What makes a 26-minute television cartoon special a classic, still shining brightly after 52 years?
Chapman University will answer that question with its campuswide Grinch Week that starts on Nov. 10 with an opening reception to the exhibition, “‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’: Chuck Jones and the Making of an Animated Classic,” at its Hilbert Museum of California Art in Orange. On Nov. 17 the museum, in conjunction with its Musco Center for the Arts, will co-present a screening and panel discussion of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
There will also be a WinterFest Celebration and Day’s Holiday Tree-Lighting on Nov. 14.
“It began with the theme of Christmas and ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’ for our exhibition,” said Mary Platt, director of the Hilbert Museum, “and it grew from there into a full-on Grinch week of activities.”
“We’re very excited for this event and feel it’s such an honor for us to be in partnership with Chapman and the Hilbert Museum,” said Linda Jones Clough, daughter of late Chuck Jones, director of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” Clough is one of Saturday’s panel members.
She is involved with two family businesses: Linda Jones Enterprises Inc., which runs several Chuck Jones-related galleries, and the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, based in Costa Mesa and run by Chuck’s grandson, Craig Kausen.
The Nov. 11 event will screen the original cartoon based on the 1957 children’s book by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. (Seuss was his middle name.) Dr. Seuss adapted his book for the special and co-produced it with Jones, a longtime Orange Country resident famous for Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons. Himself a three-time Oscar winner, Jones’ “Loony Tunes” style of animation is easily discernible in “Grinch.”
“It’s such an elegant, simple evocation of the spirit of Christmas,” Platt said of the cartoon classic.
She pointed out that the classic song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, who was for many years the voice of the annual Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach.
Clough explained that Dr. Seuss had a bad experience in Hollywood and was reluctant to work on the film, but her father was able to convince him because they had previously worked together on the “Pvt. Snafu” World War II cartoons.
Jones realized that a reading of the original “Grinch” story didn’t take up a half-hour, so he filled up the time with song and action without narration, Clough said. She also revealed that Boris Karloff, the narrator and voice of the Grinch, was not even in the U.S. when he recorded his lines.
"[Karloff] was in London and said he was too busy and couldn’t come out,” Clough said, “so they sent him the script and he recorded his lines in one week…My father had that much confidence in him, and it resulted in a wonderful and inspiring reading.”
After two TV cartoon sequels (one winning an Emmy) and a 2000 live-action feature film, a new 3-D animated feature “The Grinch” premieres on Nov. 9, so there’s no denying the lasting appeal of the 1966 original.
“We all need to remember its message of new hope that’s worth celebrating,” Clough said. “That’s what ‘The Grinch’ is all about.”
IF YOU GO
What: The Hilbert Museum of California Art and the Musco Center for the Arts present “‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’: Chuck Jones, Dr. Seuss and the Making of an Animated Classic,” a screening of the cartoon, panel discussion and exhibition.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17; part of the campuswide Grinch Week (through Nov. 17) and the concurrent “Grinch” exhibition at the museum (through Jan. 19.)
Where: Musco Center for the Arts, Chapman University, 415 N. Glassell St., Orange.
Cost: Free (but reservation required)