HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!
Original Air Date: December 18, 1966
A twisted green wretch seeks to ruin Christmas for a race of singing rodent-creatures.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is based on a 64-page book written and illustrated in 1957 by Theodor Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss – the pseudonym he adopted to contribute to his college paper after getting caught drinking during Prohibition.
Seuss wrote a handful of children’s books in the late 30’s before turning his attention toward the war effort, penning hundreds of left-wing political cartoons for periodicals. He also served as the uncredited writer on a series of propaganda shorts intended for soldiers overseas, one of the best of which was Warner Bros. animation’s Private Snafu.
Private Snafu and Clampett’s Horton Hatches the Egg from 1942
During WWII, George Pal, Terrytoons and Bob Clampett took stabs at adapting Seuss’ material into cartoons, and Gerald McBoing-Boing even won United Productions of America an Oscar in 1951 for Best Animated Short. But in the years after WII, Seuss renewed his focus on creating books and for the next fifteen years was notoriously reluctant to have his characters appear in any other format.
Adapted into a live-action travesty in 2000
It took veteran Warner Bros. animation director Chuck Jones – Suess’ collaborator on the Snafu shorts – to finally convince the author to return to animation. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! premiered on CBS and ran annually on the network for the next two decades. Today it’s shown across numerous channels, and has the distinction of being one of the few Christmas specials aired multiple times in a single year.
I don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say that How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is the definitive Dr. Seuss adaptation. Grinch set the bar for exactly how you’re supposed to depict oblong environments in poetic pentameter, and as a result, has shown remarkable longevity against all other Seuss cartoons.
Christmas? Not a fan
Beyond this classic special, most people my age are more familiar with the animated works that followed – a favorite of mine being The Lorax – but you’ll get a far better sense of just how well The Grinch translates the author’s work onto the screen if you’ve ever watched the cartoons listed above that predated it.
Just outside of What-city
The Holiday staple is the product of nearly two decades of valiant attempts at Seuss animation, and you can definitely see why the author was so reluctant to bother with the medium of cartoons, in spite of the fact that he had helped to pioneer them during the war.
Admit it: You wished you lived here
I know most people haven’t seen the Private Snafu shorts. (Understandable, since most of us didn’t have the pleasure of serving as soldiers abroad during World War II.) But despite being comparatively frightening and risqué, they were actually the most representative of Seuss’ style on the page, until The Grinch came along.
Obviously, this is due to Seuss’ direct involvement in the production. And thanks to the help of friend and former co-worker Chuck Jones, the cartoon is ridiculously faithful to the source material, with nearly ever damned word taken directly from the book.
The only Who you’ll hear
Albert Hague, who played Mr. Shorofsky in Fame, composed the famous music, but the good doctor himself is responsible for the childishly grotesque and nonsensical lyrics.
Seussian toy names were added for the special
It’s truly the perfect companion piece to the book, which is something I cannot say about that idiotic Ron Howard movie of the same name… Two fucking hours, elongated by an unnecessary Grinch origin story, too much time in Whoville and dark, dreary effects that can hardly be called “special.”
An impression of me listening to any version of “12 Days of Christmas”
The cartoon works without all of that, because as Chuck Jones himself said, “everyone hates Christmas a little bit.” Even adults sullied by the shitty weather or Wal-Mart fistfights over the last Elmo doll can experience a Holiday heart enlargement with every viewing. And kids today remain dazzled by the all 70,000 hand-drawn cells strung together by one of the most expressive animators of all time.
Unlike the movie, the cartoon only features three cast members (outside of the singers.) Best known for his portrayal of some of the most iconic monsters in silver screen history, Boris Karloff adds a sinister warmth to The Grinch through his transformation.
Distinctly Chuck Jones
And to Karloff’s further credit, his sing-songy narration is the next-best thing to having the book read aloud to you in a cozy winter bed – whimsically lending the story all the timelessness of a rich folk tale.
Every cowboy needs a horse
The only other onscreen character with any lines is Cindy Lou Who, voiced by June Foray (also known for her work in Rocky and Bullwinkle). She remains uncredited to this day due to a simple production oversight, as does a man who deserves every bit as much credit as Karloff gets for The Grinch’s portrayal.
A Screen Actors Guild nightmare
As hard as it is to believe that somebody manually designing the credits scroll could forget to mention such a crucial aspect of the production… it happened, and it’s a big one. After all, the first thing that comes to mind upon the slightest whisper of “Grinch,” is the baritone lyrics, mightily bellowed out by Thurl Ravensoft.
That train looks straight out of a Dr. Suess book
Whereas the stupid live-action movie forced us to endure the Grinch as a tormented child, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” playfully establishes everything we need to know about the character, without the need for empathy.
Everything must go!
The lyrics endure as disgustingly evocative in a manner most juvenile, and the descriptive tune is among the most famous things on Ravensoft’s lengthy bio… Pretty impressive for a guy who also voiced Tony the Tiger for over fifty years, and moaned the immortal phrase of Snoopy’s rejection, “No Dogs Allowed.”
“Why no, I’m merely borrowing Christmas”
Why does he remain uncredited? Well, for one, it’s almost common knowledge. Seuss himself was so mortified about the oversight that he mailed letters to publications all over America politely asking editors to, please, acknowledge the man behind the voice. And you could say most have obliged ever since.
The “Sinful Sot” listens in
Additionally, the omission stands because How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is beyond reproach, like the Star Wars of Christmas specials… okay, really bad example. But The Grinch is considered such a sacred American tome that even the slightest tampering would be considered an infraction of the highest caliber, as the only thing ever removed from the special were the Seuss-inspired bookend sponsor bumpers by the Foundation of Full Bank Services.
This song kills fascists
That said, you I hope you can see why I didn’t bother with a detailed plot synopsis. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has been aired on television more than any other Christmas special, and the movie currently holds the box office record of highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time (in spite of being largely terrible).
Shit, I’d like to meet a single person who isn’t familiar with the Grinch, if only so I could plunk them down, pry open their eyelids and force them to watch it for the first time. FYI: Even my Microsoft word recognizes the word Seuss, made up out of thin air!
How’zat for an ending?!
No overt reference is made to Christ, but once Grinchy strips away all of the telltale signs of an irreligious Christmas, you could interpret the glowing, star-like object seen with the Whos as the embodiment of the Son of God…
…but that’d probably be stupid.
Not specifically, but with all the Kringle imagery afoot, you can’t deny that The Grinch is still an approximation of Santa Claus, even if he is an evil doppelganger.
Just so you know, I haven’t seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas! in a couple of years, and I made it a point to view it after watching so many other Christmas-themed gems and gallstones. Thus, I can proudly exclaim with utmost authority: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is the most perfect twenty-six minutes anyone can endure between November 30th and December 25th. And speaking as practical atheist, the special makes me feel bad, even mortified, for anybody involved in a religion too repressive to celebrate Christmas. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is just so colorful, catchy and wonderful-to-behold, even Hebrews gots ta shout!
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Support the Site!)
There’s an existing version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! with a more green cover that you’ll want to avoid. The Deluxe Edition is what you want. It’s got many of the the bonus features from the previous edition, plus a couple new ones, and Warner has done a little color restoration after some complaints about the previous edition. If you’re High-Def equipped, you’ll definitely need the relatively inexpensive Blu-Ray. And how can I not recommend the book?! It makes a great, cheap-ass Christmas gift for even the most impossible-to-shop-for on your list.