The Grinch is back on the big screen. Universal’s highly anticipated remake of the 1960s holiday classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, made its debut, “stealing” the box office with an estimated $70 million in ticket sales on its opening weekend, according to Variety. The much-needed update fills in the blanks about the mean green Grinch (now voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) who hates Christmas and those happy Whos in Whoville.
In a new interview with Insider, directors Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney talked about how they became involved with the of The Grinch despite the fact that the story has been told several times in the past.
Mosier revealed that he grew up reading the famous Dr. Seuss book and watching the annual airings of the 1966 Chuck Jones animated TV special. The Grinch director added that he was approached by Illumination head Chris Meledandri for a modern-day remake of the classic story, admitting he felt a mixture of excitement and fear over the idea.
“Excitement over being able to work on The Grinch, which is just, I think, a sort of timeless story, ” he said. “But, also, intimidated, because it is a timeless story, and if I screw it up, my first chance directing, I’ll never live it down.”
Cheney also said it was a project he took very seriously out of respect for the original story.
“We grew up with the Chuck Jones version and that was such a beautifully done version, visually, storytelling, the animation, everything was so wonderful. We didn’t want to do another version of, you know, another iteration of an iteration of the story, and so we really tried to go back to the original book as our starting point for everything. I think it was very important to us to really tap into Dr. Seuss’ initial… the first version of that character, the first version of that story, and, really, to have everything grow out of that as much as we could.”
Indeed, The Grinch has been described as “an origin story” by Meledandri, who teased the project at Comic-Con Las Vegas earlier this year, per the Hollywood Reporter.
Mosier did admit that taking on the story of the classic Christmas character was “daunting.”
“The key for us was to make sure that we met those expectations of this character who sort of delights in being mean, but, also, bring the movie to a modern audience, dig a little deeper into the Grinch’s story of why he steals Christmas, and from his childhood of isolation and loneliness, and to really build an emotional arc for this character that could make this movie be very reverent and in the spirit of all those things that have preceded it, but, also, be a new document of this amazing property.”
Cheney explained that taking “a very small book” and turning it into a 3D animated feature film meant researching other Seuss properties for reference in order to “build out the world” of the Whoville residents, and then fill in their stories as needed.
“One of the things that I think on this film and in creating this place and these characters in Whoville is the risk has always been that, you know, we didn’t want that place and these people to seem just default happy, saccharine, just a postcard version of a happy, Christmas town. We wanted it to feel like a real place, with real people, with real problems. They have real lives. … The Grinch is a character who is, in our film, has a broken heart. He’s been hurt in his life, and, because of that, he’s isolated himself.”
The original story of The Grinch first appeared in the October 1957 issue of Redbook magazine. A few weeks after the story “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” appeared in the women’s magazine, Random House released the published version of the story, on Nov. 24. 1957, and in 1966, Chuck Jones’s animated take on the tale debuted on CBS.
The original cartoon feature was animated by Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss himself) and starred Boris Karloff as the narrator and voice of the Grinch. The theme song “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch” was performed by Thurl Ravenscroft, a.k.a. Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes pitchman, Tony the Tiger.
In 2000, a live-action version of the story, directed by Ron Howard and starring Jim Carrey, snagged big ticket sales but received mixed reviews as it was compared to the 1966 classic.
The Grinch is in theaters now. You can watch a trailer for the movie below.