December 3, 2009

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Chrstmas! (1966)

I do not recall my first experience with the Grinch. The story and the animated special both existed well before I came into the picture, so I am guessing that I was pretty young when I first witnessed the Grinch scowling from his lair down upon the cheerful inhabitants of Who-ville. Well, whenever that original experience was, it became one of my most anticipated annual Christmas specials alongside Garfield and Charlie Brown. Each one of these shows heralded the arrival of the season and never failed to put a smile on my face. As I have gotten older some of the luster has dulled and I do not always catch them on a year to year basis, but when I do watch them I still get a little giddy. Yes, the child inside is still alive.

Everyone has their favorite Christmas special, perhaps it is one of those I mentioned or maybe something else like the Emmett Otter Jug Band Christmas or Mickey's Christmas Carol. I am not sure I have a favorite. They all deliver a different experience. However, there is something about the Grinch that makes it stand out from the crowd. That something is the incredible imagination of Dr. Seuss. Now, combine his skills with the word and the pen with the talents of animator Chuck Jones, who directed this special and is the man behind a good number of classic Looney Tunes shorts, and you have a magical combination to bring something very special to the screen.


It is undeniable that How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a classic. I also feel fairly certain that you are all familiar with the story, either through the book, this special, or through the Ron Howard/Jim Carrey live action film. Each of them are a little bit different, but the live action film is undeniably the biggest departure. If your sole experience is through the film, allow me to suggest you get your hands on the book and/or this release and get a better look inside Who-ville and their Who's Christmas experience.

Now, since we all know about the Grinch's distaste for Christmas and his attempts to take it away from Who-ville, so I will not go into a recap. Instead, let's take a look at this new home video release and see if it is worth the upgrade. Without even looking I wholeheartedly recommend picking it up if you do not already own it. Don't have Blu-ray yet? Don't fear, like a lot of Disney releases it comes with the DVD version as well.

The video definitely looks better than the last home video release I saw (the 2000 DVD release). There is less evidence of dust and other marks that appeared previously. The high definition transfer is bright, crisp, and speckle free. It is probably the best it has looked since its original broadcast. However, this image comes with a price that may not sit well with everyone.


The Grinch has gone from a pale brownish color to bright lime green. Quite a drastic change, no? The Grinch is not the only big change, a lot of the colors are much brighter and definitely a different shade from what we have grown accustomed to. This is a change that fans may not care for. I was not distracted by the differences, in fact, the improved contrast, brightness, and detail outweighed any sadness I found in the color changes.

A little research reveals that the new look is in line with the artists original intention, shown by the original film negatives. The colors many of us have grown to love have been more a result of aging prints.

While the video received a definite upgrade, the audio did not get the same treatment. There is no HD or lossless audio to be found, instead we are treated to the same stereo track from the DVD. It is not bad, but it does sound like an old track. It does not have a lot of range and is a bit on the muffled side. It still does the job and sounds fine, bu it seems somewhat lacking when you factor in the video upgrade. It brings to mind those television broadcasts, but I would have liked something more.


The release has a host of extras ported over from the DVD release
  • Audio Commentary. June Foray(voice of Cindy Lu Who) and Phil Roman (animator) are on this track. They have a nice, easy chemistry. It is not the most informative but it is an enjoyably listen.
  • Dr. Seuss and the Grinch: From Whoville to Hollywood (16 minutes). This has some good information regarding Seuss, his inspirations, and his creations, but it is joined by an awful rap song. Who thought that was a good idea?
  • Songs in the Key of Grinch (8 minutes). Composer Albert Hague and "Tony the Tiger" vocalist Thurl Ravenscroft talk about working on the show. This is quite interesting as both speak candidly about their involvement.
  • Song Selections. Want to listen to the songs without watching? Use this to select a song to listen to: "Opening Song," "Trim Up the Tree," "Welcome, Christmas," and "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch."
  • "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" Special Edition (19 minutes). This originally aired on TNT back in 1994. Hosted by Phil Hartman, the documentary is a little corny looking and feels dated, but it still has some interesting information, particularly with Chuck Jones.
  • Who's Who in Whoville. Text-based bios for Chuck Jones, Dr. Seuss, Boris Karloff, and June Foray.
  • Grinch Pencil Test. A three storyboards that trace back to the original production. A few more would have been nice.
  • Bonus Copies of the Film. A standard DVD version of the film is included and that has a Digital Copy as well. This is nice, but it is not iPod compatible and in order to get it you need to install a proprietary bit of software. What's the point?
  • Slipcover. I usually do not mention things like this, but the slip cover is coated in glitter to simulate snow. Before you know it, it is everywhere. This is one cover that will likely find its way to the garbage can soon enough.

Bottomline. Like I said, if you do not have this, get it. If you have the DVD and are happy with it, you may wish to think about the upgrade. This is the only one I own and I am glad that I do. This is a delightful Christmas special that should be seen every year. It is sweet and inventive and just a lot of fun.


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