Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the Blu-ray Combo Pack reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are the writer's own.
Released on October 23, because it's never too early to start getting folks buying stuff for Christmas, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Ultimate Edition was made available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.
Based on his 1957 book of the same name, Dr. Seuss teamed with legendary animator Chuck Jones and created a TV special in 1966 that has become a perennial holiday favorite for many. Boris Karloff narrates and voices the Grinch, a nasty creature with a heart two sizes too small who can't stand the gleeful manner the Whos of Who-ville celebrate Christmas. The Grinch decides to stop it by posing as "Santy Claus" and stealing all the decorations, food, and gifts. In the end, he learns the true meaning of Christmas.
The special is both sweet and funny, providing a touching message to viewers and containing humorous sequences, such as the Grinch and his dog/reindeer Max approaching Who-ville on their sleigh and his criminal antics that accompany the delightful "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" performed by an uncredited Thurl Ravenscroft.
Choosing not to go in chronological order, next up is the 1982 Emmy-winning special The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat, which finds Dr. Seuss working with another legend in the animation field, Friz Freleng, on his last project for DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, though it actually got farmed out to Marvel Productions. Mason Adams is the narrator and the voice of the Cat in the Hat. The Grinch, who now looks more like Seuss' book illustration than Jones' version, is voiced by Bob Holt.
The story seems to have rebooted the character as his heart is clearly two sizes too small again because when the program begins, he's "uncheerful, uncouth, and unclean" as well as "frightfully mean." The Grinch encounters the Cat, whose vehicle is "blockerizing and obstructivating" the roadway, and finds ways to bother him, using a Vacusound Sweeper and a darkhouse to mess with sound and light. But the Cat finally realizes how to get to the Grinch.
The animation is marvelous as the Grinch messes with the Cat in the final segment. There are six songs during the 24-minute special. I was surprised it was written by Seuss as there seems to be an over abundance of nonsense words, like someone trying to emulate him. It took a bit to get used to new voices for the characters.
Halloween is Grinch Night with Hans Conried as the Grinch and narrator is a 1977 Emmy-winning special by Seuss and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. In Who-ville, a sour-sweet wind blows, which calls forth the Grinch, who has eyebrows that are able to leave his face. A young Who named Ukariah with poor eyesight gets lost on the way to the outhouse, and encounters the Grinch. Working up his courage, Ukariah stalls the Grinch in hopes of stopping. The Grinch tries to scare him, but there's no other connection to Halloween. This is another story that has rebooted the character because we find him mean and nasty again and it suggests he can only come down from Mount Crumpit when the sour-sweet wind blows. His dog Max appears.
Likely the same as previous releases, the video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The colors appear in bright hues. The Grinch appears a different shade of green in each special. Blacks are inky and whites look accurate, contributing to a strong contrast. The Halloween special features night exteriors so colors are a tad darker. The line work is well defined, but some times the colors spill over.
The audio is available in Dolby Digital 2.0, which is adequate and understandable considering the age of the titles, but it's too bad more hasn't been done with it. The dialogue is clear and music has good clarity.
The Special Features are from previous releases:
- Making Animation and Bringing It to Life (26 min) - An audio commentary track by June Foray, who voiced Cindy Lou Who and animator Phil Roman who considers himself “fortunate enough to have worked on this classic.”
- Dr. Seuss and the Grinch - From Whoville to Hollywood (SD, 16 min) - A bio on Ted Geisel and how the special came together. There's rapping narration, which works because the lyrics rhyme. In additional to knowledgeable folks like Paul Dini, there are children offering their thoughts.
- Songs in the Key of Grinch (SD, 8 min) - Composer Albert Hague and singer Thurl Ravenscroft talk about working on the project. Hague was surprised he wasn't asked to work on any other cartoons, and that makes two of us.
- Who's Who in Whoville - text bios on Chuck Jones, Dr. Seuss, Boris Karloff, and June Foray
- Grinch Song Selections - Available as a Play All (HD, 4 min) option, this feature offers access to the four songs and accompanying video from the original special: “Opening Song,” 'Trim Up the Tree,” Welcome, Christmas,” and “You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”
- TNT's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (SD, 19 min) - Phil Hartman hosts a look at the making of the TV special from those involved and famous fans like Tim Burton and Danny Elfman.
- Grinch Pencil Test is an image gallery.
Likely tying into the new animated feature film, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Ultimate Edition is an entertaining release that collects the Grinch's TV specials. The Blu-ray offers good video, adequate though underwhelming audio, and previously released extras. If not in the library, it's worth owning, but there's nothing here for a double dip.