How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) [Retro Review]

“But I think that the best reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

The Scoop: 1966 G, directed by Chuck Jones and Ben Washam and starring Boris Karloff, June Foray and Thurl Ravenscroft

Tagline: No tagline

Summary Capsule: He’s a mean one, that Mr. Grinch. And he rocks our socks off.

Justin’s Rating: And for a half century, now, Dr. Seuss has tormented us with the promise of just a small slice of roast beast. What does it taste like? WHAT?!?!

Justin’s Review: Every holiday needs a good villain to really make things click. Easter has Judas Iscariot, the 4th of July has the British, Arbor Day has Paul Bunyan, Earth Day has the Republicans, and Christmas has The Grinch. Oh, sure, you could make a solid case for Scrooge, the Gremlins and the Oogie Boogie Man, but you would leave that courtroom in tears after witnessing the awesome majesty that is Exhibit A: How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Long before Jim Carrey and 75 pounds of latex pooped all over Dr. Seuss’ legend, a 26-minute cartoon cemented itself into Christmas pop culture forever with the help of Chuck Jones, a catchy theme song and smooth rhymes. Even though it was made in 1966, How The Grinch Stole Christmas remains – if only in my mind – the definitive motion adaptation of any Dr. Seuss book1. Ya hear me, Mike Meyers? If I see you sniffing around my trash cans again, it’s the hose with you!

For me, this movie dug itself into my holiday routine with a little tradition my college held every December: the night before finals (and the end of the semester), we’d dutifully stomp over to the cafeteria, consume many tons of donuts and cookies, and take in a grainy projected viewing of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It was here that I observed a universal phenomenon of this short film: whenever the chorus of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” started playing, everyone begins to sing along. Which is great. Unifying, really. Except that nobody knows the words to this song beyond “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch”, and the chorus falls apart with dissonant murmurs and mutterings and evil glares at those around you. It would do the world a good favor if we could just all get together, say next May 13th, and spend a few hours rehearsing this song across the globe. That way we’ll be ready for next Christmas.

So our Christmas villain of this tale is the vegetable-green Grinch, a cantankerous fart who lives in his mountaintop fortress with his put-upon dog Max. The Grinch is content to live out 364 days of the year just picking at sores and watching Judge Judy (today’s case: “My daughter ate all my nail polish and now I have to stare at her freakishly blue tongue every day”). Yet it’s the stickler of Christmas that drives him into a frenzy, as he hears and observes the idyllic Whos in Whooville getting ready for the big day.

The clincher for this story – what makes the Grinch a sympathetic villain – is that his anger is somewhat justified. Sure, he’s got a heart condition and a massive stick up his bum, but he also feels righteous indignation about the material consumerism of the holiday. He sees the Whos spending gobs of money, including Cindy Lou Who’s college fund, on gaudy excess. It’s all about the decorations and food and presents, the Grinch posits – so the best way to stop this silly holiday would be to steal the whole lot of it.

Becoming the anti-Santa, the Grinch slithers into homes, swipes everything joyous and festive, and leaves only bitter ash and questionable carpet stains behind. This film would like us to believe that after the Whos woke up to find themselves the recipients of a mass theft, they just shrugged and celebrated anyway, but who’s kidding Who? You’re telling me that any kid getting out of bed and running downstairs to find an empty room littered with pine needles and broken dreams is going to go “Yahoo! Christmas!”? You think that there wouldn’t be a buttload of police reports to be filed with the WPD? C’mon, now.

It’s hard to pin down one thing that makes How The Grinch Stole Christmas such a classic, mostly because it’s a whole ball of things. Chuck Jones took Dr. Seuss’ still drawings and animated them just the way you’d expect by reading any of Seuss’ books. The iconic Grinch grin, the heart meter, the songs, poor Max’s trials and tribulations, the bug face of Cindy Lou Who, and the elaborate trappings of Whoville make a perfect pre-Christmas dish to dine upon.

1. Fun Dr. Seuss facts: he wasn’t a doctor of anything, and he felt incredibly uncomfortable around children, never having had any himself.

For years after, Max suffered from pinched nerves and a warped spine. Unfortunately, the Grinch's medical insurance policy wasn't up to the task.

Intermission!

  • After the Grinch’s “change of heart”, his pupils change from red to blue.
  • Horror film icon Boris Karloff narrates the film and also provides the speaking voice of The Grinch.
  • Dr. Seuss was initially uninterested in animating this or any of his books, but Chuck Jones managed to persuade him.
  • Dr. Seuss disputed casting Boris Karloff for fear that he would make the Grinch too scary.
  • Thurl Ravenscroft received no screen credit for his singing, an oversight Dr. Seuss attempted to rectify by sending letters to every major columnist in America identifying Ravenscroft as the singer on “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”. He is also part of the chorus on the other two songs.
  • The Grinch’s green color was decided by director Chuck Jones’ experiences renting cars in the Washington-Baltimore area which he claimed always turned out to be the exact shade. The original book was in dichromatic red and black.
  • Critics at the time gave the cartoon mixed reviews.
  • There’s an actual sequel to this special, called Halloween is Grinch Night. It came out in 1977 and won the 1977 Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less).

Groovy Quotes

      Narrator: All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not. The Grinch hated Christmas – the whole Christmas season. Oh, please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the reason. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. Or maybe his head wasn’t screwed on just right. But I think that the best reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small. Narrator: He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!

Narrator: And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches plus two.

Grinch: One thing I can’t stand is the noise, noise, noise, noise!

Singer: You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch / You have termites in your smile / You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile / Mr. Grinch / Given the choice between the two of you, I’d take the… seasick crocodile.

Singer: You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch / Your heart’s an empty hole / Your brain is full of spiders, you have garlic in your soul / Mr. Grinch / I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.

Singer: You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch / You’re a nasty, wasty skunk / Your mind is filled with unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk / Mr. Grinch / The words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote: Stink, stank, stunk!

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Horton Hears A Who (animated)
  • The Grinch
  • Halloween is Grinch Night
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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: “Hello my baby, Hello my honey, Hello my ragtime gal” « The Gulkin Gazette

  2. Pingback: Merry Christmas |

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