A Look Back on How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The term “Christmas Grinch” is a popular one during the holidays thanks to Dr. Seuss’ iconic read, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And if I’m being perfectly honest with anyone who’s reading this…I find both cinematic adaptations of the Grinch horrible. The 2000 Grinch has Jim Carrey’s wonderful make up and performance but the good news ends there. Aside from Cindy Lou, the Whos of Whoville look downright creepy (seriously look at them), the colorful world of Whoville looks plain dirty, and that emotional subtlety of the Grinch realizing maybe Christmas means a little bit more through Carrey’s over the top-ness. The 2018 version while slightly better all it really has going for it is the animated look of the Christmas environment. The Chuck Jones 1966 TV special on the other hand, now THAT’S the definitive version of the Grinch. And one that is quite overshadowed by the two crappy movies.  

Seriously this place looks downright polluted
Whoville looks better here. Shame the rest of the movie couldn’t follow through
NOW WE’RE TALKIN!

The story involves the green furry grump known as the Grinch who lives atop a mountain cave in the land of Whoville growing contempt year after year towards the cheery town and the Whos who inhabit it. Thus, he decides to come up with an idea to steal Christmas by dressing up as Santa Claus and sneaks into the Who’s homes stealing their presents, food, and decorations.  

Director Chuck Jones did well to adapt this, not using any filler, or over-extending any scenes. Everything about it, like most great Dr. Seuss adaptations in the 1900s truly capture that classic Dr. Seuss spirit. And Jones’ direction does well to bring a sense of energy and humor through even the simplest of moments whether it be the Grinch racing down the mountain or him thieving the houses.  

The overall look for the town of Whoville does capture the Seuss feel but what really stood out to me when watching this was the overall animation on the Grinch. It has such a sense of deviousness and charm that makes him so enjoyable. When the Grinch monologues it’s more of his movements and expressions that are so visually arresting that one can’t help but love him for it. The Whos, while less prominent here, have that innocent charm that contrasts nicely with the evil of the Grinch. The only Who that gets dialogue is Cindy Lou who does show the genuine vulnerability of the Grinch.  

Boris Karloff is a master of voice acting not only giving a tender, pleasant, and loving narration to the story but also voicing the Grinch and bringing out that maliciousness that always puts a grin on my face in every moment.  

And then there’s the famous song “You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch.” The lyrics are hilarious in all the ways it finds the way to criticize the character. And the deep vocals of singer Thurl Ravenscroft do well to drive the points home in quite a charmingly hilarious way.  

Of course you know how it ends, the Grinch steals the presents and everything but the Whos are still happy and still celebrate as if nothing happened. The Grinch realizes the meaning of Christmas and gives the Whos back their presents and he celebrates with them in turn. Not only does the great animation on the Grinch shine during this scene but also, he’s genuinely moved by their happiness and learns his lesson on his own. It feels genuine.  

So to wrap things up this is a great TV special with an endearing sincerity that very much lacks in both movie versions. Ladies and gentlemen: We have to turn this around. We really need to show that the Grinch means a little bit more than just Jim Carrey’s overacting.