How the Grinch Stole Christmas is not just a Christmas classic, and it is one, it is so much more than that. It is a classic of the heart. There is just something that is extremely heart-warming about watching a green mountain monster, who at one time hated Christmas and the people of Whoville, learn the true meaning of Christmas and the joy it can bring others as well as yourself. It is darn right tear-worthy to see the Grinch’s turn-around and, even though Jim Carrey’s 2000 version of the story is spectacular in its own right, the original still has its own place in the hearts of many because it shows us all that it is never too late to change, never too late to love again and never too late to open up your heart to the world.
The Grinch (voiced by Boris Karloff, other than in the songs, which are sung, uncredited, by Thurl Ravenscroft) is the film’s main character. He lives in a cave atop Mt. Crumpit, located above the village of Whoville. The Grinch is a surly character with a heart “two sizes too small” who has especially hated Christmas for 53 years. On Christmas Eve, he finally becomes fed up with seeing the decorations and hearing all the music and caroling in the village and wishes he could stop Christmas Day from coming to Whoville. When he sees his dog, Max, with snow all over his face in the shape of a beard, he decides to disguise himself as Santa Claus and steal Christmas.
Before I get too far into the this Christmas classic, I would like to talk about the 2000 version of this film first. Jim Carrey is amazing as the Grinch– even if you hate him as an actor, his overacting works well as the grumpy old green protagonist. Additionally, the movie gives a lot more back story for the people of Whoville as well as why the Grinch hates them so much. To put it simply, he was rejected by the society and grew bitter with age. In this light, his actions toward Whoville are very much justified or at least warranted to some degree. The Whoville people are jerks and reject him just because he is a little different– which is not in the spirit of Christmas if you ask me.
But no such back story exists in this 1966 version. The Grinch hates the people of Whoville because he hates Christmas and hates their cheer and glee and wants to take it away from them. In this way, the Grinch is more like a bitter old man who hates himself more than he hates the people of Whoville but chooses to lash out at them to make himself feel better. I mean sure, they are noisy, but that seems to be the only infractions they take upon the Green monster.
What I love about this short special is that they do an amazing job teasing that the Grinch does have some goodness in him. For one, he has an extremely loyal dog and for two, during the scenes with Cindy-Lou Who, while he does lie to her, he is actually pretty kind to her. He chooses not to shatter her Christmas illusions of Santa rather than scare her away. The Grinch isn’t as bad as he seems and when he witnesses a Christmas miracle he immediately does an about-face and accepts the Whoville people as well as Christmas into his heart.
This story will warm your heart and fill you, quite easily, with holiday cheer as it strips away all the weird politics, character traits or plot twists that are found in a lot of movies and tells a simple story of someone who is filled with hate who learns to love again. And, while it might not be the best Christmas movie ever made– an argument can be made that no other film has as much Christmas spirit packed in such a short runtime.
As far as animated holiday classics go, this has to be my favorite. It is a simple story, easy to follow but has tons of heart and creativity. It is a must-watch every year for me and, whether you like the 1966 or 2000 version there is something to be taken away from each. The animation is pretty clean given its age too and I do recommend watching it in Bluray if you can find it.
Dr. Seuss disputed casting Boris Karloff for fear that he would make the Grinch too scary.
Boris Karloff’s voice changes when he speaks for the Grinch. Originally he spoke in his “Narrator” voice throughout. After recording was complete, the highs in his voice were mechanically removed for the Grinch, giving him the gravelly voice heard in the finished version.
Dr. Seuss’s wife was a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority, and Seuss included nods to the sorority in various parts of this film.
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.
Throughout the movie, the Grinch’s eye color is red, indicting his bitter, misanthropic and sneaky personality. But towards the end, where he discovers the true meaning of Christmas by the sight of the still happy rejoicing Whos in the deprived town of Whoville, his eyes turn blue; meaning that he has a change of heart.