Well here we are! The Christmas in July Blogathon has arrived. To kick us off, Steve from Movie Movie Blog Blog reviews the 1966 TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas. This is one that I usually watch at least once every holiday season, as I’m sure rings true for many people. Now, onto you Steve!
By any standard — and certainly compared to Jim Carrey’s torturous 2000 movie remake — the 1966 TV-special version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” still holds up beautifully. I know adults who can recite entire scenes by heart. Veteran cartoon director Chuck Jones knew he had tapped into something special. In an interview I had with him a few years ago (sorry, I have to toot my own horn here–see the interview at my blog), he told how he understood the importance of audience identification. “Everyone hates Christmas a little,” he said. “To find a character who ‘hates Christmas a lot’ is a real find!”
And he was right. As the children who saw this special as a kid (yours truly included) grow older, they are assaulted by the same commercialization that Charlie Brown complained about in his own Christmas special. Thus, it unfortunately becomes very easy to identify with this Grinch who plots to steal Christmas from an entire town and dump it off a nearby mountain 50,000 feet high.
Perhaps it’s this very grim take on a beloved holiday that saves this special from the sugariness that sapped the life from future Dr. Seuss specials. Even though The Grinch’s dog Max (a continuing victim in Grinch’s plotting) and Cindy-Lou Who (to whom The Grinch, dressed as Santa Claus, blatantly lies) tread the border of treacliness, we never forget that that nasty old Grinch is the main character in this story.
Much of this is helped along by superb voice characterizations. Boris Karloff gives the perfect bite to The Grinch’s voice, and he also narrates the story wonderfully. And Thurl Ravenscroft, best known as the voice of Tony the Tiger in Kellogg’s TV commercials, immortalized the song “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch” for a generation of cartoon-lovers. (If you ever get a chance, listen to the Whirling Dervishes’ alternative take on this gem.)
Many of the Christmas specials we loved as kids, sadly, don’t hold up so well for us in later years. (This is probably a minority opinion, but for me, the Rankin/Bass version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” sounds like it was recorded in a lavatory.) The Grinch, perhaps because he started out so old to start with, never seems dated.
Thanks, Steve! And with that, we are officially underway! Next up is Tim with an interesting and unique entry. Check back for that later today.