How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (TV special)

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
How the grinch stole christmas 1966 print ad premiere.jpg
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Based onHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!
by Dr. Seuss
Screenplay byDr. Seuss
Directed byChuck Jones
Ben Washam
StarringBoris Karloff
June Foray
Thurl Ravenscroft
Dallas McKennon
Narrated byBoris Karloff
Theme music composerAlbert Hague
Eugene Poddany
Dr. Seuss
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
ProducersChuck Jones
Ted Geisel
EditorsLovell Norman
John O. Young
Running time25 minutes
Production companyMGM Animation/Visual Arts
DistributorMGM Television
Original networkCBS
Original release
  • December 18, 1966 (1966-12-18)
Followed byHalloween Is Grinch Night

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (also known as Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!) is a 1966 American animated television special, directed and co-produced by Chuck Jones. It is based on the 1957 children's book of the same name by Dr. Seuss, and tells the story of the Grinch, who tries to ruin the Christmas for the townsfolk of Whoville below his mountain hideaway.[2] Originally telecast in the United States on CBS on December 18, 1966, it went on to become a perennial holiday special. The special also features the voice of Boris Karloff as the Grinch and the narrator.


The Grinch is a surly, antisocial green creature with a heart "two sizes too small" who lives alone in a cave atop Mt. Crumpit, located above the village of Whoville. He especially hates Christmas and has always been annoyed by the town's Christmas celebrations. One Christmas Eve, he finally decides to stop Christmas Day from coming to Whoville by disguising himself as Santa Claus, his dog Max as a reindeer and, in a reversal of Santa's visit, steal all gifts, decorations and symbols of Christmas. Once loaded, he plans on dumping the bags of stolen goods. His plan is nearly thwarted by a toddler named Cindy Lou-Who, but is otherwise undetected.

As the Grinch reaches the summit of Mt. Crumpit, ready to dump the bags, he discovers that the citizens of Whoville, despite having no gifts or decorations, have gathered in the middle of town to sing as Christmas Day dawns. Realizing that Christmas means more than just material possessions, the Grinch's heart grows three sizes. He saves the sleigh, returns the presents and the other belongings to the Whos, and joins in the town's Christmas celebration, by carving the roast beast.

Voice cast[edit]

Only Karloff was credited.



Director Chuck Jones and children's-book author Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) had worked together on the Private Snafu training cartoons at Warner Bros. Cartoons during World War II.[6][7] Jones was interested in adapting one of Geisel's books into a television special and approached him to turn How the Grinch Stole Christmas! into one in time for the holiday season. Although Geisel was initially reluctant due to his unpleasant experiences making the film The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., he eventually agreed. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was produced by The Cat in the Hat Productions in association with the television and animation divisions of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, where Jones was under contract at the time. CBS, coming off the surprise success of A Charlie Brown Christmas a year before, allotted Jones and MGM a $315,000 budget (around $2,465,000 in 2018), more than four times what Bill Melendez was offered to produce A Charlie Brown Christmas.[1]

Jones questioned how to make a Christmas special without the typical elements (orthodox religion, Santa, etc.). He came up with an answer, which Jones said "Write our new carols in Seussian Latin. After all, 'Fahoofores, Dahoodores' seems to have much authenticity as 'Adeste fideles' to those unauthored in Latin.". The song "Trim Up The Tree With Christmas Stuff" was written in a square-dance type form by Albert Hague.[8] Due to Cindy Lou Who's appealing cute design, Jones redesigned her as seeming to be the great-granddaughter of the Grinch in appearance, reluctantly having her role parted down, which broke Jones' heart.[9] The character Max was set up as an observer and victim, and, according to the animation director, in the same way as Porky Pig and Daffy Duck in Duck Dodgers or Robin Hood Daffy.[10]The special required eleven to fourteen months of production time, 15,000 drawing and cels, 250 background layout drawings, 1,200 character layout drawings, sixty musicians working for 8 hours to finish the special.[11]

The original broadcast was sponsored by the Foundation for Full Service Banks, whose sponsor plugs within the original airing were later edited out for subsequent broadcasts.[12] The entirety of the book's text, with some slight embellishment, was adapted into the special; to pad the special to a full 30-minute time slot, songs and animated sequences without words (the longest being an extended scene in which the Grinch and Max comically descend into Whoville) were added. As all the major networks had flipped to full color schedules by 1966, the special was likewise produced in color, establishing the Grinch's color (white in the two-tone illustrations of the original book) as green, a convention used in later television specials featuring the character as well as the 2000 live-action and 2018 3D animated film adaptations.


The half-hour (with commercials) short was originally telecast in the United States on CBS on December 18, 1966.[6] CBS repeated it annually during the Christmas season until 1987.[13] It was then seen multiple times per year on Turner-owned properties – first TNT and then Cartoon Network – and The WB returned it to broadcast television by adding its own annual screening in 2001.[14] ABC took over the special after The WB ceased operations in 2006. NBC acquired the rights in 2015; its deal with Warner Bros. allows two broadcasts per season, currently scheduled for the first week of December and Christmas night.[15] The Christmas night broadcast has been later followed by the airing of the 2000 film of the same name.


The special was released in the midst of a wave of animated holiday specials, joining a number of other 1960s productions (such as 1964's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas and 1969's Frosty the Snowman) that have come to be regarded as classics; critic Rick Du Brow compared it favorably to those specials at the time, saying it was "probably as good as most of the other holiday cartoons."[16]

Further information[edit]

The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, which gives the special a 100% approval rating, reads: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas brings an impressive array of talent to bear on an adaptation that honors a classic holiday story – and has rightfully become a yuletide tradition of its own."[17] The special continues to be popular in Nielsen Ratings, with its 2010 airing (the last of many times it had aired that year) winning its time slot among persons 18 to 49 and finishing second in overall viewers.[18] TV Guide ranked the special No. 1 on its 10 Best Family Holiday Specials list.[19]

Home media[edit]

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was released to VHS, Betamax, CED, and LaserDisc by MGM/UA Home Video in the 1980s, and was reissued several times. The special was first released to the VHS and DVD formats in 1999 and 2000 by Warner Home Video, which acquired the rights to the MGM library in the late 1990s via their purchase of Turner. The DVD release featured another Seuss-based special, Horton Hears a Who!, and contained an audio commentary by lead animator Phil Roman and June Foray, interviews with Albert Hague and Thurl Ravenscroft, and the "Special Edition" documentary which aired alongside the special on TNT in 1994. The DVD was well-received for these bonus features, but also criticized for its sub-par picture quality; many critics pointed out that the Grinch looked yellow, not green, in this release.[20]

The special was re-released on DVD in 2006 and labeled as a "50th Birthday Deluxe Edition". That labeling refers to the 1957 date of the book's publication rather than to the date of the 1966 TV special. This DVD release featured a new retrospective featurette and contained all the bonus features from the previous release, except for the audio commentary, and the Grinch was restored to his original green color.[21] This edition is also available as part of the four-disc Classic Christmas Favorites box set. The special was again re-released on DVD with Phil Roman's and June Foray's audio commentary replacing the Horton Hears a Who! bonus special. The special was released on high definition Blu-ray Disc in 2009 with the title changed to Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! It contained all the bonus features from the 2000 DVD, except for Horton Hears a Who!, and also included a DVD of the special and a Digital Copy.[22] On September 23, 2012, It featured on the Dr. Seuss: Holidays On The Loose! DVD set, along with Halloween Is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat.


Three songs with lyrics were included in the special: "Welcome Christmas", "Trim up the Tree" and "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." The last of these was performed by Thurl Ravenscroft; the other two were performed by a chorus representing the voices of the Whos. None of the vocalists were credited at the time.

On December 18, 1966, MGM released a soundtrack LP in conjunction with the television special. CD releases include albums produced by Island (1995) and Mercury Records. In the recorded version, Boris Karloff does all voices including Cindy Lou Who. The song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch", which comically describes the level of the Grinch's despicable nature, includes all verses with their original rhyming lyrics and the isolated song tracks have different durations due to being re-recorded.[citation needed]

On October 5, 1999, Rhino Entertainment released a new CD soundtrack (which included the soundtrack for another Dr. Seuss cartoon, Horton Hears a Who!). Both story collections contain selected dialogue and music numbers. The "isolated music tracks" in this edition are taken directly from the television soundtrack and are not the re-recorded tracks from earlier versions. The dialogues are the originals, being voiced by Boris Karloff for "Grinch" and Hans Conried for "Horton."

Because Thurl Ravenscroft was not credited in the closing credits of the 1966 television special as singing the song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch",[3] it is sometimes attributed to Boris Karloff. After becoming aware of this oversight, Seuss himself called Ravenscroft and apologized profusely and later wrote letters to columnists nationwide telling them that it was Ravenscroft who provided vocals for the musical number.[citation needed] Ravenscroft would become a staple in several of Seuss's later television specials, voicing one of the Wickersham Brothers in Horton Hears a Who and a factory worker in The Lorax. Karloff received a Grammy Award in the Spoken Word category—the only major performing award of his career—for the album.[23]

Prequels and follow-ups[edit]

A television special called Halloween Is Grinch Night, created by DePatie–Freleng Enterprises, aired on ABC in 1977, eleven years after the Christmas special. This special involved a tale of the Grinch coming down to haunt the Whos every Halloween. Though less successful than the original, it was awarded an Emmy.[24] A later cartoon, The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (alternatively titled The Cat in the Hat Gets Grinched), aired on ABC in 1982. Though credited to DePatie–Freleng, it was produced by Marvel Productions, which had taken over DePatie–Freleng in 1981.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomahawk Press 2011 p. 478
  2. ^ Woolery, George W. (1989). Animated TV Specials: The Complete Directory to the First Twenty-Five Years, 1962–1987. Scarecrow Press. pp. 121–122. ISBN 0-8108-2198-2. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b McCracken, Elizabeth (December 25, 2005). "Our Cereal Hero". New York Times. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Grinch at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on February 5, 2016.
  7. ^ Jones. pg. 263
  8. ^ Jones. pg. 270
  9. ^ Jones. pg. 272
  10. ^ Jones. pg. 271
  11. ^ Jones. pg. 278
  12. ^ Jones, pg. 276
  13. ^ "UPDATE / Lee Margulies". Los Angeles Times. November 27, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  14. ^ "Seuss' 'Grinch' Returns to TV on The WB this December". Zap2It. December 1, 2001. Archived from the original on December 1, 2001.
  15. ^ "'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' Animated Special Moves To NBC – TCA". Deadline Hollywood. August 13, 2015. Retrieved August 14, 2015.
  16. ^ Rick Du Brow (December 19, 1966). "Christmas 'Theft' A Charming Hour". Beaver County Times. Retrieved December 23, 2012.
  17. ^ "How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1967)" – via
  18. ^ TV ratings: CBS reruns dominate, ABC's double-'Grinch' wins demo Archived December 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Zap2It. Retrieved December 26, 2010
  19. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 574. ISBN 978-0-7607-5634-8.
  20. ^ "DVD Movie Guide: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas/Horton Hears A Who!: Special Edition (1966) review". Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  21. ^ "DVD Movie Guide: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas/Horton Hears A Who!: 50th Birthday Deluxe Edition (1966) review". Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  22. ^ "WHV Press Release: Seasonal Family Classics Combo Packs (Blu-ray)". July 14, 2009. Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  23. ^ "Boris Karloff (British actor) – Encyclopædia Britannica". March 18, 2014. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  24. ^ "Primetime Emmy® Award Database |". Archived from the original on August 31, 2016. Retrieved December 15, 2011.


  • Jones, Chuck (1996). Chuck Reducks: Drawing From the Fun Side of Life. Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-51893-X.

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