|Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 31 October 2000|
It seems hard to imagine that there’s anybody out there who’s entirely unfamiliar with the work of Dr. Seuss (real name, Theodore Geisel). Seuss’ wonderful, sly rhymes and beguilingly weird, sweet drawings graced seemingly countless thin, beloved children’s books (and even a few for grown-ups). The messages are solid, but presented with such whimsical inventiveness that we feel consistently entertained rather than lectured, whether we’re four or 40. ‘Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’ DVD actually contains two animated Dr. Seuss shorts, the title piece and ‘Horton Hears a Who.’ Both were originally made as TV specials (debuting in 1966 and 1970, respectively) animated by Jones.
Although they are set up on the DVD in the opposite order, in some ways it makes more sense to watch ‘Horton’ first, as the tale introduces the Whos of Whoville, who are also the good guys in ‘Grinch.’ The opening menu gives you the choice of which short to watch, moving on to a second menu that will allow you to view some of Dr. Seuss’ original character sketches and, in the case of ‘Grinch,’ take a simple trivia quiz.
In ‘Horton,’ narrated by the gentle, quizzical tones of Hans Conreid, Horton is a gentle elephant living in the jungle, who one day hears a tiny voice crying for help. The voice belongs to a Who, a person so minute that his entire town is invisible to Horton’s naked eye. Horton resolves to protect the Whos, carrying them around on a speck of dust that has landed on a flower. As he says, "After all, a person’s a person, no matter how small." Horton’s jungle neighbors, alas, see Horton talking to the flower. They don’t hear a Who and conclude that the elephant has lost his mind. It becomes a matter of life and death for the Whos to prove they exist. The tag scene is especially clever and the animation of the snooty antagonists - a prissy kangaroo and her equally prissy offspring - is extremely funny. As for Horton, his soft, reassuring voice is just what we all want to hear from a kind-hearted pachyderm.
In ‘Grinch,’ the title character, with "a heart two sizes two small," lurks in the peak above Whoville, hating the Whos in general and Christmas in particular. He hits upon a scheme to prevent the holiday by stealing all the presents and food on Christmas Eve, with the reluctant aid of his little dog Max. (The sight gag of Max dressed as a fake reindeer is one of the best - even if you’ve never seen ‘Grinch,’ chances are, you’ve come across this image at some point in your life.) Like another famous Christmas-loather before him, the Grinch winds up rethinking his attitude although, luckily for an animation audience, the Grinch’s epiphany has a lot more action than Ebenezer Scrooge’s did.
Jones’ animation style is so fluid that in many ways it transcends the "limited animation" technique. The moving parts are so eye-catching and graceful and the backgrounds wisely contain so few elements that ought to move that the look is very lively. Seuss’ rhyme schemes and story themes are as timely now as when they were written, able to make adults as well as kids smile. For once, this is entertainment that actually fits the rating description "for all ages."