Thursday, December 15, 2005

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Now THIS is a Christmas special.
Let's recap, shall we? The Grinch lives on a snowy mountaintop above Whoville with his faithful dog Max. Envious of the Whos' happiness, he makes plans to descend on the town and, by means of serial burglary, deprive them of their Christmas presents and decorations and thus prevent Christmas from coming. However, despite his success in stealing all the Christmas presents and decorations from the Whos, Christmas comes just the same. He then realizes that Christmas is more than just gifts and presents. His heart grows three sizes larger, he returns all the presents and trimmings, and is warmly welcomed into the community of the Whos.
Unlike "A Charlie Brown Christmas", which is full of continuity errors and color mistakes but manages to exude a quiet, peaceful innocence; the animation here is (mostly) consistent but it is filled with a manic, sly, sardonic energy that only Chuck Jones could provide.
Jones, the genius behind Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote and others served as director, character designer, and character layout artist for "The Grinch". Jones created the accepted "look" of the Grinch and (in an effort to extend the story for TV) created the "runaway sled" scene and added it into the story. Both Max and the Grinch are at their Chuck Jones best during this manic sleighride. In my opinion "The Grinch" is Jones' best post-Warner Bros work.
Other aspects of the production cannot be overlooked. Boris Karloff's smarmy narration combined with Thurl Ravenscroft (the voice of Frosted Flakes' Tony the Tiger) rich baritone singing oddball songs by Albert Hague (Mr. Benjamin Shorofsky of "Fame" on TV) all combine to make the Grinch a classic of animation.
Yet the Grinch is more than that. Much more.
At the end of the story all the Who's in Whoville awaken to discover that their Christmas has indeed been stolen. As The Grinch looks down in glee waiting to hear their miserable cries of despair he is shocked to watch as The Who's all gather in the town square to sing carols and rejoice in the day. The Grinch is mightily confused. He had stolen Christmas from The Who's! What are they celebrating? Then Boris Karloff states:
"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
This realization causes the Grinch to save the sleigh of goodies (that he himself had stolen) as
"...Then the true meaning of Christmas came through, And the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches - plus two. He brought everything back, all the food for the feast. And he, he himself, the Grinch, carved the roast beast."
Finally, the true meaning of the story is presented.
"Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp."
It is this simple message, free of any obvious religious overtone or intent, that makes "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" a perfect holiday special. This message is inclusive for anyone, of any color or creed, of any faith or belief. The true meaning of Christmas is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.
How simple. How profound. How fundamentally true.
And how well worth remembering at Christmastime and always.


Post a Comment

<< Home