A Very Grinchy Christmas

November 4, 2023 – January 21, 2024

“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot.  But the Grinch who lived just North of Whoville did not.”
from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, published 1957

It began as a children’s book on the biggest theft in history.  Then it transformed into a classic television special.

On December 18, 1966, 3.8 million people tuned in to CBS-TV to witness the birth of what would become one of the most watched holiday specials in the history of American television – “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

The made-for-television, 26-minute animated story by legendary animation director Chuck Jones (of Looney Tunes fame), was based on the 1957 book by Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss). Featuring a grouchy curmudgeon who tries to ruin Christmas, it went on to become an instant holiday classic, beloved by generations.

The Upcountry History Museum will celebrate the holiday season with the small-hearted creature who hates it the most, when it hosts A Very Grinchy Christmas. The special exhibition, featuring over 150 original animation cels, Dr. Seuss sketches, backgrounds, and ephemera, will make its Southeastern U.S. debut in Greenville, SC.

The exhibition items – selected from a private collection – illustrate Jones’ approach to adapting the story for the screen. In contrast to the book’s black, white, and red palette, Chuck Jones unleashed a riotous array of vivid colors to depict the story’s settings and characters.  The 1966 film, narrated by Boris Karloff, showcased Jones’s unparalleled character animation and comic timing, creating an utterly believable, villainous – but ultimately redeemed – Grinch that became the standard for all subsequent adaptations.

Whereas today’s studios and production companies provide project funding, television specials of the past, like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, had to rely on company sponsorship in order to get made.  With storyboards in hand, Jones pitched the Grinch to more than two dozen potential sponsors – breakfast foods and candy companies – without any luck.  Down to the wire, he finally found a sponsor in an unlikely source – the Foundation for Commercial Banks.  Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation.

Funny, heartwarming, and visually stunning, the exhibition will reflect both the book and the television special’s universal story about the spirit of giving and the indomitable power of optimism.

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