The Grinch Who Stole Christmas appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For this release of Grinch, they finally got it right.
Sharpness seemed solid. No issues with delineation ever arose in this tight and concise presentation. I also failed to detect any signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement seemed to be absent. Unlike the prior Grinch DVDs, this one came almost totally free from source flaws. Other than a couple of small specks, the show looked very clean.
Colors excelled. The program offered a lot of bright primary hues and reproduced them well. These were tight and lively at all times. Blacks seemed dense and firm, while shadows looked clear and appropriate. Overall, I found much to like in this terrific presentation.
The monaural audio of Grinch was less pleasing. Music consistently sounded clean and reasonably vibrant; low end was lacking, but the general tone seemed fair. Both dialogue and effects were decent but usually flat and blah; there's a plainness to them that lacked treble and crispness. Boris Karloff’s narration sounded especially distant and wasn’t particularly natural. The Grinch audio seemed acceptable for material from the Sixties, but don’t expect much from them.
How did the picture and audio of this 2008 Deluxe Edition compare to those of prior releases? The 2008 disc represented approximately the 2783rd DVD release of Grinch, but the presentation most closely resembled the 2006 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. Expect the two to look and sound virtually identical, which made them big improvements over earlier releases.
This 2008 “Deluxe Edition” of Grinch includes almost everything from the 2006 DE. The only notable omission comes from the absence of Horton Hears a Who!, a program now gone since it got its own individual release. All the Grinch-related supplements reappear here, though, and we also get a few exclusive holiday specials.
I’ll discuss those first. Not found on prior Grinch DVDs, the 2008 includes 1981’s Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold (24:45), 1980’s Pinocchio’s Christmas (49:12) and 1978’s Stingiest Man in Town (49:51). The first two are stop-motion “Animagic” presentations, while Town is a regular cartoon with a visual style similar to that of Frosty the Snowman.
Perhaps due to its shorter than usual length, Gold provides a tremendously plot-heavy affair. Sure, it tosses in a few songs and some character moments, but usually it maintains a relentless focus on its tale. Not that there’s all that much to this inconsequential piece, especially since the lead character’s a moron. It’s an unusual spin on a Christmas special since we don’t normally – or ever, honestly – connect Leprechauns with the holiday, but it’s not a memorable show.
Speaking of characters not associated with Christmas, we move to Pinocchio. The show sounds like some sort of marketing synergy: “Kids love Pinocchio and Christmas, so let’s combine them!” Whatever crass motivation may have sparked this special, it’s actually not bad. It’s certainly superior to the other two bonus shows, and it has some good moments. Though I wouldn’t classify it on a level with the usual Christmas classic suspects, this one entertains.
Finally, Town finishes with yet another retelling of A Christmas Carol. Walter Matthau seems well cast in the role, but otherwise this presents a mediocre edition of the tale. It packs in too many bad songs and doesn’t do anything special to differentiate itself from all the other versions of Carol.
Dr. Seuss and the Grinch: From Whoville to Hollywood runs 15 minutes, 42 seconds as it mixes program clips, archival materials and interviews. We hear from author Kathleen Krull, “The Art of Dr. Seuss” curator Bill Dreyer, widows Audrey Geisel and Marian Jones, Dr. Seuss Rhymes and Reasons author Peter Jones, animation producer Paul Dini, and Seuss’ stepdaughter Lark Dimond-Cates. The show offers notes about Dr. Seuss’s life and career as well as info about his creations. We also learn a little about the TV adaptation of Grinch.
Some good details pop up here, though the format grates. In addition to lots of extraneous comments from various cute moppets, narration comes in the form of a dreadful rap tune. The show’s worth the look, but that rap makes me want to smash my TV.
A glorified form of chapter search, Song Selections lets you jump straight to any of the show's four tunes ("Opening Song", "Trim Up the Tree", "Welcome, Christmas", and "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch"). There’s also a “Play All” option to allow you to check out all four in sequence.
Pencil Test provides three sketches of the Grinch, while Who's Who In Whoville gives us brief biographies of director Chuck Jones, writer Dr. Seuss, and actors Boris Karloff and June Foray.
Next we find a TNT special about How the Grinch Stole Christmas that lasts 19 minutes and 15 seconds. Hosted by Phil Hartman, this 1995 program provides an excessively-cutesy but generally solid overview of The Grinch. We see then-new interviews with Chuck Jones, Dr. Seuss' widow Audrey Geisel, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" singer Thurl Ravenscroft, song composer Albert Hague, Grinch fans Tim Burton and Danny Elfman plus bits from Hartman and some archival footage from the production. In addition to his narration that connects the other segments and relates the story's history, Hartman offers "demonstrations" of animation technique and other aspects of filmmaking that are likely unknown to most of the public but will be very basic to more knowledgeable movie fans. Anyway, the show's clearly oriented toward a younger crowd, but it's a fairly fun and mildly informative piece.
Entitled Songs In the Key of Grinch, the next piece offers a collection of additional interviews with Hague and Ravenscroft. In these eight minutes worth of clips - which do not appear to be outtakes from the prior special - we learn a little more about their careers and their involvement in Grinch. It's a nice little addition to the material in the longer show.
Found on earlier releases but omitted from the 2006 DE, we get an audio commentary from animator Phil Roman and voice actor June Foray. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. Since the show only lasts 26 minutes, there's not a whole lot of depth to their comments. Frankly it's a disappointment the track doesn't feature Jones instead, but I found this piece to be generally enjoyable. Roman provides the most actual information, although Foray chimes in with some solid historical perspective as well. It's not a great commentary, but it's a nice addition that deserves a listen.
A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the “Classic Christmas Favorites” collection. In addition, the disc includes trailers for Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who,
Jack Frost, The Polar Express and Fred Claus.
This becomes the best DVD of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It offers an entertaining program that has endured for decades. Audio is mediocre, but picture quality seems very good, and the disc includes some nice extras. We find a very nice release here that seems like the strongest Grinch to date.
Note that as of September 2008, this particular Deluxe Edition of Grinch can only be found as part of a boxed set called “Classic Christmas Favorites”. The package also includes holiday specials such as The Year Without a Santa Claus, Frosty’s Winter Wonderland and Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July. With a list price of $39.98, it’s a good deal if you want all the shows, but I don’t think it’s worth that cost just to get this version of Grinch. If you don’t care about the other specials, just go with the 2006 50th Anniversary DE.
To rate this film, visit the Birthday Edition review of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS / HORTON HEARS A WHO!