How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Its Adaptations

Updated June 21, 2021
How the Grinch Stole Christmas Movie

It's been 50 years since Dr. Seuss's marvelous Christmas book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was first published. However, the story has lost none of its charm. It has been adapted for animation and film, and even the Broadway stage. The story has been so popular that the Grinch's name has become a word in common use, just as Dickens' Scrooge once did.

How It All Began: The Grinch in Story Book Form

Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, published How the Grinch Stole Christmas! in 1957 with Random House Publishers. The book is a classic example of Seuss's style--strongly rhythmic, rhymed verse that never falters and ink-drawn illustrations in black and red.

The inspiration for the grouchy, selfish, small-hearted character was Dr. Seuss himself. In a 1957 interview with Redbook magazine, Geisel revealed that he was brushing his teeth the morning after Christmas and looked in the mirror, and noted the very grumpy, "grinchy" reflection of himself. He further noted, "Something had gone wrong with Christmas, I realized, or more likely with me. So I wrote the story about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I'd lost."

The book is still in print today. Other books have been created to extend the Grinchy fun:

The Animated Grinch TV Special

In 1966, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! became an animated television special. On December 18, 38 million people tuned in to watch the first broadcast, and it became one of the most watched holiday specials in the history of American television.

Chuck Jones, the animator behind Wile E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny, among others, produced and directed the special. But, Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) remained heavily involved in its creation. The two had first collaborated in World War II when they worked together on animation for military training films made by Warner Brothers for the U.S. Army.

Dr. Seuss added two verse passages to the story and wrote the lyrics to the songs. The music was composed by Albert Hague, and the vocals were sung by Thurl Ravenscroft. Boris Karloff was the voice for both the narrator and the Grinch himself. At the time, Variety magazine said it was the most expensive animation ever made for CBS-TV, but its immediate and continuing success more than justified the cost.

The special was aired every holiday season for over 20 years. Today, the cartoon is still on the Internet Movie Database's list of the top 250 films.

The Grinch's appearance changed in the cartoon, where he became green and acquired a longer face. Dr. Seuss said that the cartoon looked more like Chuck Jones than it did like his original Grinch, and in later years Jones agreed. "I'm afraid that it did," he said. "I tend to sneak my face in without knowing it, into things that I draw, because sometimes I'll glance in the mirror to get a certain expression I want."

No matter who the animated Grinch resembles, he's clearly still beloved, all these years later. The animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is still watched by thousands of people every year. It is available on DVD for your family to enjoy at home.

Feature Film

In 2000, a live-action feature film adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was created. Jim Carrey, wearing a costume made of dyed green yak hairs sewn onto a spandex suit, played the Grinch. The film received mixed reviews but was a huge box-office success. It earned $260 million and was the highest-grossing film released in North America in 2000.

The film is available on DVD and accompanied by an interactive playset.

scene from the film 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas'

How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Broadway

In the fall of 2006, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! opened on Broadway. The musical includes adaptations of You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch and Welcome Christmas, from the animated special and uses Max the Dog as narrator. Matt August is the director. Mel Marvin is the composer, and Timothy Mason wrote the lyrics.

The Grinch Video Game

The Grinch is a game released for various platforms including the Game Boy, Windows, and Playstation that was released in 2000, roughly to coincide with the theatrical release of the Jim Carrey Grinch movie.

Grinchy Board Games

There have been two board games based on the Grinch. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a memory game, and Whoville-opoly was based on the popular Monopoly game with a Grinchy twist. Both games are currently out of production, though you can find used copies via online retailers.

Activities for Grinchy Fun

Try these free online sources for more Grinch fun with your family!

The Universal Appeal of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Without a doubt, the Grinch has stood the test of time and remains to be a beloved Christmas character. Whether it's because of the humor, the art style, the music, or the simple lesson of the story itself, the plethora of adaptations it has inspired is a testament to its longevity and appeal.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Its Adaptations