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  • Writer's pictureBryce Chismire

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) - Christmas Review in Rhyme

Updated: Dec 26, 2023



Is there an author more wondrous than Dr. Seuss?

As he put his imagination to good use,

His art and prose bore one classic after the next.

After getting his start in books, Seuss soon flexed

His creative muscles when he translated

them to specials and films, some of which innovated

new formulas and became classics themselves.

Such a twofold legacy left on the shelves

Whimsical works of art whose efforts spurred

imagination through their style and word.

 

I joined the bandwagon at a young age with two.

Last time I spoke of Dr. Seuss, I shared with you

my love and enthusiasm for 'The Lorax,'

a 'children's story' that went down to brass tacks

and addressed the dangers of deforestation.

I relish this tale for sharing information

about greed and conservation, not to mention

exposing the bad guy with more comprehension,

arguing whether it's too late to right some wrongs,

and spicing it up with catchy, memorable songs.

 

As for the second story by Dr. Seuss,

I first saw this in preschool, so it helped induce

an inner interest in me to check it out.

Then, after a short while, what came about

was me owning this on VHS, I proclaim.

 

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is the special's name.

The more I watched it, the more special it became.

 

Now, it's not my first time talking about the Grinch;

talking about Jim Carrey's take was a cinch.

My family and I like Jim Carrey's Grinch a lot,

but disregard this Grinch's values? We could not!





It's Christmastime in Whoville, and there and here,

the Whos ran around soaked in holiday cheer.

On the other hand, up in Mt. Crumpet, the Grinch

did not like their celebrations. Not by an inch.

He's driven nuts by the noises the Whos sounded,

questioned their feasts, and can't stand being surrounded

by the tunes of their carols around the tree.

The Grinch put up with it long enough to foresee

that he must stop Christmas from coming in some way,

'til he made his Santa Claus outfit right away.

 

With this handy, the Grinch, out of glee and contempt,

hitched Max to a sleigh and rode down in an attempt

to rob everybody in Whoville

of their gifts and deprive them of their Yuletide fill

as he hopped to and fro and snagged from the Whos' houses

all that he'd get his hands on, even from their mouses.

 

During his act, though, he was caught red-handed

by a young girl, Cindy Lou-Who, who, oh so candid,

mistook him for Santa Claus. Would his plan be foiled?

Or would he have salvaged his plan on which he toiled?

But it's not just that. How would the Whos respond?

What would they've said about the gifts of which they're fond

being swiped under their nose by the Grinch from beyond?

 

Ever since I saw this as a little child,

its colors, story, and songs kept me beguiled

as I adored the artistry it compiled.

Because Dr. Seuss joined to helm this project,

his contributions to the special retroject

his talents as he unleashed them throughout his books.

He honed the structure. He melded the looks.

His visionary inventions are everywhere.

And here, in the special, he had plenty to spare.

Even Max, a dog wearing antlers on his head,

called back to Seuss' creations that went ahead

with putting antlers on any animal's head.

 

Plus, something about the Whos carrying the tree

this way matches Seuss's surreal talents to a tee.

Though the whos ranged from the tall to the small,

would you tell here who's tall and who's small at all?



And the waiters who served Cindy her strawberry,

each one of them gradually got very

tiny until the tiniest of them all

approached Cindy with the dish for her to haul.


Judging from examples like these, they look

like they bore the same trippiness as in the book.


Of course, what might have intrigued me more

was the festive and massive atmosphere galore.

As a kid or an adult, I found out

it still enriches the story as it lunged about.

Whoville came studded with ornaments and lights,

and Whoville's surrounding areas were sights

for sore eyes. There's a wintry brightness overall

that evoked a grandeur I can long recall.

Many of the mountains and landscapes

expressed themselves with magnificent shapes

and proportions that strengthened the notion and scope

of Seuss' fantastical world through every slope.

 

The characters' reactive position

helps add flavor to the visual composition.

That may be because outside of Dr. Seuss,

whose creativity here is most profuse,

working with him was famed animator Chuck Jones,

whose visual touches add juicier meat to the bones.

But for all the creative gems they dispersed,

'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' was not their first.

Shortly after they met in World War II,

they made cartoons bearing the name 'Captain Snafu.'

It is a series of propaganda cartoons

with, frankly, some imaginative platoons.

 


Famous for his repertoire of such cartoons

as 'Tom and Jerry' and the 'Looney Tunes,'

Jones' creative applications are crystal clear

as he worked his magic in the TV frontier.

Whereas, with most of Chuck Jones' cartoons, they went on

for seven minutes, some of them ten minutes long,

and all of them shown first on the big screen,

here, he had to triple that length for the small screen.

So, there was pressure for him to give his best shot

at a cartoon filling a half-hour timeslot.

 

The result is some exquisite animation

with touches of televised transformation.

Even compared to most other shows back then,

the Grinch's smooth movements and details now and again

helped the special carry Jones' customary

visual stamps and made it feel extra merry.

 

One of Jones' most noticeable features

were the fourth-wall glances from the Seuss creatures.

Whether it was (mainly) Max or the Grinch,

the characters looked sideways to us with a pinch

of incredulity in their reactions,

or confusion in their visual interactions.

It makes the characters seem identifiable

and their comedic essence more undeniable.

 

Of course, the menacing grin the Grinch gave out

as he brainstormed his plan before going about

would give kids the creeps and be drilled in our heads.

How would it not carry nothing but Christmas dreads?

 

At first, I did not think Cindy Lou Who,

the young witness who was no more than two,

had enough going for her to help her stand out.

But there was one element that came about

and had me reevaluate her and her role,

and that's when she caught the Grinch as he stole

their Christmas tree and tried to shove it from eyesight.

She did not know he wasn't Santa, but she was bright

and seemed quite savvy for a two-year-old.

And my interest in her started to take hold

as she gradually conveyed – and I'll keep this brief –

innocence, concern, doubt, suspicion, and relief,

and all with barely any dialogue!

Why else would I have brought it up here in this blog?

 


But that's not all! With a few tricks up their sleeve,

Jones and Seuss had more than art styles to conceive.

 

Since I got the visual highlights out of the way,

the characters got the job done okay.

I don't need to talk more about Cindy Lou-Who

since I laid out how she got her persona through.

But I also noticed, at times, just how much

an innocent girl such as her conveyed a touch

of holiday spirit as everyone else did.

It makes her look like an even sweeter kid.

 

With Max, he looked like a constant butt of the joke

as the Grinch's aggravations made him poke

around in his business. Being the Grinch's sled dog

didn't help matters, either, for every time they bogged

down, he was urged forward by the Grinch and his whip.

But again, what helps give Max his charm and slip

is the animation. This poor dog's reactions

to the Grinch's continuous methods of action

were not only funny, but they expressed

his trains of thought as Chuck Jones would have done best.

 

And now, onto the Grinch himself. His attitude

towards the Whos and their collective gratitude

for Christmas should prominently display

his curmudgeon antics and sheer dismay.

Watching him grouse over their materialistic

ecstasies add to his generally ballistic

gripes about the Whos' celebrations

as I slightly understood his frustrations.

But as he donned his Santa Claus outfit,

watching him ride into town to commit

his retaliation against the Whos through theft

left me to sense a potentially deft

sneakiness and arrogance in his demeanor

down to his pride and every misdemeanor.

Yet, despite his grouchiness and ill will,

his all-too-small heart might have sensed what Whoville

truly cherished about the holiday.

Having known him since childhood, his display

of conflicting ethics is more to my liking.

I found his personality striking

and more along the lines of Ebenezer Scrooge

than Mr. Potter, which I consider huge.

That tells me I'm more a fan of complexity

in someone's character, despite the perplexity

others may express about this point of view.

As I see it, neither conviction is untrue.



Even the Whos are something to be admired.

When seen through the Grinch's other versions, what transpired

was their devotion to the holiday season

caused them to be oblivious to the reason

for celebrating Christmas until the Grinch

stole their possessions and left them to flinch

over the disappearance of their gifts.

But after moments of disbelief, it then shifts

into joyous contentedness, which in turn

prompted the Grinch's realization and return.

Here, once the Grinch finished his heist, he was amazed

as I was to see the Whos waking up unfazed.

It tells me that for all their flashy pleasures,

the Whos never lost sight of the treasures

that comes with just being with family and friends,

and that prompted the Grinch to make amends,

return their gifts and salvage their Festive ways.

This feels more meaningful and deserving of praise.

 

Next, I want to address the voice acting.

The performers' inflections while reacting

to certain happenstances paved the way

for some nice moments, including from June Foray

as Cindy Lou-Who. However, there's one one-off

that gave the Grinch its driving force: Boris Karloff.

Having already been famous in Frankenstein,

this special shows just how good an actor

he was when he played this big a factor

in strengthening its legacy on a wide scale.

He did the honors of narrating this tale,

and his deliveries were modest, warm,

and soft, enriching The Grinch with his gentle form.

As the Grinch, the character, he sounded more distinct.

He conveyed the character's nasty instincts

and grouchiness, thus further highlighting

his frustrations and hatred at their most biting.

 

Though, I like how Karloff didn't make the Grinch all bad.

Instead, he played his character as if he had

elements that usually induce fright,

only for his impressions to feel quite bright.

 


Despite the Grinch, the special, adapting a book,

it has an audio reading like an audiobook.

This take remained faithful to the cartoon

and even roped in the songs. I'll get to those soon.

While Boris Karloff told the tale over its designs,

He did so for the soundtrack, even Cindy's lines.

Outside of feeling like I'm being told the story,

this helped me hear Boris Karloff in his glory.

It helped me pay attention to his vocal ranges

down to his take on the characters' exchanges.

 

Sure, it translated the special and not the book.

But to make this work, Karloff's voice is all it took.

 

The other element whose effort prolongs

deserved Yuletide acknowledgment is the songs.

Much like the Lorax, the lyrics sung throughout

were concocted by Dr. Seuss and, without a doubt,

still displayed the creative genius of his verse.

In the first song, "Trim Up the Tree," the Whos traversed

across town as they gathered their decorations

and unleashed them with their Christmas anticipations

as high as a kite. Some people might look at this

saying it praises consumerism, but the bliss

and fellowship of the Whos as they prepared

for the Christmas season are noticeably shared.

 

Speaking of fellowship, the song "Welcome Christmas",

their primary Christmas carol, went to business

with its harmonic melodies as it sends

uplifting messages about family and friends.

It still came with the whimsical Seuss wordplay

which helps round out this Christmas song the right way.

What 'Trim Up the Tree' is for opportunity

'Welcome Christmas' is for the community.



Finally, let's talk about that song that inched

into infamy: "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

Expressed with the baritone of Thurl Ravenscroft,

its whimsy doesn't hide how much it won't go soft,

and wait 'til you hear the pictures as they arrive!

The song's lyrics, with playfulness fueling their drive,

paint the Grinch as the most horrid being alive.

There's a twinge of morbidity in the complaints,

and the song's popularity sometimes taints

the Grinch's general image and even self,

though that's what the Grinch may've thought about himself.

Whether it matched the Grinch's persona or not,

perceive its synonymity with him we ought.

 

There was only one thing that bothered me,

not that the styles didn't work; they were stellar to see.

It's just that as I watched and heard the story,

I soaked in the atmosphere in all its glory

only to realize that it looks like daytime.

Boris Karloff's narration said it was nighttime,

And here, it looked too bright, almost not dark enough.

Even the "warm lighted windows" spoken of

were nowhere to be seen as they seemed drowned out.

But as I got used to this special, I found out

it doesn't matter a bit. What does matter instead

is the art, acting, story, and prose being read.

 



Another thing about the Grinch that caught my eye

is what Suess' background and Christmas tastes imply.

La Jolla was where Seuss lived when he was alive,

and he lived atop a hill while the others thrived.

Like in 'A Charlie Brown Christmas,' he was confused

over the Christmases that left him unamused.

Much like the Grinch, he wasn't a fan of the noise

and found obnoxious those who sang out their joys.

They all pushed him to the end of his rope,

and he started to worry, despite his hope,

that the true meaning of Christmas may have been lost,

like the commercialism left it in the frost.

So, his writing and designing of the Grinch

was his way of understanding whether a pinch

worth of that meaning could possibly be traced.

So, this implied to him that it had not gone to waste,

and that fellowship and loved ones must be embraced.

 

However one sees it, there's no denying

that 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' came forth relying

on the collaborative efforts and worth

of two ingenious artists and some mirth.

With its songs, voice acting, story, and designs,

it became a holiday classic that combines

the sour with the sweet, the prose with the stroke.

So, Jones' and Seuss' first TV venture spoke

to countless audiences who identified

with the Grinch while also joining the Whos' side.

 

Whether it's Christmas joy or Christmas dismay,

this special's escapades will brighten your day.

With so many stocking stuffers to explore,

maybe the Grinch, perhaps, means a little bit more.


My Rating

A high A



Works Cited


“Dr. Seuss and the Grinch: From Whoville to Hollywood.” In Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, produced by Chuck Jones and Ted Giesel. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, 2018. Blu-Ray.


Seuss, Schulman, J., & Goldsmith, C. (2004). The True Spirit of the Grinch. In Your Favorite Seuss: Thirteen Best-Loved Stories. Essay, Random House Children’s Books.


“TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” In Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, produced by Chuck Jones and Ted Giesel. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, 2018. Blu-Ray.

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