Illumination Entertainment and Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel’s widow, Audrey Geisel, have collaborated on the profitable computer-animated versions of the latter’s late husband’s books, Horton Hears a Who! and The Lorax. Their relationship continues on, with developing CGI feature-takes on The Cat in the Hat and, now, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, in addition to a Dr. Seuss biopic that Johnny Depp is backing.
Universal is distributing the animated Grinch retelling, which is currently seeking a screenwriter to transform the original illustrated story into a narrative that sustains a full-length feature. Nonetheless, insiders say this project is lining up to become the next Illumination/Seuss adaptation in theaters (even though Cat in the Hat has been in the planning for almost a year now).
Similar to Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas – telling the story of the eponymous green grump and his attempt to ruin the holidays for citizens of Who-ville – originated as one of Dr. Seuss’ popular children’s stories, before it went on to become a cherished animated short in 1966. Jump forward to the 21st century and both books were given a live-action makeover starring a not-so-kid-friendly comedic superstar (Jim Carrey, in the case of Ron Howard’s Grinch movie). While Howard’s film was a box office hit – grossing $345 million worldwide on a $123 million budget – it “helped” convince Audrey Geisel that her late husband’s work is better fit for the animation medium.
Variety is confirming that A. Geisel is executive producing (her third movie after Horton and Lorax), reteaming with Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri as producer. It’s worth noting the plan is to retain the three-act structure of Dr. Seuss’ source material, rather than incorporating new subplots and tangents to fill out the running time (a la Howard’s adaptation, which gave Carrey’s Grinch a backstory and love interest, among other things); though, there will surely be more development time devoted to characters like Cindy Lou Who, similar to how The Once-ler was fleshed out in The Lorax.
Directing duties are assigned to Pete Candeland, an animation veteran who got his start working on 1990s Disney cartoons like Bonkers and the Aladdin TV series spinoff, in addition to direct-to-video releases The Return of Jafar and Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas; he thereafter worked on music videos for The Gorillaz and is currently developing the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride movie, but The Grinch marks his feature-length helming debut.
Regardless, after Horton Hears a Who!, Despicable Me and The Lorax (read our review), it’s apparent that Illumination has a set formula it uses for making an all-ages appropriate 3D animated feature; that includes, lots of bells and whistles for younger moviegoers – bright colors, extra-cutesy supporting characters, hyper-cartoony world physics – and a celebrity-voiced cast cracking the occasional ‘adult’ joke, for older viewers. However, with the Seuss adaptations so far, the important moral substance and life lessons have remained intact – thanks in no small part to Audrey Geisel’s ongoing efforts – and we expect as much to be true for this new animated Grinch. Take (or leave) that for what it’s worth.
More on How the Grinch Stole Christmas as the story develops.