Green is good
THE GRINCH | Despicable Me studio Illumination tackles The Who Who Stole Christmas…
For an animator, attempting to remake How The Grinch Stole Christmas is to step into some fairly big ’toon boots. “The first memory I have of the story is from the Chuck Jones cartoon,” says director Yarrow Cheney. “It was such a big part of the holiday season for me growing up. Because that version is so wonderful, and so perfect, I really didn’t want to remake it. So I decided to go back to the original instead.”
Pushing aside Jones’ 1966 classic short (and completely ignoring Ron Howard’s 2000 live-action version starring Jim Carrey), Cheney and the rest of the Illumination team went back to Dr. Seuss’ 1957 picture book for inspiration.
“We wanted the book to be the anchor of absolutely everything we did,” he adds. “We looked at each illustration, each story point, each curve and angle, and we sort of filled in the gaps.” For Cheney, co-directing with Kevin Smith stalwart Scott Mosier and taking on his second feature after 2016’s
The Secret Life Of Pets, that meant finding the warmth in the Grinch’s famously cold heart – a guy who hates Christmas so much that he can’t even stand to see anyone else enjoying it.
“He starts out as a real jerk,” laughs Cheney. “But we don’t want people to not like the Grinch. He should be grumpy, but likeable. He lashes out, but only because he’s hurt. It’s a fine line, but we knew we didn’t want a caricature of meanness.”
Casting Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of the Grinch (“We needed someone who can do everything from subtle humour and wacky slapstick to real emotional depth, and there’s just no one better,” says Cheney), the biggest problem for the animators was figuring out how to make his world look convincingly Christmassy.
“Every single character in our film is covered in fur, and to make matters more difficult, everything else is covered with snow. So you’ve got furry characters trudging through snow, and the snow has to stick to their fur… Literally every pixel was a technical challenge. If the Grinch wore Lycra and lived somewhere sunny, it definitely would have been a whole lot easier!”
ETA | 9 NOVEMBER / THE GRINCH OPENS NEXT MONTH.