Oh my gosh I’ve awaited this gif set to appear on my dashboard and finally here it is.
Here we have Ted who still, at this point in the film, still wants a tree mostly to give it to Audrey in order to win her affection. She herself said she’d ‘marry the guy on the spot’ and wow, that’s like jumping a few couple bases right off the bat and for young infatuated Ted he’d do anything for just a kiss on the cheek from his crush, including going beyond the Wall, searching for a hermit of a man who has been cut off from civilization for decades now.
The Once-ler left him at a cliff hanger last time, and he had watched the boy ride away into the darkness with a whisper “Maybe. Just maybe.”
He made him leave; why? There could be various reasons. When was the last time Once-ler really spoke with someone? Maybe his voice was beginning to hurt. Perhaps he felt it was too late for a young boy to be out. Maybe he knew the boy was risking a lot being out here, so he had to get him to go home and be safe. Or maybe it was a test, as well, to see if the boy would come back without being made to.
Poor Once-ler has been alone all these decades without anybody coming to see him. Why? Because the door way that Ted used to exit Thneedville for the first time is unlocked. That alone tells you that O’Hare knows nobody in town would ever venture outside because why would they? Everything is perfect there in Thneedville and nobody has ever questioned it so why bother locking the doors entirely? Yet here comes Ted, motivated by his adoration for Audrey, going beyond the Wall. The first person to go beyond the wall, and that’s what gets O’Hare’s back up.
But back to poor old Once-ler here. Perhaps he thought the boy wouldn’t come back, that his story wasn’t for this young boy who was obviously impatient (“Oh yes, right after the number about the kid who kept interrupting the story and was never heard from again! Hmm!”), and a little bit rude to him (“It stinks out here! Don’t make me come back!”). Yet sure enough, the little boy comes back, for the first time somebody has not only come to see him once but came back a second time.
Nobody has cared about him enough to come out to see him. He’s been forgotten by practically everyone save Grammy Norma. Not even his family came back for him. I highly doubt he even got letters, or postcards from them either. Everyone left him, leaving him to become something of a myth and nothing but a pair of arms and a voice behind his wooden planks that not only locked him in, but kept the world outside away from him.
So even with all these redeeming factors about how, or why, Ted may not have come back or not, he still can’t help but feel as if somebody has finally missed him. And that little pause before he asks ‘Right?’ is just heart breaking because you can hear his loneliness in it.