Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is an animated television special based on the book of the same title by Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss), directed by legendary cartoon director Chuck Jones. Notably the first prime-time animated television special based on a Dr. Seuss book, it features narration by Boris Karloff (who also voiced the title character) and music written by Albert Hague.
It is Christmas Eve in Whoville, and everyone is decorating for the big day tomorrow -- everyone except the Grinch, a sour, depressed hermit who lives in a cave on nearby Mount Crumpit, a steep high mountain just north of the city. His only companion is his unloved but loyal dog, Max. The Grinch absolutely hates everything about Christmas, because of the noise surrounding the entire town on Christmas Day. Annoyed at their rejoicing and unable to understand the Whos' happiness after dealing with it for over 50 years, the Grinch tries to come up with a plan to "keep Christmas from coming". Just then, after seeing Max having gotten covered in snow in a way that makes him look like Santa Claus, the Grinch gets the notion of disguising himself as Santa and stealing all of the Whos' presents, believing that is enough to stop the holiday from coming. First, he cuts out a coat and a hat and sews some fluff onto them. Next, he takes a reindeer horn and ties it to Max. Finally, the Grinch brings out a big stack of bags, loads it onto the sled, and starts down on his journey to Whoville in a very comical way with Max pulling the sled.
Once he has snuck into Whoville, the Grinch starts to steal everything in the first house he enters. While stuffing their tree up the chimney, though, Cindy Lou Who wakes up and asks him why he's taking the Christmas tree. The Grinch fibs his way out of it by telling her that one of the lights is broken and he's taking it to his workshop to fix. After tucking Cindy Lou back in bed, the Grinch stuffs up the tree, and goes up the chimney himself, taking the log for their fire behind him. He does the same thing for every house afterwards, leaving Max with the job of loading everything onto the sled.
Loaded with everything the Whos owned, the Grinch and Max take the presents up to Mt. Crumpit, where the Grinch plans to dump it all over the cliff. Feeling joyous at the moment, the Grinch prepares to listen for a sad cry from the Whos. Instead, the Whos are still happy and singing carols. It is at this point that the Grinch realizes the true meaning of Christmas and has a change of heart. The Grinch barely retrieves the sled from falling over the edge of the mountain. He brings everything back to the Whos and is invited to participate in their holiday feast.
The special contains three songs, all written by Dr. Seuss and composed by Albert Hague:
A soundtrack album was released by Leo Records (a subsidiary of MGM Records) in 1966. It was available in mono (LE-901) and stereo (LES-901), and featured the complete soundtrack of the special. After being out of print for many years, it was finally reissued on CD and cassette in 1995 on Mercury Nashville 528 439, and was also available as a limited edition picture disc record. A 45 RPM single was also released in 1995 of Thurl Ravenscroft singing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch".
On October 19, 1999, the score to How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and another animated special based on a Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who!, were released on CD by Rhino Entertainment. This album was reissued on CD and iTunes, without the Horton Hears a Who! audio, by WaterTower Music on October 9, 2012.
The special was originally broadcast on CBS on December 18, 1966. CBS repeated it annually during the Christmas season until 1987. Afterward, the special, along with the rest of MGM's pre-1986 film library, was acquired by Turner Broadcasting System. Turner Broadcasting now shows the special several times between November and January. Since Turner's acquisition, the special has been broadcast on TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, The WB, ABC (where several scenes were cut or shortened), Boomerang, and most recently, NBC (which uses the same shortened version aired on ABC).
In 1994, as part of TNT's "Seuss-A-Bration" programming event (in which the network ran all of the Dr. Seuss animated specials and premiered the documentary film In Search of Dr. Seuss), the special's broadcasts on that network were accompanied by a "making-of" documentary hosted by Phil Hartman. This documentary was later included as a bonus feature on Warner Home Video's DVD and Blu-ray releases of the special.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was first released to VHS, Betamax, CED, and Laserdisc by MGM/UA Video in the early 1980s. They released it on VHS again in 1986 and 1994. MGM/UA Video released it on Laserdisc again in 1994, and then on DVD in 1996. On the CED and Laserdisc releases, it was accompanied by the animated Horton Hears a Who! special.
After Time Warner merged with Turner Entertainment in 1996, Warner Home Video released a new VHS release of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! in 1999, and followed it up with a new DVD release the following year. In addition to the inclusion of Horton Hears a Who! as a bonus special on both formats, the DVD also contained an audio commentary by Phil Roman and June Foray, a small gallery of the special's original pencil sketches, TNT's making-of documentary, and "Songs in the Key of the Grinch", a featurette featuring interviews with Albert Hague and Thurl Ravenscroft.
Warner Home Video later released a new DVD of the special on November 21, 2006, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the special's original airing (and an early tie-in with the 50th anniversary of the book's original publication). This DVD release presented the special in improved picture quality and contained most of the previous DVD's bonus features as well as a new featurette about the special's origins, but oddly dropped the audio commentary. Three years later, Warner Home Video quietly issued a similar DVD release, this time reinstating the audio commentary and dropping the inclusion of Horton Hears a Who! (which had by now gotten its own DVD release as a tie-in with that book's 2008 film adaptation). A Blu-ray of the special, containing all the bonus content from the 2009 DVD, was later released in October of the same year.
Warner re-released the 2009 DVD on October 18, 2011, this time as part of a two-disc set titled Dr. Seuss' Holidays on the Loose!, with the second disc containing the later two animated TV specials starring the Grinch - Halloween is Grinch Night! and The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat. The 2009 DVD was then released again as part of the Dr. Seuss's Deluxe Holiday Collection DVD box set (which also contained Warner's DVD releases of Horton Hears a Who! and The Lorax) on October 2, 2012. The DVD and Blu-ray were most recently released as part of Warner Home Video's Hats Off to Dr. Seuss DVD and Blu-ray sets (which also contained Warner's releases of Horton Hears a Who!, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, and Dr. Seuss on the Loose on those formats) on February 19, 2013. In 2015, the 2009 DVD and Blu-ray were reissued with a new slipcover in honor of the special's 50th anniversary (despite the anniversary in question actually falling in 2016).
Outside of its own DVD releases and the two Dr. Seuss box sets, Warner Home Video also featured the special alongside many of their acquired Christmas specials on the Classic Christmas Favorites box set in 2008 and the Santa's Magical Stories box set in 2011. Unlike the special's individual releases, the How the Grinch Stole Christmas! DVD on these sets had the special accompanied by two Rankin/Bass Christmas specials, Pinocchio's Christmas and The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold.
- Some of the animation of the Whos in this special was recycled for the animated Horton Hears a Who! special.
References in other media
- The special was referenced around Christmas a few times in the comic strip FoxTrot:
- In a 1991 Sunday strip, Paige sees Roger tuning in to watch the special on TV, and she talks about how much she loves the special, only to find out that Roger has never actually seen it before and she just spoiled the story for him.
- The Grinch made a background cameo in the strip published on December 20, 1996, as part of the storyline in which Paige dreams about visiting the Land of Animated TV Christmas Specials. In the next day's strip, when Paige wakes up and Andy reminds her that she never finished the essay that's been putting her through much stress, she sulkingly remarks, "You're a mean one, Mrs. Grinch."
- In 1999, FoxTrot parodied the story in a two-week storyline that ran from December 13-25, in which Jason writes a "new" Christmas TV special titled The Mrs. Grinch Who Was Too Cheap For Christmas. In it, Andy is portrayed as "Mrs. Grinch", a cheapskate who won't buy expensive presents for the "Kids down in Kidville" (portrayed by Jason, Paige, and Peter).
- In the strip published on December 15, 2004, Jason tries to explain to Marcus that the people in the special are called Whos, resulting in "Who's on First?"-style confusion.
- Parody versions of the Grinch and Max appear at the beginning of "It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special".
- In a Freakazoid! episode parodying The Godfather, the titular superhero is tricked into being forced to not do anything to stop the Lobe's crime spree, which is accompanied by a song titled "You're a Meanie, Nasty Lobe", an obvious parody of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch".
- The Doug episode "Doug's Secret Christmas" begins with a fantasy sequence parodying How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, in which Roger Klotz sneaks into Doug's house, only to find that Doug himself has already stolen all the Christmas decorations.
- In the 101 Dalmatians: The Series episode "A Christmas Cruella", Cruella De Vil's younger teenaged self at one point makes the same evil stretched-out grin that the Grinch makes.
- The Merry Nickmas short "How the You-Know-Who Stole You-Know-What!" was a parody of this special featuring Angelica Pickles from Rugrats as "Grinchelica".
- In The Simpsons episode "'Tis the Fifteenth Season", the montage with Homer Simpson stealing all the presents parodies the Grinch stealing everything in Whoville, complete with a parody of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch".
- In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: N.A.U.G.H.T.Y.", the Delightful Children and later Numbuh 3 are all mutated into creatures resembling the Grinch when they use Santa's Reindeer system to steal presents.
|Boris Karloff|| The Grinch|
|June Foray||Cindy Lou Who|
|Thurl Ravenscroft||"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" singer|