Cartoon Review: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Posted: December 3, 2010 in Uncategorized
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How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 MGM Television Dir. Chuck Jones)

Well, here we are. One of the biggies. I mean, after Charlie Brown, this is THE cartoon classic for my generation, isn’t it? The story of the meanest guy in the Christmas special stable. How does one get their hate on for The Grinch? Oh sure, there is a logical inconsistency at the end, but it’s a small one. Sure the Whos down in Whoville make one rethink the idea of ethnic cleansing, but how do you hate The Grinch? He’s like the best character for people who are, at best, ambivalent about Christmas. Can I hate The Grinch? I doubt it. Can I hate this special? Only time will tell my darlings…


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This makes him 87% more likely to develop heart disease as well.

The special gets off to a bad start, with incomprehensible singing. I had to turn on the closed captioning to get what the hell the Whos were saying. And even then, it’s not worth reading really. This is the first big problem with old Dr. Suess, he just makes up gibberish if he can’t think of anything intelligent to write. This opening song is made up of equal parts gobbledygook and actual words. This will be the defining characteristic of the Whos for the rest of the show. The problem with the people of Whoville is that their antics and songs aren’t in the book. You can tell exactly what’s in the book, because those lines (with a single exception) are all spoken by the Big Daddy himself Boris Karloff. Karloff is, without a word of exaggeration, awesome here.

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Noisy!

So after the song, The Grinch goes on to explain why he doesn’t like Christmas. They are fairly sensible reasons, because noise if noisy. The visual gags involved in The Grinch listing off all the things that the Who Children are going to play with are okay. The model drawings match Suess’s original style, but that’s not too hard to pull off. The animation is good if a little cheap. We’re dealing with 15 frames per second here, which is half the frame rate of video. You get a lot of reused drawings as well, loops of animation and such. There are also a few errors that they weren’t able to fix, which speaks for the low amount of money that went into this project. None of this actually distracts from the program, but I notice it. Also, there are too many damn songs. Less than five minutes after the whole “Welcome Christmas” song, it pops up again. This particular song is bad enough as it is, why do we need it twice in six minutes?

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In frame one, the little guy’s hat is white. In frame two, blue hat. Frame 3-15(ish) white. This goes on for as long as this bit of animation loops.

Okay, so he decides to do something, and he forms a plan. Now, I have a problem with The Grinch making the hat and coat. He only cuts one side out of the curtains. He doesn’t make cuts for a full jacket. He’d need to cut twice as much as he does, and he’d need to measure as well. You can’t just take a pair of scissors to a curtain and expect it to be that easy! That coat won’t fit his dog Max for trying out loud! As a side note, I know too many people who sew as a hobby. This section is where you get the “Mr. Grinch” song that was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, who is bafflingly left out of the credits. The preparation is sort of cute, because his dog Max is such a playful spirit. The Grinch ties him to the sled and we get our commercial break. Now, I’d like to skip the break, but they’ve been getting kind of glad handed with the cattle prod the last couple of days so I’m going to let the baby have its bottle and do the damn commercial.

COMMERCIAL!
Coffee!

So today we’ve got an ad for Butter-Nut Ground Coffee, which we’re told is made upside down. Seems most coffee makers blend their beans and then roast them. This is bad because different beans roast at different temperatures. So first they roast, and then they blend. And for some reason the guy is telling this to what sounds like a Scandinavian couple. Why them? I have no idea. But then, I’m not sure why he spends the whole commercial up-side down either. Check it out. She even tells him he would make a good salesman.

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Um… yeah!

The trip to Whoville is almost two minutes of pure padding. Not complaining, because it’s amusing, but it doesn’t add much to the story. Of course the story has to be padded a little, because other wise the show is too short. That’s one of the reasons we have so many songs, to pad the running time out. Pretty much all of The Grinch’s criminal activity is also padding, and we get more reused and looped animation. When you know what you’re looking for, TV animation is a wonderland of cheapness. Animation reshot with different back grounds, reused rough drawings that have had slightly different characters drawn on the cells to copy the movement work, looped drawings, entire animated segments reused because who will notice or care, child laborers imported from Singapore… there’s a lot of cost saving going on.

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We told you to watch out, we told you not to cry…

Now when we get to little Cindy Lou Who (No More Than 2 Years Old*), which is the only other voice in the production. The Great June Foray provides the voice here. Remarkable vocabulary for a 2 year old though, I must say. She’s also really mastered speech to make herself intelligible at age 2. What gets me about The Grinch is that he’s not just taking Christmas, he’s taking everything. Seems like a lot of criminals really. Claiming some kind of noble cause, but really they’re just stealing everything not nailed down. Also, for someone who hate toys and noise, he seems to be playing with the toys while getting them into the bags. So what am I to believe? Maybe this whole Christmas thing was just a front from the start. Maybe he just made the whole thing up to justify stealing the light bulbs from the houses. Think about it, won’t you?
*Yes, yes, thank you Frank Miller.

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Protip: Who Hash is not meat and potatoes. Ya dig?

Now comes the logical inconstancy I complained about earlier. The Grinch takes all the stuff to the edge of Mt Crumpet, with an eye to dumping Christmas over the side. He pauses to hear the sobs of the people of Whoville, but it turns out to be singing. See, Christmas came to Whoville anyway and the Whos didn’t need a bunch of stuff from a store. However, one might think they’d notice their ENTIRE town had been ransacked. I don’t know how much you hold Christmas in your heart, if you’d just had everything you owned stolen, maybe you’d go after The Grinch, yeah? That’s not the problem. The problem is that once he realizes that Christmas is more than presents, what does he do? Returns the gifts. And does he suddenly like noise? He brings back all the noisemakers. What about Roast Beast? He claimed he hated it before and now he’s carving it himself. You don’t just suddenly change your eating habits because you’ve gained an understanding of what Christmas really means. Above all that is the hypocrisy. I’m always bugged by this. Once you prove you don’t need something, you get rewarded with it anyway. This doesn’t teach children the value of Christmas, it teaches them to lie about their feelings. If you pretend Christmas is really, like, important and junk, and that presents are like, not so important or whatever, then we’ll give you lots of stuff. It teaches them to be hypocrites, who pretend that something is important in order to get the stuff they really want. That leads to hipsters! This special is directly to blame for hipsters! For that reason, I can’t give this a positive score. I won’t go far into the negative though, so let that mollify you.

Official Score:
-1 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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