How to Draw Max

On the way to the final version of the faithful (and all-knowing) dog, Max, in Chuck Jones' "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" there were several iterations.  We know from Chuck's writing that he drew (pun intended) on a little terrier his family had in the teens of the last century in developing the character of Max, and of course, there were all those other dogs (Frisky Puppy, Charlie Dog, Mark Antony) that helped guide Max's final look.


In this early model sheet of 'Old Max' you can see how much thinner and perhaps even a little more Seussian he looks than he does in the final footage of the film.  Chuck wrote about Max, "Max moves awkwardly.  He was not the most graceful of dogs, and he was not built right to sit up.  His toppling over when the Grinch uses him as a dress dummy harked back to a fox terrier my father once bought.  This poor little fox terrier was the only dog I've ever known who was a complete nonentity.  He would have had to move up to become a wimp.  He could not sit up, he had a negligible tail, and his entire body came to a point.  This fact was overlooked by my father (who believed he could teach anybody anything) in his determination to teach this dog to "By God, sit up!"  Father would prop the poor little thing up, stick his powerful finger at the terrier's nose, and bark, "Sit up!"  Balanced on his bony coccyx, the sad little creature would topple slowly and inexorably over.

"Several of these dismal failures only proved to my father that the dog wasn't trying, so he became harsher in his demands to "Sit!"  Then my mother advised him to try propping the dog up in the corner of the room.  At that point, we four children were no longer able to muffle our hilarity, so turning savagely on us (figuring we were to blame) he ordered us upstairs, while he duly propped the little dog in the corner.  Upstairs we had the benefit of pillow and blanket to stifle our laughter, which became more and more intense as we heard "Sit!" then a sliding sound, a thump, a curse, followed by another "Sit!"

"I was six years old, and I tucked this little dog away in my memory until I needed him play the part of Max.  I am often asked, "What is the source of your inspiration?" and after more than sixty years in animation, this is the only source I can honestly identify.  So perhaps that sad, pointy dog served a purpose, after all."

And one of the final model sheets used by the animators during the production of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"  You can see how Max became a little softer, a little rounder, a little more lovable-looking, if you will, as the development of the film progressed.  Don't you just want to give him a hug?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *