Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a 1966 American animated television special directed by Chuck Jones. It is based on the eponymous childrens book by Dr. Seuss, the story of The Grinch trying to take away Christmas from the townsfolk of Whoville below his mountain hideaway. The special, which is considered a short film as it runs less than an hour, is one of the classic Christmas specials from the 1960s still shown regularly on television. Jones and Geisel previously worked together on the Private Snafu training cartoons at Warner Bros. Cartoons during World War II.
The 26-minute short was originally telecast in the United States on CBS on December 18, 1966. CBS repeated it annually during the Christmas season until their last airing in 1986. Beginning in 1987, TNT began exclusively running the special. Unlike the years it was on CBS, Grinch now ran several times during the Christmas season. In 1990, TBS also began running the special. From 1996 until 2005, The WB Television Network also began running the special at least once per season. Then in 2006, Grinch returned to one of the big three networks, this time ABC, which began broadcasting it several times annually during the Christmas season ever since. It is currently aired during the Christmas season additionally on various cable channels owned by Turner Broadcasting System. including TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, and Boomerang but with some scenes trimmed to fit more commercial time.
Boris Karloff, in one of his final roles, narrates the film and also provides the speaking voice of The Grinch. (The opening credits state, "The sounds of the Grinch are by Boris Karloff...And read by Boris Karloff too!") The special was originally produced by The Cat in the Hat Productions in association with the television and animation divisions of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.
Bitter and hateful, the Grinch is irritated at the thought of the nearby village having a happy time celebrating Christmas. So disguised as Santa Claus, with his dog made to look like a reindeer, he raids the village to steal all the Christmas things. The village is sure to have a sad Christmas this year.
The Grinch (voiced by Boris Karloff, other than in the songs, which are sung, uncredited, by Thurl Ravenscroft) is the films main character. He lives in a cave atop Mt. Crumpit, located above the village of Whoville. The Grinch is a surly character with a heart "two sizes too small" who has especially hated Christmas for 53 years. On Christmas Eve, he finally becomes fed up with seeing the decorations and hearing all the music and caroling in the village and wishes he could stop Christmas Day from coming to Whoville. When he sees his dog, Max, with snow all over his face in the shape of a beard, he decides to disguise himself as Santa Claus and steal Christmas.
The Grinch makes himself a Santa coat and hat and disguises the innocent Max as a reindeer. He loads empty bags onto a sleigh and travels to Whoville with some difficulty. In the first house he is almost caught by Cindy Lou Who (voiced by an uncredited June Foray), a small Who girl who wakes up and sees him taking the Christmas tree. Pretending to be Santa, the Grinch tells Cindy Lou that he is merely taking the tree to his workshop for repairs, and then gets her a drink before sending her back to bed. He empties the first house of all the food and Christmas-related items, namely presents, trees, mistletoes, and even the stockings on the chimney, then repeats the process at the other houses in Whoville, while also taking the village decorations.
With the Whos stolen Christmas goods, the Grinch and Max travel back up Mt. Crumpit. Before dropping the loaded sleigh off the mountain, the Grinch waits to hear a sad cry from the Whos. However, down in the village, the Whos joyously begin to sing Christmas carols, proving that the spirit of Christmas does not depend on material things. The Grinch begins to understand the true meaning of Christmas, though he barely does so in time to prevent the stolen treats from going over the cliff and while he tries to stop the sleigh from falling off, his heart grows three sizes—granting him "the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!", which he needs to lift up the sleigh. He brings everything back to the Whos and participates in the holiday feast. He is given the honor of carving the roast beast, while Max gets the first slice for himself for all his troubles.
At the cartoons original release, the program received mixed reviews (critic Rick Du Brow said it was "probably as good as most of the other holiday cartoons"), but it has since been recognized as a classic, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 100% "fresh" rating on its website. 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. TV Guide ranked the special No. 1 on its 10 Best Family Holiday Specials list.
The opening and closing sponsor tags from the 1966 release are officially unavailable on video by Turner/Warner Bros., but otherwise the main body of the special as first seen in 1966 is available on DVD and Blu-ray. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was released to VHS by MGM/UA Home Video in 1986, and was reissued several times through the end of the century. 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. The DVD release featured another Seuss-based special, Horton Hears a Who!, and contained an audio commentary by 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 subpar picture quality; many critics pointed out that the Grinch looked yellow, not green, in this release.
The special was released on DVD again in 2006, labelled as a "50th Birthday Deluxe Edition". The "50th Birthday" inaccurately refers to the date of the books publication - it was published in 1957, not 1956 as the cover would have buyers believe - and not to the date of the 1966 TV special. This DVD release presented the special in a better-quality digital transfer and contained all of the bonus features from the previous release, except for the audio commentary and did not have a chapter selection. The Grinch was restored to his original green color. This DVD also featured a new retrospective featurette. It is currently available on DVD (with some of the supplements carried over from previous DVD releases) as part of the 4-disc Classic Christmas Favorites box set, which also includes several of the Rankin/Bass holiday specials WB currently owns. After Horton Hears a Who received a separate DVD release in 2008 (around the time Blue Skys adaptation was released), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was re-released with Phil Romans and June Forays audio commentary replacing the bonus special.
On October 6, 2009, the special was released on high definition Blu-ray Disc but the title was 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!, which was made available separately as Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! also included a DVD of the special and a Digital Copy.
On October 4, 2011, the special was released again on DVD by Warner Home Video under Santas Magical Stories and again on Oct 18, 2011 under Dr. Seusss Holidays on the Loose!.
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 except Cindy Lou Who (which is again voiced by Foray). The song "Youre a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" includes all verses with their original rhyming lyrics and the isolated song tracks have different durations due to being re-recorded.
On Oct 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 Ravenscroft was not credited in the closing credits as singing the song "Youre a Mean One, Mr. Grinch", 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. Karloff received a Grammy Award in the Spoken Word category—the only major performing award of his career—for the album.
A television special called Halloween Is Grinch Night, a prequel 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 scare the Whos every Halloween. Though less successful than the original, it was awarded an Emmy. A later cartoon, The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (alternately 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.