Thursday, December 24, 2009

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

We were watching the Grinch (the classic Chuck Jones cartoon, not the overblown Jim Carey movie) last night and marveling at how well it has held up. The show was made in 1966 and all of the principles have died (at ripe old ages) but the show still seems fresh.

Part of this is the source material. This was the only Seuss book that is really aimed at the entire family instead of very young children. It is similar to Dickens's A Christmas Carol with a lonely character having a life-changing experience revolving around Christmas.

Part of it is the animation. This is Chuck Jones at the top of his form. You don't have to see the credits to know that he directed it but it is not as stylized as some of his work. It is also the best animated Christmas special that I can remember from the 1960s through the 1990s. The Charlie Brown Christmas special was done on a very limited budget and even that was nearly twice what CBS paid to show it. It didn't make a profit until its second showing (which was once per year back then). The Rankin Bass programs like Frosty the Snowman were poorly done and got progressively worse into the 1970s. The Grinch is theatrical-quality animation.

Then there is the voice talent. I'm sure that Boris Karloff would be pleased to know that his best know work turned out to be a classic children's tale instead of horror roles. Then there is Thurl Ravenscroft who sang "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" and June Foray who did Cindy Lou Who. While best remembered for voicing Tony the Tiger and Rocky the Flying Squirrel respectively, these voice actors were mainstays of animation for decades.

The splashy new Christmas special this year was Disney's Prep and Landing. While very well done, you wonder if how it will hold up in 40+ years.

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