The late and long missed Theodore Geisel madse a name for himself in the realm of children's publishing – Dr. Seuss. With an amazing sense and knowledge of the English language, he wrote many books that are still remembered and read today. In 1957, he wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, showing how one person, the titular Grinch, discovered the true meaning of Christmas, the one beyond the superficial lights, presents, and food. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), the story avoided religious overtones, defining Christmas as what comes from inside.
In 1966, Geisel's production company, Cat in the Hat Productions, worked with MGM to adapt the story as a holiday special. The production team included Ted Geisel and veteran Warner Brothers animation director Chuck Jones*. The story was kept as is, with music to help fill the 25 minutes then needed for commercial television. Songs were added, with lyrics by Dr. Seuss and music by Albert Hague**. The main voice was provided by Boris Karloff***, providing a gravitas that isn't expected in a Christmas special. Not listed, but providing the male singing voice for the Grinch's theme is Thurl Ravenscroft****.
To say that How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has become a classic is an understatement. The timelessness of the original story along with Chuck Jones's deft handling of the material and utter care put into the work by the cast and crew. Having Dr. Seuss involved helped greatly, both as lyricist and producer. The animators took the illustrations from the book and brought them to life. Even the practice of animation reuse added, allowing the montage of the Grinch sneaking and stealing through Whoville to add humour and character development. The Grinch is another example of where having a staff that cares about the original helps with adapting. Another lyricist could have not had the ear that Dr. Seuss had for the language and joy of the scenes. Another narrator wouldn't have had the gravitas that Karloff provided. Unlike far too many Christmas specials, the Grinch doesn't depend on sentimentality, which helps it stand out even after forty-five years.
Next time, Cyberpunk hits the big screen
* Many many Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons.
** Who would later be seen in the role of [Shorofsky] in the film and subsequent television adaptation of Fame.
*** Noted for playing Frankenstein's monster in many movies as well as being many more horror films.
**** Also known as Tony the Tiger, voicing the mascot until his death in 2005.