HOW THE GRINCH STOLE
Of all the animated Christmas specials that I enjoyed during my childhood, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! was my favorite because it featured the voice of horror movie icon Boris Karloff. I grew up on all the old Universal horror movies and loved this special because it had found a way to add a bit of horror with the happiest time of the year. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! combines the talents of writer Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel) with those of animator Chuck Jones, who was responsible for so many classic Warner Bros. cartoons. The Dr. Seuss story is set in the community of Whoville, which is preparing to celebrate Christmas. High above Whoville lives a nasty Christmas hating creature known as The Grinch (voiced by Boris Karloff). To alleviate his holiday misery, The Grinch decides he must steal all of the trappings of the season from the Whos and ruin Christmas down in Whoville. Dressing up as Santa, The Grinch pays a Christmas Eve visit to Whoville and fills up his sleigh with everything even remotely related to the Yuletide season. In addition to voicing The Grinch, Boris Karloff also serves as the storyís narrator. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! also features the voices of June Foray as Cindy Lou Who and Thurl Ravenscroft, who sings The Grinchís theme song- Youíre A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.
The Warner Home Video release of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! appears virtually identical to the previous MGM offering. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! is presented in the 4:3 television aspect ratio and looks far better on DVD than it ever has on broadcast television. The image on the DVD is so crisp and detailed that one can see all of the imperfections that exist between the backgrounds and the cells, which contain the animated characters. Film grain is somewhat noticeable during the presentation, but it is only a minor nuisance. Colors are vibrant, and very stable except for a tiny bit of bleeding in the more intense reds. Digital compression artifacts are very minimal and do not affect the picture in any perceivable manner.
The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is free from distortion, although there are the expected frequency initiations one would associate with a 1966 television production. Dialogue is crisp and precise and the track lacks any perceivable distortions.
Unlike the previous bare bones edition of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!, this DVD features a number of supplements. Songs In The Key Of Grinch is a nine-minute featurette that introduces viewers to composer Albert Hague, who was responsible for the specialís classic tunes. Songs also introduces one to Thurl Ravenscroft, the singer whose deep voice many will also recognize as that of Tony The Tiger from cereal commercials. The DVD also includes a 19 minute featurette about HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!, which originally ran on TNT in 1994. The featurette is hosted by Phil Hartman and includes interviews with the wife of the late Dr. Seuss, as well as composer Albert Hague and filmmaker Tim Burton. The other main supplement is a running audio commentary with animator Phil Roman and voice artist June Foray. Both provide personal memories of the HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!, which creates a well rounded view of the special, since they contributed to very different areas of the production. Other supplements include trivia questions, cast/crew biographies and direct access to the songs.
The second program on the DVD is Dr. Seussís HORTON HEARS A WHO. Narrated by Hans Conried, HORTON HEARS A WHO is a slightly off centered tale about an elephant named Horton, who is able to hear a population of tiny people living on a dust speck. Of course, no one else possesses Hotronís elephantine ears, so none of the other jungle residents hear anything coming from the dust speck. Believing that the elephant is crazy, Hortonís fellow creatures decide that something must be done about him before he becomes a danger to the community. Although the story goes to extremes, HORTON HEARS A WHO teaches a solid lesson in tolerance, after all, "a person is a person, no matter how small."
HORTON HEARS A WHO looks just fine on DVD, with its television ratio presentation appearing superior to broadcast. The image is sharp and well defined, although the film element shows a few dust speck of its own. Other minor limitations in the original animation are also plainly visible due to the resolution of the transfer. Colors are very strongly saturated, yet donít show any signs of chromatic distortion or bleeding. There are no problems with digital compression artifacts. The two-channel Dolby Digital soundtrack has a mild stereo presence whenever music makes an appearance. However, the track does have the frequency limitations that one would associate with a television program over thirty years old. Dialogue reproduction is clean and intelligible throughout the program.
The interactive menus contain a bit of music, but are otherwise quite basic. Through the menus, one has access to the both programs, as well as scene access within each. French and Spanish language tracks, as well as English, French and Spanish subtitles are also accessible through the menus. Supplemental materials can also be accessed through the menu system. Extras on HORTON HEARS A WHO include pencil tests and direct access to the songs.
At $19.98, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! is a steal. With HORTON HEARS A WHO, as well as the other extras produced for this release, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! is a must have DVD that belongs in every holiday repertoire.
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