Maurice Noble, Chuck Jones, Ted Geisel and Dr. Seuss

According to the book "Stepping into the Picture, Cartoon Designer Maurice Noble" by Robert J. McKinnon, Maurice Noble was delighted at the opportunity to work with Ted Geisel again 20 years after the war (that would be World War II, for you youngsters) where they had first met (Geisel was a Major in the film unit headed by Frank Capra and Noble was but a Corporal then) when Chuck Jones announced that he had secured the rights to produce "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and several other Dr. Seuss books in 1965.  

BG.LAYOUT.SC5.300 (Large) copy

Original background layout design by Maurice Noble for "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."  Gouache and colored pencil on 12 field (10.5" x 12.5") MGM animation paper.

"As work commenced on "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," it quickly became evident to Maurice that Dr. Seuss was a perfectionist, and everything had to be done "just right."  But he also realized that the famed author lived by the same credo to which he [Noble] had always subscribed–the production comes first–and this made working with Geisel a rewarding experience.  "Ted literally slaved over his books.  I know that sometimes he would take weeks to come up with just one line," said Noble.  "And he wanted to have as much care taken in the creation of the film.  When he made a criticism, it was never a personal thing; it was purely 'what is good for the production?'  So you would go over it again and again, and eventually get it so felt 'right.'  There was no animosity in terms of "This is my book and it must be done this way."  

BG.LAYOUT.SC15.300 copy

Original background layout design by Maurice Noble for "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."  Gouache and colored pencil on 12 field (10.5" x 12.5") MGM animation paper.

"When working with Geisel, Noble noticed that the author often spoke of Dr. Seuss in the third person.  "Sometimes I'd make a suggestion for the picture and he would say something like, 'Well, I think Dr. Seuss would do it this way.'  This was a typical remark.  It was as if Dr. Seuss was a separate creative personality."  

BG.LAYOUT.SC140.300 copy

Original background layout design by Maurice Noble for "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."  Graphite and colored pencil on 12 field (10.5" x 12.5") MGM animation paper.

Chuck Jones had this to say, according to McKinnon, "Authors use a lot of adverbs and adjectives, and when you get into our field, they're of no use to you.  So you have to translate into action what they've used as words… To me Maurice did a remarkable job translating into the style."

Regardless of the difficulties encountered by Jones and Noble in working with Geisel, the results speak for themselves.  The crew knew early on that they working on something special, much in the same way they felt about working on 1957's Warner Bros. masterpiece, "What's Opera, Doc?"  The production just had its own life and the possibility of being a great work of art.  

Leave a Reply

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


*