Before untraditional animated holiday media fare like Tim Burton’s full-length theatrical film The Nightmare Before Christmas was released in 1993, there was television’s mere half-hour How The Grinch Stole Christmas, an edgy, yet ultimately warm-hearted musical that debuted on CBS December 18, 1966, and which has aired every year since.
With a script by Irv Spectre and Bob Ogle, The Grinch was based on the beloved 1957 book by Dr. Seuss, a.k.a. Theodore Seuss Geisel, who passed away in 1991. Seuss had also subsequently penned lyrics to show’s tunes by Eugene Poddany and Albert Hague, primarily a Broadway-based composer who, after 1980 and until his death in 2001, was also a busy film and TV actor.
Fellow thespian Boris Karloff, a master or horror, vocalized the grumpy Grinch lead and doubled as Narrator. June Foray, best-known as the voice of Rocky the Squirrel from TV’s Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon (and still with us at 99 years old), spoke tiny words as little Cindy Lou Who from the depravedly-designed small town of Whoville;
Dale McKennon delivered sounds for Max, the sleigh-dog that literally helps carry out the Grinch’s evil plan to destroy the Whos’ Christmas; while Thurl Ravencroft sang the show’s theme, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and also performed in the chorus for two other songs on the show.
However, the core creative force behind the animated scenes of The Grinch was none other than the Academy Award-winning Chuck Jones, who died on February 22, 2002.
As one of the directors of Warner Bros.’ animated division, the innovative Jones had for years brought to living color the adventures of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner, and Wile E. Coyote, among countless other characters from the studio’s famed Looney Toons vault.
Jones exited Warner Bros. in 1963 and began animating for Metro Golden Mayer, where he illustrated the popular Tom and Jerry shorts, and features like The Dot and the Line (1965), based on Norton Juster’s short book. Jones won an Oscar for Dot, and the following two films, both produced by Eddie Selzer, and released in 1949.
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