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About The Production (Cont'd)
The Grand Heist
Gadgets, Gizmos and More

The first things Grinch fans will notice is the transformation of the Grinch's lonely, dank cave into a multi-level lair packed with hi-tech gadgets and gizmos. "Caves, by definition, can be dark, close, wet and a bit scary to most of us," Healy says. "So it was a challenge to find a way to incorporate the beauty of caves, with their lovely bands of undulating color and often mysterious lighting. We strove for roomy organic spaces that open into one another, with big inviting rooms, part-earth and part-fabricated, where the Grinch and Max can build an interesting comfortable life together in solitude, homemaking and inventing whimsical contraptions."

Because he's been isolated for so long, the Grinch has come up with ingenious ways to simplify his life. He has a full-body blow dryer, for instance, that turns him into an instant green fuzz-ball, and he's come up with some creative ways to make Max a full-service dog. "Just the way he makes a cup of coffee is the most elaborate coffee maker you've ever seen, with all of these steps and stages and chambers," Meledandri says. "It's something Max does for him every morning - brings the Grinch his breakfast" with the aid of a dumbwaiter and a helmet tray. "It's clearly a contraption that the Grinch has built."

The filmmakers decided to apply that same design aesthetic to the Grinch's scheme to steal Christmas - and crank it up to 11. "When we started to work on the story, we realized that while we knew that the Grinch steals Christmas, we didn't really know how he manages to do it," Meledandri says. "We felt like that was a great opportunity, and we began to approach stealing Christmas like this grand heist."

And to steal Christmas, the Grinch would have to pull out all the stops. He fashions a helicopter-drone contraption for Max, which sends the dog zooming at top speed through the streets of Whoville on a reconnaissance mission. And the heist itself is something to behold. "The film has this almost-magical sequence where it's Christmas Eve and the Grinch is finally ready to embark, and we watch him manage to get through every house in this town in a matter of hours," Meledandri says. As part of his dastardly duties, he deploys towering accordion stilts, and a massive candy cane that serves multiple amazing functions.

"One of the things we did very deliberately was make Whoville so big that it seemed an impossible place to steal Christmas from in just one night," Cheney says. "The impossible nature of that task demands that the Grinch be creative. How is he going to pull off this impossible heist? With a customized sleigh, Max's multi-purpose antler and a giant Swiss Army Knife candy cane. That candy cane is a net-launcher, a mini helicopter, a flashlight, a grappling hook, and it has tiny peppermint wheels for decelerating down chimneys."

All of which results in a jaw-dropping sequence of ingenuity and mechanical splendor. "There's all of this mechanized activity, and it's done with all sorts of almost Rube Goldberg-esque devices," Meledandri says. "It's thrilling to watch."


Writing The Grinch required screenwriters Tommy Swerdlow and Michael LeSieur to seamlessly integrate Geisel's original language with new narration and dialogue. Swerdlow had worked, years earlier, with Meledandri on the film Cool Runnings, and Meledandri knew that he was as deft with poetry as he was with prose. "We went to Tommy when we were looking for a new Seussian rhyme, because Tommy is a wonderful poet," Meledandri says. "And he started just helping us with the rhyming narration and then ultimately that transitioned into working side-by-side with all of us on the script over a number of years."

LeSieur had been instrumental in figuring out the structure and direction of the story. "Michael came in early and over about eighteen months helped us do all the initial excavation, really defining the foundation of the movie," Meledandri says. "These films happen over a number of years and the team that joins together over that time to realize the movie is like an evolving, living organism."

Invaluable to that team is Meledandri's long-time producing partner, Healy. "Making one of these movies is such a massive undertaking and I've been blessed with the most incredible partner in Janet Healy," Meledandri says. "She plays such a critical role in virtually every facet of the film making. And we were fortunate to be joined on this film by a new collaborator, Latifa Ouaou, who has become one of our team of executive producers, and who came in and focused on the Grinch and brought a wonderful sense of storytelling and great comedic timing. She has made just a rich, rich contribution to the film and will be going on to work with us on many more movies."

Healy, who is based in Paris, says that she and Meledandri have created an ideal working partnership over their 12 years and eight films together. "We communicate pretty much daily between Los Angeles and Paris, so we now have a great shorthand between us," Healy says. "We also have huge respect for our complimentary talents, and share similar tastes and a deep love of movies: we love making films and we love seeing films." Together, they have approximately 80 years of combined experience, which allows them to quickly identify and be attentive to critical decisions. "We have developed a very precise way of pushing the material on a weekly basis into and through the production pipeline, and we always know where we are in terms of resources so we can gage what parts can continue to iterate for improvement," she says. "We both are quite relentless and we want to make our films the very best they can be, given the always-present constraints of time and money. It is hugely satisfying to bring the Illumination films to global audiences, no matter their ages. I can truthfully say working with Chris is an enormous privilege, a wonderful adventure and a complete joy for me every day."

The Score

Danny Elfman's long and storied career as a composer has covered an impossibly vast range of musical styles and films - from Bettlejuice to Batman, Scrooged to Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas to Spider-Man, but the stars had never aligned for him to work on an Illumination film until now. "The music is truly the third leg of storytelling, along with the script and the visuals, and for The Grinch we envisioned a really immersive musical landscape," Meledandri says. "Danny is someone I've talked to about collaborating with for probably twenty years, and we just never have had the opportunity to do so. And for The Grinch, I just couldn't think of anybody better whose music could be evocative in a way that could support both the fanciful part of this world, but also touch on the emotion and also support and drive comedy." Plus, much like with the script, the music had to meld perfectly with the style of "Welcome Christmas" from the TV special, plus a new version of "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," and a new original song, "I Am The Grinch," both by Tyler, The Creator.

It was an epic task, in other words, and Elfman was the first and only choice. "He is simply extraordinary as a musician, and we have had a tremendous time working with him," Meledandri says. "My secret hope is that one day we could have a Hollywood Bowl viewing of the film with a live orchestra playing Danny's music. It's that good."

Elfman says that he'd long wanted to work with Illumination, and with The Grinch, it seemed like the ideal time and project. "On so many levels it seemed right that this is the movie we should be doing together," Elfman says. "I met with Chris, and I just had a good feeling about Illumination and their vision for the film. Also, on a personal front, it has been 25 years since I did the score for The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was inspired by the story of the Grinch, and by the rhythms and rhymes of Dr. Seuss, and so that felt kind of perfect to me: like two sides of a circle being joined by the same source."

In fact, Elfman had a close connection to Dr. Seuss. He had met years earlier with Theodor Geisel, before Geisel's death in 1991, to discuss a musical version of the Seuss book Oh, The Places You'll Go. "We never got to do it, sadly, but I do feel a kind of kinship to Dr. Seuss and his work," Elfman says. "I grew up on it; it's what my mother read to me at bedtime, and it was part of my subconscious world."

For the score, Elfman knew that the filmmakers, including directors Mosier and Cheney, with whom he worked closely, wanted the music to connect with both a new version of the song, "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," and the classic song sung by the Whos on Christmas morning, "Welcome Christmas." From that starting point, Elfman says, "I started inventing ways to pull 'Welcome Christmas' into the score, sometimes in a subtle way and sometimes in a more obvious one. I ended up dropping into it maybe half a dozen times, which I really enjoyed."

Elfman's favorite parts of the score to write were for new scenes created for the film, which detail the Grinch's childhood, which wasn't a happy one. "Those scenes with his memories, that's when I felt I got to really open up and write narratively in a way that I really enjoy," Elfman says. "That's the kind of work that really gets my excitement up." He pauses and laughs. "You know, something really sad."

"You're A Mean One"

The filmmakers knew they didn't want to change the iconic Who Christmas song, "Welcome Christmas," but for the other memorable song from the TV special, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," they wanted to shake things up a bit for a new generation. "We wanted to find an expression of it that was a throwback to the roots of that song, but create a new version that we could really own," Meledandri says. (Fun fact: the original song was performed not by Boris Karloff, as many believe, but by voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft, who is best known as the voice of Tony the Tiger in the Kellogg's Frosted Flakes commercials.)

So with their vision to modernize the song, Meledandri and team approached famed musician, artist and record producer Tyler, The Creator. "Tyler, The Creator, is an artist I really love and he's such a perfect collaborator for Illumination," Meledandri says. "He's incredibly visual, and he's really interested in so many of the things that we love here, like character, color. He has the most unbelievable sense of color, shape and silhouette, and melody."

Elfman was impressed. "I thought, 'Wow, that's kind of an interesting choice,'" he says. He would later work with Tyler to coordinate the film's musical themes and pacing with Tyler's song. "I met with Tyler and thought, 'Oh, yeah, this is going to work," Elfman says. "When he presented his song, I thought of all kinds of ways I could do the arrangement that would make it work well with the film."

Directors Mosier and Cheney, and executive producer Ouaou all shared Meledandri and Elfman's enthusiasm, especially because this was new territory for the musician. "He really was going into terrain that he hadn't been in before," Meledandri says. The result, "You're a Mean One," is sure to make the song relevant - and deeply cool - to a whole new generation. "I'm the first new song in the movie," Tyler says. "That's hot."

"I Am the Grinch"

The original plan was that Tyler would write just a new version of "You're a Mean One," for the film, but then he got inspired and wrote an entirely new song, "I Am The Grinch," which plays over the film's end credits. "The plan was one song, but I ended up giving them more and they seemed to like it," Tyler says. "I hope the songs fit into the movie really well."

They do. "He's an incredibly creative guy," says Elfman, who was the first to hear the new track. "I went into his studio to work with him on some other Grinch stuff, and he said, 'Oh, I just wrote this this morning,' and he played me that song. I said, "Jesus, you did this this morning? This is great."


Illumination, founded by Academy Award nominee Chris Meledandri in 2007, is one of the entertainment industry's leading producers of event-animated films. The company's franchises include three of the top-eight animated films of all time, and its iconic, beloved brands-infused with memorable and distinct characters, global appeal and cultural relevance-have grossed more than $5.8 billion worldwide.

Illumination was recently honored by Fast Company as one of the world's most innovative companies.

Illumination, which has an exclusive financing and distribution partnership with Universal Pictures, has garnered an extraordinary number of franchise successes for a studio just over a decade old. As the creator of the hugely successful world of Despicable Me, which was recently crowned the top-grossing box-office animated franchise globally, Illumination has evolved the Despicable Me series to include Minions, the third-highest-grossing animated film of all time and the most profitable film in Universal's history, as well as the Academy Award- nominated Despicable Me 2 and summer 2017's Despicable Me 3, which made more than $1 billion at the global box office

In 2016 alone, Illumination launched two original properties that captivated audiences worldwide. That year, The Secret Life of Pets achieved the best opening for an original movie, animated or otherwise, in U.S. history. Likewise, the critically lauded holiday favorite Sing premiered to a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival before becoming a global smash.

Founded 11 years ago with the mission of putting a smile on the face of every member of the audience, no matter their age, Illumination continues to imagine both original stories, as well as unexpected adaptations of beloved pre-existing works. By infusing joy and discovery into every property, the studio allows audiences to connect their experiences with each property to the Illumination brand itself.

With successful mobile games, consumer products and social/digital media, Illumination's franchises-populated with characters that are as comedic as they are heartfelt and authentic-translate far beyond the theater. "Despicable Me: Minion Rush" has now become the fifth-most popular app game ever, while Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, has been joined by Universal Studios Japan - where the Minions are the No. 1 licensed character - with its wildly popular Minion Park.

Illumination's upcoming films-featuring creative contributors from an unparalleled collection of writers, artists, voice talent and musicians- include The Secret Life of Pets 2 in June 2019, Minions 2 in July 2020, and Sing 2 in December 2020.


Theodor Seuss Geisel, who published under the name Dr. Seuss, first created the Grinch for "The Hoobub and The Grinch," a 32-line illustrated poem that debuted in Redbook magazine in May 1955. In that poem, the Grinch is a con man who persuades The Hoobub, who's happily drowsing in the sun, to trade the sun for a piece of green string.

By that point in 1955, Geisel, at 51, had written, with his then-wife Helen, the 1947 Oscar-winning documentary, Design for Death, about the history of Japan that lead to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, had become a successful illustrator for magazines and had published fifteen books, including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, and Horton Hears a Who! But his most productive years, resulting in the most acclaimed work of his career, were still ahead of him.

In early 1957 he had just completed The Cat in the Hat, and had begun work on what became How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Geisel's inspiration for the character had come from a surprising place that previous Christmas: himself. "I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noticed a very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror," he later told Redbook. "It was Seuss! So I wrote about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I'd lost."

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! tells the story of a grumpy misanthrope who lives in a cave on Mt. Crumpet with his dog, Max. He generally avoids the people of Whoville in the valley below, but every year their massive Christmas celebrations, where all the "noise, noise, noise, noise," especially their singing, drives him to distraction. He decides to steal Christmas, and, posing as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, he strips the town of every toy, trinket, tree and trace of tinsel. But, as he teeters with his towering sleigh above Whoville on Christmas morning, he hears not the sound of crying, but the sound of singing. His realization that Christmas means more than just presents and decorations makes his heart grow "three sizes that day," and he trumpets his way back into town to return all their presents and holiday trappings and to join the festivities.

Geisel wrote the book quickly, in a matter of weeks. According to the 1995 biography, Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel, by Judith Morgan and Neil Morgan, Geisel said it was the easiest book of his career to write, but he struggled with how to end it in a way that felt universal and secular. "I got hung up getting the Grinch out of the mess," Geisel said. "I got into a situation where I sounded like a second-rate preacher. Finally, in desperation, without making any statement whatever, I showed the Grinch and the Whos together at the table, and made a pun of the Grinch carving the 'roast beast.' I had gone through thousands of religious choices, and then after three months it came out like that." Published by Random House in 1957, the same year as The Cat and the Hat, Grinch was the first Seuss book with a seeming villain as its protagonist, and it became an instant critical darling. "Even if you prefer Dr. Seuss in a purely antic mood, you must admit that if there's a moral to be pointed out, no one can do it more gaily," The New York Times wrote in its review. "The reader is swept along by the ebullient rhymes and the weirdly zany pictures until he is limp with relief when the Grinch reforms and, like the latter, mellow with good feelings." Kirkus Review declared the Grinch character, "easily the best Christmas-cad since Scrooge." Almost a decade later, the book was adapted into a TV special directed by Chuck Jones, starring the voice of Boris Karloff as both the Grinch and The Narrator. For the special, Geisel himself wrote the lyrics to the now iconic Christmas song, "Welcome Christmas," and the classic, "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch." The special first aired on CBS on December 18, 1966, and would go on to be broadcast on the network each December for the next 22 years, embedding How the Grinch Stole Christmas! into the national consciousness. In 2004, TV Guide ranked it at the top of its list of the 10 Best Family Holiday Specials. Over the years, it would become an annual viewing event for generations of families, a joyous new holiday tradition that also served as a poignant reminder of the true meaning of the Christmas season: love, forgiveness and kindness.


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