How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired on December 18, 1966. The Grinch however, first appeared in the short story, The Hoobub and the Grinch, written by Theodor Geisel, originally published in Redbook magazine in 1955. The story tells of a yellow, not green, character named the Grinch who tricks the Hoobub into buying a piece of green string. Even in his infancy the Grinch was a conman, convincing the Hoobub that the string was worth more than the sun.
Many years later, Dr. Seuss (Geisel) teamed up with animator Chuck Jones to create 26 minutes of television entertainment that is as firmly entrenched in our holiday psyche as mistletoe and peppermint sticks. Geisel and Jones had previously worked together on WW II training films, most notably Private Snafu. Although Geisel was passionately “anti-Hollywood,” he trusted and respected Jones’ work.
The television special was dependent on the financial backing of a sponsor, and finally secured one in the Foundation for Commercial Banks. This was an ironic pairing, taking into account the anti-consumerist message of Geisel’s story. The holiday program cost over $300,000 to produce, a figure that was considered astronomical at the time and far more than A Charlie Brown Christmas, budgeted at $96,000.
Boris Karloff narrated the special, but the signature song, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, famous for voicing Kellogg's Tony the Tiger. Ravenscroft received little recognition for his contribution to the animated feature, an oversight that Geisel attempted to remedy by reaching out to newspaper and magazine columnists, asking them to credit Ravenscroft for his participation. Today most audiences still believe Karloff was responsible for both narration and song.
Geisel's original story of the Grinch wasn't long enough to fill the half hour television time slot. Chuck Jones extended the story by focusing on Max the dog, creating his perilous journey down Mount Crumpit to Whoville, reindeer antlers and all.
Jones was also responsible for the iconic shade of Grinchly green. The color was rumored to be chosen because it reminded Jones of rental cars popular in The Washington-Baltimore area in the 1960s. In the book, Geisel's villain was originally penned in black and white. The choice of color proved to be genius, creating a ghoulish signature shade inextricably linked to the character. I’m rather drawn to that color green, particularly during the month of December.
At this time of year, there are plenty of greens to go around, especially in the royal icing department. There are forest greens and leaf greens, mint greens and kelly greens. (Grinch green has yet to be made commercially available but can be mixed by combining green with yellow and the slightest bit of brown.) My hunch is that it is just a matter of time before Grinch Green organic-vegan-gluten-free food coloring becomes available on Etsy. My contribution to holiday décor is limited to 4” sugar cookies and the occasional embellished pie crust.
Unlike the local Cindy Lous, prone to gushing about LED twinkle lights and 7 foot Douglas Firs, you won’t find me dangling from a ladder, untangling yards of greenery and glitter. Despite the steady, rhythmic wood-pecking sound as hammers and nails meet wood trim, I will not be affixing anything to the curious pillars standing sentry beside my front door. I love a frosted window pane as much as Frank Sinatra, but I bow out of the neighborhood decorating frenzy.
There are as many variations on our street as there are Whos down in Whoville, with house after house ablaze in crimson, silver, white lights, and gold. The impact is much more
dramatic when I return home after sunset, an almost thunderous welcome as I turn down the street, passing illuminated house after holiday house, turning into a driveway flanked by not one single light.
Directly across the street, my neighbor’s slate blue house edged in clean white trim boasts nary a single evergreen bough nor icicle light canopy. We are adrift on Hanukkah Island while the rest of the street boasts enough holly and jolly illumination to keep PSE&G (Public Service Electric and Gas) from falling asleep at the switch.
My new neighbors, fresh from a small apartment in Brooklyn have created a picture-perfect house scape to admire. Each window is tastefully dressed to the nines in holly wreath and velveteen bow with just the right amount of twinkle light. It allows me to live vicariously without driving in a single nail or changing a single light bulb. Standing in my driveway for just a moment, in the quiet of evening I swear I can hear the Whos singing “Fahoo Foraze.”