My all-time favorite Christmas special is Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the 1966 television special that is now network television’s traditional first Christmas special of each year. In my house, it’s also what we watch every year after decorating the tree because, as someone who complains about things I have no right to complain about for a living — the downfall of “The Office” or the dreadful season of “Dexter” — the Grinch is a nice reminder to me that, in the grand scheme, these things don’t really matter. Well, they don’t matter much; I mean, even a Grinch with an enlarged heart would frown upon the incest subplot in “Dexter” this season. COME ON.
Yet, despite watching the Grinch every year since I was wee, I didn’t really know that much about its back-story, so I did some Internet sleuthing and discovered a few things that I thought I’d share, like the fact that Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Suess, self-identified with his character, The Grinch: He was a private man who did not care for the sentimentality of Christmas, but he did enjoy spending every Christmas with his family. The Grinch was thus modeled loosely after himself. There are seven more facts below.
1. Boris Karloff, of course, was both the narrator and the voice of The Grinch. Karloff was best known for his portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein. Fun fact: The Batman villain Clayface was inspired by Karloff.
2. When approached by the networks, Geisel was reluctant to turn his 1957 book into a television cartoon, but was persuaded by his friend, Chuck Jones, the illustrator behind Looney Tunes hits like Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, and Road Runner. Geisel and Jones were friends, having previously collaborated on military training films in World War II.
3. In Dr. Suess’ book, the Grinch was a black-and-white character; it was Chuck Jones’ idea to make him green, a shade he chose because it reminded him of the rental cars popular in the Washington-Baltimore area during that time. In the cartoon, the Grinch’s face looks more like Chuck Jones’ face than it does the face of Grinch in the book.
4. Thurl Ravenscroft, who sang the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was also the voice of Tony the Tiger in the Frosted Flakes television commercials. Originally, because of an oversight, Ravenscroft was left off of the credits.
5. There was a sequel to “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” called “Halloween is Grinch Night,” in which the Grinch returned and tried to steal Halloween. The Grinch also appeared in a musical television special along with The Cat in the Hat called “The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat.”
6. Originally, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was 26 minutes long, but the special you see on television now has been trimmed several minutes to accommodate more commercials. In 1994, there was a special edition of the show with 20 added minutes that aired on TNT. It was narrated by Phil Hartman instead of Karloff.
7. The little dog in “How the Grinche Stole Christmas,” Max, had only two lines in the show: “Yipe!” and “Raaaahhh!” He was voiced by Dallas McKennon, a voice actor most famous for Buzz Buzzard in the “Woody Woodpecker” series and the safety spiel at the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney, as well as Toughy, Pedro, Professor, and Hyena in Lady and the Tramp
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