'Grinch' has taken many faces

by Khalil Ayvar | 11/22/00 6:00am

The Grinch is back if he ever really left.

While the new movie on one of Dr. Seuss's (Theodor Geisel '25) most infamous characters may be the most recent of his incarnations, the Grinch has been through a number of evolutions -- from books to animation, and more.

In 1957, Random House published the book "How The Grinch Stole Christmas!" The account of the Grinch's transformations from malevolence and spite to kindness and love was one of Dr. Suess' own favorite stories.

"Every Who Down in Who-ville Liked Christmas a lot ... But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, Did NOT!"

This begins Dr. Seuss' tale of the spiteful Grinch who tried to steal Christmas from the peaceful Whos, only to find that Christmas is more than just presents and gifts, trees and decorations, and a Christmas feast.

The story of the mean old Grinch with a heart two sizes too small is to this day a beloved Christmas classic that not only has the power to touch hearts and teach lessons, but also has become an integral part of American pop culture.

Also in 1957, Walter Matthau narrated a short video of the original still pictures found in the book, displayed as the story was read aloud. This lesser-known video can still be found today, much to the consternation of some buyers who meant to purchase the later version, published in 1966.

In 1966, cultural history was made, when at the urging of animator Chuck Jones, the now-famous "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" TV special was created.

Geisel and Jones -- Warner Bros. animator and creator of many favorite Looney Tunes characters -- labored over the drawings, and Geisel also undertook the task of writing the lyrics to the memorable "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" with composer Albert Hague.

The unique and immortal voices of Boris Karloff and Thurl Ravenscroft narrate and sing the story of Seuss' Grinch. And the vibrant Who-ville choir and orchestra extend the sounds of Christmas and goodwill.

The soundtrack of this popular half-hour television special is now available for the first time on compact disc, while the film itself is making its debut on DVD.

The Grinch reached out his long green arm to spread his influence beyond Christmas in 1977, when he starred in the short film "Halloween is Grinch Night." The recluse returned yet again to haunt the Whos under director Gerard H. Baldwin, who helped Geisel produce the spooky film, recently republished under the title "It's Grinch Night."

This time, the Grinch sets out to terrorize Who-ville on "Grinch Night", much to the dismay of little Eukariah, a young Who lad who chose the wrong night to go wandering, lost and afraid.

However, little Eukariah manages to overcome his fears after meeting the Grinch and all of his frightening friends face to face, and succeeds in saving Who-ville from the Grinch's twisted plots.

The latest adventure of the Grinch, in 1982, brought together the two most popular Dr. Seuss characters in the film "The Cat in the Hat Gets Grinched."

In this half-hour flick, the lovable Cat in the Hat finds himself being Grinched at every turn by a polluting Grinchmobile, a vacu-sound sweeper that makes his singing sound stupid, and a machine that turns the sky all dark and gloomy, ruining a fine and happy morning.

Of course, readers and fans of Seuss' Cat in the Hat know that even the mean old Grinch can't dampen this indomitable feline's spirits, and once again the Grinch's plans are doomed to failure, as the Cat plans to, and succeeds in, un-grinching the Grinch.

The Grinch has also appeared in "The Grinch Meets his Max," Dr. Seuss' book about how the Grinch met his dog, Max, the adorable pup in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"

Recently, even a 40th anniversary "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" coloring book was published by Random House.

Thousands of spin-off versions of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" populate the web, and other forms of literature, ranging from "How the Grinch Stole My Lunch" to "How the Grinch Stole Napster," Most recently, "How the Grinch Stole Election Day," the tale of all the Chads in Chad-ville, appeared on Slate.com

Even after the death of our dear late Dr. Seuss, the Grinch will live on, taking form after form as times change, and the Grinches and Whos along with it.