Sunday, 18 December 2016

The 50th Anniversary of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

It was fifty years ago tonight, on December 18 1966, that the TV special Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! debuted on CBS. It was among a number of classic animated specials to debut in the Sixties,  including Mr. Magoo's Christmas  Carol, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Even with such competition Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! proved to be among the most successful Yuletide specials ever.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was based on the 1957 book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr Seuss. The character of the Grinch first appeared in the poem "The Hoobub and the Grinch", which was published in Redbook May 1955. The poem centred on the Grinch's effort to sell a piece of green string to the Hoobub. It was in early 1957 that Theodor Geisel, better known by his pen name Dr. Seuss, began work on How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. He completed the book in a matter of weeks, so that it was finished by May 1957. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was published that December, and proved to be rather successful. The book received good reviews and sold very well.

It would be legendary animator Chuck Jones who would bring Dr. Seuss's book to television screens. During World War II Theodor Geisel served in the animation department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces. It was while  he was in the Army that he became friends with Chuck Jones. Together the two of them worked on the series of "Private Snafu" Army instructional cartoons. Chuck Jones thought that How the Grinch Stole Christmas! would make for a good animated special and approached Dr. Seuss about bringing his book to television.

One hurdle Chuck Jones faced in adapting How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was that the book is rather short. It can be read in a matter of minutes, and Mr. Jones had 24 minutes to fill. Expanding How the Grinch Stole Christmas to fit a half-hour, television format was accomplished to a small degree with the addition of songs, all of which had lyrics written by Dr. Seuss. The character of the Grinch's dog Max was also expanded a good deal. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was originally published in black and white, so Chuck Jones had to determine the colours of the Grinch, Max, the Whos, Whoville, and so on. It was Chuck Jones who decided that the Grinch should be green.

 Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! would ultimately prove very expensive to make. It reportedly cost $300,000 to make in 1966. In comparison A Charlie Brown Christmas cost only $76,000. It even cost more than the hour-long Mr. Maggo's Christmas Carol, which cost $250,000 to make in 1962. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was ultimately the most expensive animated programme or half-hour programme CBS had aired up to that time.

Fortunately, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! proved to be well worth the money spent on it. As mentioned earlier, it received positive reviews. It also did very well in the ratings. Its success would inspire a string of animated specials based on Dr. Seuss's work, including Horton Hears a Who! in 1970, The Cat in the Hat in 1971, The Lorax in 1972, and several more. Its success would also lead to two more specials starring the Grinch. Halloween Is Grinch Night debuted on ABC on October 29 1977. The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat, which also starred Dr. Seuss's popular character the Cat in the Hat, debuted on ABC on May 20 1982.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! would prove to be one of the perennial Christmas specials from the Sixties.  CBS aired it annually until 1986. In 1988 cable channel TNT began airing the special annually. In 1996 Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! finally returned to broadcast network television, airing on The WB. It remained there until 2006 when it moved to ABC. Since 2015 it has aired on NBC.

Along with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas proved to be one of the most successful animated Yuletide specials of all time. It would not be surprising if people are still watching it fifty years from now.

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