How the Grinch Stole Christmas 1996 vs 2000

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Zachary Gadams

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a popular Christmas story written by the famous poet and children’s author, Dr. Seuss. Published in 1957, it chronicles the tale of the Grinch, a reclusive green creature who hates holidays, especially Christmas. The Grinch comes down from his mountain hideout to interfere with the holidays. Throughout the events of the story the Grinch is taught the true meaning Christmas by Cindy Lou Who, a young girl living in Whoville, a town that loves Christmas. The story has spawned many pieces of media and multiple movie adaptations, including a 1966 short film and a 2000 live action movie. 

Each movie has a different spin upon the classic story. In the 1966 animated short How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch, with the help of his dog Max, steals everything related to Christmas from Whoville with the goal of crushing their Christmas spirit. Expecting to be met with melancholy, his heist is instead met with joyful caroling. The Grinch is taught that the true meaning of Christmas is not found in the presents or the carnival, but in the innate spirit of the holidays. He returns everything he stole and is welcomed into Whoville’s celebration. The film focuses primarily on the meaning of Christmas and the concept of optimism and immaterialism, and the redemption of the Grinch as a character. 

The 2000 movie puts a very different spin on the story of the Grinch and expands upon the original story. It creates a backstory for the Grinch as an outcast resident of Whoville who escapes to the mountains after being humiliated at school during the Christmas season. Throughout the movie the Grinch does multiple things to interfere with Whoville’s celebrations such as sabotaging the post system, during which he encounters Cindy Lou Who. Cindy is saved by the Grinch from being crushed by a hydraulic press, albeit he is the one who put her in danger. She begins to see the Grinch as a sympathetic figure and attempts to get him to participate in the Whoville Christmas celebration. The Grinch is convinced by Cindy and reluctantly attends, where he is humiliated by the cruel and arrogant mayor of Whoville. Angered by the experience, the Grinch hatches his iconic plan to “steal” Christmas. From this point on the story is largely the same. The Grinch’s scheme succeeds, but he is moved by Whoville’s singing, returns everything he stole and celebrates Christmas with the rest of Whoville. 

The movies differ greatly in their telling of Seuss’ classic Christmas story. The 1966 animated short focuses primarily on the redemption of the Grinch, not on his character. The theft of Christmas is the only storyline, and the Grinch, Cindy Lou Who, and Max are the only named characters. It closely follows the book and teaches people to find value outside of material things, and that everyone deserves a second chance. 

The 2000 movie, on the other hand, takes many creative liberties. They portray the Grinch as a sympathetic character, giving him a tragic backstory. It gives the story a true villain in the mayor of Whoville and fleshes out more side characters. There are subplots meant to flesh out the story, making it much longer. The movie has a much different tone than the original. The 2000 film has much stranger visuals and unique character designs. The Grinch’s actions are exaggerated, and the fictional world of the Grinch is far more fantastic and ridiculous. 

Ultimately the movies seek to achieve different things. The 2000 edition seeks to expand upon the classic story of the Grinch and its universe, whereas the 1966 film stays faithful to the source material. In the end, while it could be argued that the creative absurdity of the 2000 movie better embodies the unique quality of Seuss’ writing, the 1966 film certainly tells the story better. The 2000 edition suffers from trying to do too much, many of the plot points feel crammed into the movie, and the animated version has a more succinct and effective delivery.