Chuck Jones, Ben Washam
Boris Karloff, June Foray, Thurl Ravenscroft
Bob Ogle, Dr. Seuss (also book), Irv Spector
The animation talent of Chuck Jones combined with the delightful prose of the great Dr. Seuss results in a Christmas cartoon classic that will make even the most resolute cynic warm to its sneaky holiday message. Horror icon Boris Karloff supplies the voice of the Grinch, who plans on spitefully ruining Christmas for the town of Whoville by stealing all the presents. It's great, mischievous fun plotting along with this diabolical humbug, and ultimately moving as he warms to the spirit of Christmas.
English Monaural (Grinch)
English Stereo (Horton)
Runtime: 50 min.
Release Date: 11/18/1997
Currently OUT OF PRINT
• Pencil Tests
• Trivia Game
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas/Horton Hears A Who! (1966)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 22, 2006)
When the name "Chuck Jones" pops up, I'd bet that most people immediately think of Looney Tunes cartoons. After all, that's where he made his claim to fame, and I believe that most people would associate him with that material.
However, I'd also bet that no individual Looney Tunes cartoon qualifies as Jones' most well-known and most watched piece of work. That honor almost certainly falls to the classic TV special that he produced, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. How many skillions of people have seen that sucker since it first aired in 1966? Many, many skillions, I'd guess, and that's a lot!
Of course, since the formal title of this program is actually Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jones is overshadowed in this work by the prominence of another. Actually, we should make that others, since lead voice actor Boris Karloff would receive higher billing than Jones.
But make no mistake about it. While Seuss' story and Karloff's vocal certainly contribute in no small part to the success of this program, it's Jones' wonderful and evocative animation that carries the day. It's not technically very slick - after all, this project was produced for television, a medium that doesn't offer a budget to allow an animator to perform to the best of his abilities - but it helps capture the spirit of the project and brings it nicely to life. Yes, more fluid animation would have been good, but the heart of the Dr. Seuss story comes through and works very well.
I must admit that while I like The Grinch, it's not really one of my favorite Christmas specials. Rudolph, Charlie Brown and The Year Without a Santa Claus are all above it in my opinion. Nonetheless, The Grinch deserves its status as a Christmas classic and will continue to be watched by skillions for years to come.
Much less well remembered is the companion piece on this DVD, 1970's Horton Hears A Who, but that doesn't mean it's not a strong program. Actually, I think I prefer it to The Grinch, though some of that may be the result of too much repetition of the latter. While I saw Horton as a youngster, I definitely didn't watch it nearly as many times as I did The Grinch, so it doesn't possess the same level of familiarity. I mean, I can't remember the last time I saw The Grinch - it's been more than a decade, I'd guess – but I still know it by heart. The same can't be said for Horton, which looked familiar but not to nearly the same degree.
While my lack of knowledge of Horton is part of the reason I liked it more than The Grinch, I also think it's a more adult-friendly feature. Face it: while The Grinch has a lot going for it, most people of my generation will enjoy it mainly because for nostalgic reasons. Horton, on the other hand, offered some very intriguing aspects, not the least of which was the intense and creative wordplay on display. The song "Mrs. Toucanella Told Me" was just insanely over the top with puns and word variations that propel the tune along, virtually all of which would be lost on the intended age group. How many kids know much about psychoanalysis?
Horton also offered a more deft piece of societal analysis as well. The Grinch has a message that amounted basically to "remember the meaning of Christmas" and little more, whereas Horton a wide variety of judgmental sorts. It's quite clever and creative in that way, and it doesn't bop you over the head with its meanings. And unlike The Grinch, you can watch Horton any time of year and not feel stupid!
The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C (Grinch) B- (Horton)/ Bonus D-
Both The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who appear in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The two programs offered fairly similar visuals, though Horton looked a little better.
The two programs demonstrated acceptable sharpness, though some shots came across as a little tentative. I saw some signs of shimmering, and edge enhancement was a bit of a distraction; the show often displayed a somewhat rough “digital” look. A mix of specks and marks popped up through the program. These weren’t heavy, but they created some distractions. In addition, too much grain cropped up throughout the programs.
Colors seemed decent, with some exceptions. The piece suffered from a slightly grimy look that made the tones a little dingy, but they often came across as reasonably dynamic. What was the main exception? The Grinch himself. Instead of the expected green, the Grinch suffered from an odd mustard tone. Blacks were fairly dark, while low-light elements showed good clarity. These images were watchable, but the flaws meant the overall disc didn’t get a grade above a “C-”.
The sound of both The Grinch and Horton differed, and here the latter won. Although The Grinch was monaural, Horton appeared in stereo. Only the music sounded that way. Dialogue and effects both emanated strictly from the center area. (Note that the DVD incorrectly lists the audio of Grinch as Dolby Surround). The stereo spread for the score worked quite well, as Horton displayed very nice delineation.
As for the audio quality, Horton showed good range and clarity for the music. The score and songs was clear and reasonably dynamic. The rest of it seemed more lackluster, though, as speech and effects came across as a bit flat and plain. Still, they seemed find given their age, and the show included so much music that those elements compensated to give us a “B-”.
Grinch was less pleasing. Music consistently sounded clean and reasonably vibrant; low end was lacking, but the general tone seemed fair. Both dialogue and effects were decent but usually flat and blah; there's a plainness to them that lacked treble and crispness. Boris Karloff’s narration sounded especially distant and wasn’t particularly natural. The Grinch audio seemed acceptable for material from the Sixties, but don’t expect much from them.
This DVD lacks much in the way of extras. For Grinch, there's a "fun-filled interactive trivia game" that should be left strictly for the kids. Adults who've seen the show in the past will breeze through it, and even those who haven't can probably figure out the correct answers. Three pencil sketches of the Grinch are featured in a still frame section. A "trivia" area actually functions as the old cast and crew biographies section. It offers short discussions of the careers of Theodore
(Dr. Seuss) Geisel, Boris Karloff, Chuck Jones, and June Foray (who did the female voices in both programs).
The Horton portion of the DVD includes less in the way of extras. All we find are five still frame pencil sketches created during preparation for the program. Of course, since three of the four folks listed in the "trivia" area of The Grinch also worked on Horton, that part's already taken care of. It would have been nice to have those repeated on the Horton side with the addition of that show's narrator and main voice, Hans Conried.
Finally, the DVD includes a four-page insert. This booklet offers chapter markings and a few drawings of the characters. It would have been nice to have some basic factoids in here, but it's no great loss. And while this review directly discussed the MGM DVD release of The Grinch, this title has been reissued through Warner Bros. The DVD itself is exactly the same. The only difference between the two releases is that the MGM version comes in a plastic case and includes the four-page booklet, whereas the WB edition arrives in a cardboard "snapper" case.
Ultimately, is this Grinch/Horton combo worth purchasing on DVD? Probably not. Presentation quality is problematic, and the set lacks significant extras. The shows are entertaining but this is a lackluster product.
To rate this film, visit the Birthday Edition review of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS / HORTON HEARS A WHO!