Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Halloween is Grinch Night

While animated Halloween television specials were common from the late Seventies into the Eighties, there was a time when they were virtually unknown on American television. As hard as it may be to believe, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which debuted in 1966, was the first animated Halloween special. When Halloween is Grinch Night debuted in 1977, it was then one of the earliest animated Halloween specials in the history of American television history.

Halloween is Grinch Night was based on the well-known character created by Dr. Seuss and its teleplay was written by Dr. Seuss as well. Although it is sometimes referred to as a sequel to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it was intended as a prequel to that special. Indeed, in Halloween is Grinch Night, it is clear that the Grinch's heart has yet to grow three sizes. In Halloween is Grinch Night, a Sour-Sweet Wind descends upon Whoville. This causes the Whos to take refuge in their homes, as they know the wind means the Grinch will be in a bad mood. And indeed he is. The Grinch descends upon Whoville to wreak havoc, only to be confronted by a young Who named Eukariah.

While Halloween is Grinch Night was a prequel to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it was made by a different production company. How the Grinch Made Christmas was made by Cat in the Hat Productions in conjunction with MGM. It was directed by Chuck Jones. Staring with The Cat in the Hat in 1971, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises began producing a series of animated specials based on the works of Dr. Seuss. Halloween is Grinch Night was directed by Gerard Baldwin, who had earlier directed several episodes of the Jay Ward television series Rocky and His Friends and George of the Jungle. Halloween is Grinch Night was also broadcast on another network than the previous Dr. Seuss specials. Starting with How the Grinch Stole Christmas, every single Dr. Seuss special had aired on CBS. Halloween is Grinch Night was the first of several Dr. Seuss specials to air on ABC.

Halloween is Grinch Night
would also have a slightly different cast from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Boris Karloff, who provided the original voice of the Grinch, had died February 2 1969. Hans Conried then provided the voice of the Grinch in Halloween is Grinch Night. While Dallas McKennon provided the voice of the Grinch's dog Max in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Henry Gibson provided his voice in Halloween is Grinch Night. Returning from How the Grinch Stole Christmas was singer Thurl Ravenscroft, who provided vocals on the songs.

While many of the Dr. Seuss animated specials were based on specific Dr. Seuss books, Halloween is Grinch Night was not. It was instead an original work. That is not to say that it did not draw upon some of Dr. Seuss's books. The howling Hakken-Kraks come from Dr. Seuss's book Oh, the Places You'll Go!. A landscape of tall mushrooms was drawn from the book Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!. Other imagery from the special also resembles that found in yet other Dr. Seuss's books.

Despite its title, Halloween is never specifically mentioned in Halloween is Grinch Night. This could be the reason that when released on VHS the special was re-titled It's Grinch Night or simply Grinch Night. That having been said, Grinch Night would seem to be the Who's equivalent of Halloween. It takes place when the Sour-Sweet Wind arrives. Of course, Halloween marks the beginning of colder weather in some parts of the United States. Furthermore, the use of the imagery of ghosts and monsters by Grinch to try to scare the Whos would indicate that Grinch Night is similar to Halloween.

Halloween is Grinch Night won the Emmy for Oustanding Children's Program. That having been said, it would not repeat the success of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It would be repeated regularly on ABC in the late Seventies and Eighties. In the Nineties it would enter syndication.

Halloween is Grinch Night may not have been as successful as How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but it is fondly remembered by many Gen Xers and older Millennials. It was the second work in any medium to feature the Grinch and one of the earliest animated Halloween specials.


top_cat_james said...

It's Gerard, not Gerald, Baldwin. He taught a college course here in Texas, and lived less than an hour from me for almost thirty years. Would have loved to have met him, but it just never happened.

Terence Towles Canote said...

Thanks! I got it corrected.

Phyl said...

I had never heard of this special until a couple weeks ago. My brother and I watched it last weekend. The music was definitely more 70s sounding.