When the snarky billboards for Benedict Cumberbatch’s 2018 Grinch reboot starting popping up in major cities, pretty much everybody had the same thought: “Do we really need to revisit this property again? The original is basically perfect.” But fans of the 1966 TV special—written by Seuss himself, animated by Chuck Jones, and featuring the voice of Universal monster movie icon Boris Karloff—might be interested to know that the original How The Grinch Stole Christmas had its own run of joyless sequels back in the day. A new article from MEL (by former A.V. Club editor Keith Phipps) takes a look at these forgotten attempts to cash-in on the Grinch property, long before big studio money got involved.
First, in 1977, there was Halloween Is Grinch Night, a near one-for-one retelling of How The Grinch Stole Christmas with a simple swapping of holidays. In this mildly spooky TV special, the writing is still Seuss’ but the animation is now done by Friz Frelong and lacks the natural fluidity and vibrancy of Jones’ style. The Grinch is still being a jerk to the residents of Whoville (who appear to be Amish?) but he’s now voiced by character actor Hans Conried, as Karloff passed away in 1969. The result is a 25-minute cartoon that looks more like an Eastern European knock-off than a Seuss-sanctioned sequel.
What comes next is even worse. The Grinch Grinches The Cat In The Hat is an utterly pointless mash-up of two popular Seuss characters produced in 1982. After finding themselves at odds over a road rage incident, Mr. Grinch and the top-hatted Cat are embroiled in a what is essentially a prank war. Then, in the special’s final moments, the Cat In The Hat manages to use modern psychology to emotionally devastate the Grinch and put an end to their feud. It is … not fun. Also, next to the titular feline, you can’t help but be realize that the Grinch looks like a shitty, earless cat himself.
As MEL notes, these two specials have essentially become afterthoughts in the Seuss canon. Everyone remembers the original special fondly and sees no need to acknowledge the subsequent misfires. But there is something comforting in the fact that, long before Cumberbatch or Jim Carrey took their stab at the story, needlessly rehashing the Grinch tale was a treasured holiday tradition.
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