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The Butter Battle Book (1989)

A cold war between two lands over a ridiculous dispute leads to a perilous arms race.



(book), (written for television by)

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Cast overview:
Grandfather (voice)
Christopher Collins ...
Chief Yookeroo / Various Yooks (voice)
Miriam Flynn ...
Yookie-Ann Sue / Teacher / Various Yooks (voice)
Vanitch (voice)
Grandson (voice)


A tale of two hostile neighboring countries, one country is occupied by the Yooks, while the other is occupied by the Zooks. Both countries don't agree with each others ideology. Due to this issue they ended up building a wall in between the border of the two opposing cultures. The main reason they hate each other is because both cultures have a different way of buttering their bread. The Yooks eat their bread butter side up while the Zooks eat their bread butter side down. The story is told by the perspective of a Yook border patrol guard who tries to outwit a Zook name Van Itch with the latest Yooks weapon. However every time the border guard presents his weapon, Van Itch would have a weapon that is able to counter attack the Yook's weapon. This leads to an arms race with results leading to a mutual assured destruction. Written by J LeGault

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Release Date:

13 November 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dr. Seuss' The Butter Battle Book  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Dr. Seuss has credited this 1989 TV special as the most faithful adaptation of his work. See more »


When the Yook soldier first starts the walking machine, it has four goop-spraying attachments behind it. While he is en route to the wall, when the band is playing, there are only three attachments. When he confronts Van Itch at the wall, there are four again. See more »


Edited into The Best of Dr. Seuss (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

a brilliant, if all-too-brief, collaboration between Bakshi and Dr. Seuss
16 April 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Who would've thought that one of the very best adaptations from book to screen- albeit small screen- in the Dr. Seuss realm would be by underground animated filmmaker Ralph Bakshi. By then, Bakshi had gone on from the more personal work of the 70s, trademarked with rough pencil and inking with wild color combos in unconventional stories, to more sci-fi/fantasy fare like Wizards, Fire and Ice, and even a hit and miss attempt at Lord of the Rings. This short work that he produced and directed, probably as a way to make ends meet as much as an artistic statement, is probably one of his most obscure works, but it might be one of his better works because he keeps his ambitions low and his targets simple enough to accomplish completely. What we have here is a story that has a level of appeal for children and adults, and like the recent Happy Feet it will mean different things for different audiences. For either age group, child or parent (or those who are out to seek any and all works by Bakshi), there's some appeal.

For kids, it's a bright story of what it means to have a job to do, however petty or ridiculous it might seem. The Yooks and the Zooks are two different kinds of, well, Seuss characters, who each have their own way of spreading butter on bread, one side up, the other side down. Soon there are goofy attempts by a hired Grandfather Yook (voiced by Charles Durning) to take on the task of stopping the Zooks from continuing on their bottom-buttered path. There are also some whimsical songs, and even some random moments of strange humor, as can only come out of Seuss. But for the older ones, those who might have any kind of political awareness, Seuss and Bakshi have a simple message to go on, which is the notion of wars being started on the most petty but fastidiously held points of merit. And, as escalating tactics go, pretty soon it's less about the actual butter itself than the point of one side being too different enough- separated by a 'great-wall' kind of wall barrier- to ever have any kind of peace. There's details like how grandfather, however incompetent he might be to swart the Zooks, gets promoted to general, or how intricate a bomb can be made: and how it's just as easy for the other side to get the same power.

It's not only how sharply and aptly Bakshi is in having Seuss's words have their impact, and the wit as scathing as it is poke-in-the-ribs playful and fairly hilarious (I loved the ending, which I won't reveal, but has its suddenness as a point of absurdity and satirical merit), but in fusing in his own methods of style that make this a success. Bakshi, taking a break from rotoscoping, makes the Seuss cartoonish world come to life, and in a manner that presents it not totally smooth and finely tuned but a little scratchy and messy and with the colors usually of the lighter-primary side (the exception, and a great scene at that, is when grandfather ventures down the staircase to the bomb-making lava-pool area). There's something very much alive to how Baskhi gets the Yoots and Zoots moving along, how they use oddball weaponry or machines, and how the timing is less out of Looney Tunes than out of his background as a satirist of culture. He even gets Seuss's songs, which are by turns silly and inane, as entertaining little notes in the story.

If you can find this for your kids, if they happen to be Dr. Seuss fans anyway, it's a sure bet to get them into a lesser known but still worthwhile work. It's smart, vibrant, and almost cheerfully discomforting; second only to Chuck Jones's How the Grinch Stole Christmas as the best animated adaptation of a Seuss work. 8.5/10

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