Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, but the special remains one of the greatest and most famous pieces of television animation ever. The message that anyone, even a Grinch, can learn the true meaning of Christmas has attracted audiences every year. Plus, the film had the powers of three great artists behind it – author Theodor Seuss Geisel, animator Chuck Jones and actor Boris Karloff. Without any of them, the special wouldn’t be the classic it is today.
Since NBC aired it on November 25 at 8 p.m. ET, here’s a look at the history of the special, as well as the plans for the Grinch in the future. The special airs again on the network on Friday, December 23 at 8 p.m. ET.
1. Animator Chuck Jones, Who Worked on ‘Looney Tunes,’ First Worked With Dr. Seuss During World War II
Without Chuck Jones, How The Grinch Stole Christmas! wouldn’t look as great as it does. The special is the perfect marriage of Jones’ own style and Seuss’ art. The two had known each other long before Seuss even published the book How The Grinch Stole Christmas in 1957.
As Toonpedia notes, Jones and Seuss first worked together during World War II, when Seuss was working on the Private Snafu shorts created for the U.S. Army. Seuss created the series with Phil Eastman. Other legendary animators who worked on the shorts were Friz Freleng and Bob Clampett. You might not know their names, but these were the men behind Tweety Bird, Tosemite Sam, Speedy Gonzales, Pepe LePew and many other Looney Tunes stars.
The Grinch was also not even the first time that a Seuss story was animated. In 1942, Warner Bros. made a short adaptation of Horton Hatches The Egg, Seuss’ first book with Horton the Elephant. Of course, the sequel book was Horton Hears a Who, which co-stars the same Whos who star in The Grinch.
2. Boris Karloff Didn’t Sing ‘You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ – The Voice of Tony the Tiger Did
Without Boris Karloff’s voice, How The Grinch Stole Christmas wouldn’t be the same. But it really wouldn’t be the same without the song “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” However, Karloff didn’t actually sing the song.
The song was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, a voice actor who is also best known for being the original voice of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes mascot Tony the Tiger.
Ravenscroft, who died in 2005 at age 91, was also famous for narrating and voicing characters in Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions. His voice could be heard in the Haunted Mansion, the Country Bear Jamboree and the enchanted Tiki Room.
His other work for Disney included roles in Saludos Amigos, Melody Time, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and The Aristocats. He even recorded voices for the characters in the “Jolly Holiday” sequence in Mary Poppins.
3. June Foray, the Voice of Cindy Lou Who, Also Voiced a Smurf, the Cat in ‘Cinderella’ and Rocket J. Squirrel
June Foray was the voice of Cindy Lou Who, the little Who who sees the Grinch in the middle of his Christmas tree theft. Foray is still alive at age 99. She was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in September 1917.
Her filmography is nothing short of incredible, especially for animation buffs. In 1950, she voiced Lucifer the Cat in Disney’s Cinderella. She voiced a mermaid in Disney’s Peter Pan (1953). From 1959 to 1961, she voiced Rocket J. Squirrel and Natasha Fatale on Rocky & Bullwinkle and has continued to contribute to subsequent Rocky projects.
For children of the 1980s, she was the voice of Jokey Smurf on The Smurfs (1981-1989) and Grammi Gummi on Adventures of the Gummi Bears (1985-1991). Her list of roles goes on and on, with over 305 credits to her name.
4. ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas!’ Was First Published in 1957 & Was a Critique of the Commercialization of Christmas
How The Grinch Stole Christmas! was first published by Random House in 1957 and also appeared in Redbook magazine. Seuss started work on the book just after he finished The Cat in the Hat.
Like many of Seuss’ books, How The Grinch Stole Christmas! has a lesson at the heart of it. Despite the Grinch’s attempts to put an end to the Whos’ Christmas by stealing their Christmas tree, they still celebrate the holiday. Seuss meant to show that you don’t need things to celebrate the holiday. You just need the people you love by your side.
Although Seuss never wrote a sequel to How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, he did write the follow-up TV special, Halloween is a Grinch Night, which aired in October 1977. Hans Conried (the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan) was enlisted to voice the Grinch.
5. Universal Is Working on a New Animated Film Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Grinch
The Grinch has lived on long after the death of Seuss, Jones and Karloff. In 2000, Ron Howard directed a live-action version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carrey in the title role. Although the film wasn’t a hit with critics, the film won an Oscar for Best Makeup. The film grossed $354.1 million worldwide, proving that Seuss’ characters aren’t just beloved by Americans, but by international audiences as well.
Universal is going to try another crack at the story with an animated movie that will be own on November 9, 2018. Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Sherlock) was cast as the Grinch.
The new film is being directed by Peter Candeland, who worked on the Aladdin television series in the ’90s, and The Secret Life of Pets co-director Yarrow Cheney.