses him, saying that he has only chopped down one tree out of thousands and is doing no harm. However, the Thneed business quickly grows in size and popularity and more and more trees are cut down to make more of them as the shop grows into a factory, and the forest starts to become more and more damaged and polluted, driving off the creatures that live there. The Lorax continues begging the Once-ler to stop and showing him the damage that he is doing but is still ignored. Eventually, all of the Truffula Trees are gone and so are all of the animals and, since no more Thneeds can be made, the Once-ler's business ends. As the very last Truffula Tree is cut down, the Lorax "lifts" himself into the air and vanishes, having nothing left to protect, and leaves behind only a stone platform with the word "UNLESS" on it.

Ever since, the Once-ler has resided in the remains of the Truffula forest and has come to regret his actions. When a young boy comes wandering to his house, the Once-ler tells his story and eventually realizes what the Lorax meant by his final message: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." He gives the boy the very last Truffula seed in existence, telling him that if he plants it and takes care of it, the forest, the animals and the Lorax may eventually return.

Film

In the film, the Once-ler is a young man who sought to make his invention, the Thneed, despite his family's belief that he would amount to nothing. He eventually arrives at the Truffula Forest and decides that this is the perfect place to make his Thneeds. However, after chopping his first Truffula Tree, the Lorax arrives and warns him to stop, but the Once-ler dismisses him. The Lorax later attempts to drown the Once-ler, but eventually is forced to save him after one of the local Bar-ba-Loots nearly drowns in the process. With that, the Lorax and the Once-ler make a deal not to cut down any more Truffula trees.

At first, the Once-ler merely harvests the Truffula leaves to make his Thneeds, which eventually become popular and grow into a high demand. To fulfil this demand, the Once-ler hires his family to help make the Thneeds. However, his mother recommends that he cut down the trees to accelerate production, and under pressure, he does so. Over time, the Once-ler becomes corrupted by his business and greed at the cost of the local flora and fauna's health, eventually causing the Lorax to call him out on his broken promise. After the last Truffula tree is cut down, the fauna all flee, and the Lorax lifts himself into the sky, leaving one last message: "UNLESS."

Over the years, the Once-ler has resided in the remains of the Truffula forest until he meets Ted Wiggins, who is looking for a Truffula tree to impress his crush, Audrey. After telling his story over the course of a few days, the Once-ler realizes what the Lorax meant and hands Ted the last Truffula seed to right his wrongs. Once Ted manages to plant the seed, the Once-ler finally emerges from his house and silently thanks him.

In the film's epilogue, with the Truffula forest slowly coming back, the Once-ler reunites with the Lorax.

Appearance

In the book and TV special, the Once-ler is never fully seen. He is meant to be the personification of greed and the concept of business. The only things visible about him are his green arms, hands, and legs, as well as yellow eyes. While his species is unknown, he is hinted to be a human due to saying that he "speaks for men" and "human opportunities." The book also mentions that he has a "gruvvulous glove," hinting that his green arms are gloves; this is turther supported by the TV special, in which he and his employees wear green jumpsuits.

The film adaptation, in contrast, shows the Once-ler's full body and depicts him as a human with a lanky physique. As a young man, he has mop-like black hair, blue eyes, and a rounded face with light freckles. He wears a gray fedora, a white shirt, and a gray vest, with his sleeves rolled up to fit his green gloves. He also has gray striped trousers and black boots. As he becomes corrupted by his business, he switches to wearing a green suit and tie, as well as sunglasses and a top hat.

As an elderly man, the Once-ler retains his suit and hat, but now has a Thneed scarf around his neck. His hair has become gray, and he sports a mustache akin to the Lorax's.

Personality

The young Once-ler is portrayed generally as a very optimistic and sometimes a bit thoughtful person in the adaptations and original book, but that does not last long as he becomes more inconsiderate and is obviously taken over by greed.

On the book and TV special, he is considered a total and completely centered villain. While he is also just as bad in the film, otherwise even more noticeable than in the other adaptation and original, it is clear that he was not made entirely the villain in the film, leaving the blame almost entirely in some other created character that did not appear in the book. This, just like the other changes, seemed to bother a lot of people when it comes to the moral of the story the Once-ler is in, that anyone could be bad if he took things too far.

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Trivia

  • The Once-ler's action not only makes him an immoral man but also a very poor and unsustainable businessman as he never thinks of reserving the trees to ensure a steady supply of his production in the long run. In reality, nearly every lumber company always replant at least three trees for every single tree they cut down.
  • The Once-ler's villain song, "How Bad Can I Be?", has become a notorious Internet meme.
  • despite being the secondary antagonist of the film,the once'ler is a fan favorite than the o'hare.

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Felonious Gru | Minions | Dr. Nefario | Victor 'Vector' Perkins | Mr. Perkins | Carlos | Easter Chicks | Aloysius O'Hare | Once-Ler | Morty and McGurk | Once-ler's Mother | Brett and Chet | Aunt Grizelda | Eduardo 'El Macho' Perez | El Pollito | Evil Minions | Scarlet Overkill | Herb Overkill | Villain Con Villains | Snowball | Flushed Pets | Ozone | Mike | Bears | The Gorillas (Johnny's Father) | Dru Gru | Balthazar Bratt | Clive | The Grinch | Sergei | Little Sergei | Circus Wolves

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Stories
Horton Hears a Who: Sour Kangaroo | Vlad Vladikoff
The Cat in the Hat: Larry Quinn
How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Grinch (2000 & 2018)) | Mayor Augustus Maywho
Green Eggs and Ham: Hervnick Z. Snerz | Goat
The Lorax: Aloysius O'Hare | The Once-Ler | Morty and McGurk | The Once-ler's Family (The Once-ler's Mother | Brett and Chet | Aunt Grizelda | Uncle Ubb)

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