Tag Archives: Dr. Seuss

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.  

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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."  

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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."  

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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.  

about Boris Karloff, the man whose voice tells the story…

That's the title at the top of the page from the MGM press booklet for the 1966 Chuck Jones-directed animated television special, "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" that introduces Boris Karloff. It goes on to reveal some fascinating aspects of Karloff's character and reads in part:

"When it comes to villains, Boris Karloff is the epitome, so for Dr. Seuss' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS–a tale of a Christmas villain, Karloff is the appropriate narrator.

"Both Jones and Dr. Seuss agreed that Boris Karloff was the only man to tell the tale over the colorful animated film.  The choice was not so much for the association with Karloff's monster roles (although the Grinch is somewhat of a monster in the beginning of the story) but because of the rich mellow voice of this distinguished actor.  He can sound miserable and mean on the one hand, and bright and cheerful on the other–both qualities necessary to the story of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS.

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Chuck Jones and Boris Karloff during the taping of the audio for the animated film, "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

"Through the years, Karloff has played literally hundreds of different characters–so many that he honestly can't remember them all… In fact, this past year has been a busy one for him at MGM, where he also did the role of Mother Muffin in an episode of "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.", and still another character portrayal in the MGM feature presentation, "The Venetian Affair".

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The multi-page Press Book (each page hand-typed!) from MGM for the release of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

"Today, Karloff commutes between Hollywood and London, where he maintains a flat, and a cottage in Hampshire.  Says he, "You know, it's a funny thing, when I'm in England and I speak of California–that's home, but when I'm here, I think of England as home".  

"His chief interests are flower gardens, poetry and the stage.  He's an avid fan of cricket and Rugby football–in all, quite a mild, cultured, soft spoken English gentleman–a complete contrast to most of his menacing characters on the screen."

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Original pencil on animation paper drawing of Boris Karloff as the Grinch (with the Cat in the Hat hat on) by Chuck Jones; created during the audio taping of Karloff's narration of the classic animated film.  

Image of the Day: Horton Hears a Who!

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Original storyboard (5.75” x 6.5”) by Chuck
Jones, mixed media (graphite, watercolor & colored pencil) on MGM
storyboard paper for his 1970 television special, "Horton Hears a Who!"

Preliminary work began on the second Dr. Seuss
and Chuck Jones collaboration before their “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole
Christmas” even aired.  This included not
only pre-production watercolors by Jones, but also layout designs by the
inimitable Maurice Noble.  However, it
would be four more years before their labors would bear fruit and the special
would make its premier, March
19th, 1970
on U.S. television.   

 

Chuck Jones Gallery: Spotlight on San Diego

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Our southern California consultants got together yesterday at the beautiful Chuck Jones Gallery in San Diego for a conference led by the amazing Greg Winston (see photo below.)  The gallery is located at 232 Fifth Avenue, in the heart of San Diego's famed GasLamp District, and is just wrapping up an incredible exhibit of rare Dr. Seuss editions (on paper, canvas & sculpture, too!) 

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When you first enter the gallery you're greeted by the life-size bronze sculpture of Dr. Seuss' Lorax (who has a permanent home on the campus of the University of California–San Diego.) 

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The gallery is designed in such a way that although it's a big loft-like space, it has areas that evoke the intimate feeling of your own home. 

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There are, of course, big dramatic architectural gestures that perfectly frame the featured art of, in this case, Marcus Pierson.

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With all of its nooks & crannies, you can spend hours enjoying the artwork & finding that one (or more!) special works of art that will be a perfect addition to your collection.

Gallery director, Mike Dicken, and his staff are busy getting ready for Comic Con International which opens Thursday, July 22nd and runs through Sunday, July 25th.  The gallery will be host to two incredible artists on Thursday and Friday evenings (see your invitation below) as well as weekend signings with Anthony Winn and Mike Kungl.  Make your plans to attend & remember to RSVP at 888-294-9880 or via email, SanDiego@ChuckJones.com.

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Show postcard 6 x 11 back copy

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Our southern California staff from left rear: Scott Dicken (V.P. of retail,) Greg Winston (conference leader,) Erin Liddell, Bob Parker, Joel Shapiro, San Diego art consultants and Mike Dicken, National Sales Director.  Front row from left: Carla Miramontes, San Diego art consultant and Chris Scardino, Tustin art consultant and teaching artist for the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity in Orange.

We look forward to seeing you this month! 

Image of the Day: Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Theodor Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, was born on March 2, 1904.  Chuck Redux says Happy Birthday!

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Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) left, with the Grinch, Les Goldman (producer) and Chuck Jones (producer and director) at the sound recording session for their production of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in 1966.

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Dr. Seuss (left) with Boris Karloff and Chuck Jones at the sound recording in 1966 for the television special "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

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Chuck Jones and Ted Geisel confer during the recording session for the film adaptation of
"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas." 

Image of the Day: Horton the Elephant

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A Brief History of Chuck Jones and Ted Geisel:

  • Chuck Jones and Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) met in 1943.  Dr. Seuss was then Captain Geisel, in charge of the animation and documentary arm of the first motion picture unit, commanded by Colonel Frank Capra and quartered in the old Fox Studio on Sunset Blvd. and Western Ave.
  • There they designed and created the Private SNAFU Armed Services training films featuring the trials, tribulations and trepidations of the worst soldier in the Army, Private Snafu.
  • After the war, Major Geisel retired to his home in La Jolla, hoping to escape Hollywood chicanery: he was robbed of writing credits on an Academy Award-winning documentary (as many others have been) and was denied proper recognition for writing the Oscar-winning UPS animated cartoon Gerald McBoing-Boing.  He was given a very meager credit, no share in the film's glory, and $500.00, which was all the payment he received.  Even this $500.00 must ahve appeared generous in comparison to the $50.00 that Leon Schlesinger paid him for the rights to Horton Hatches the Egg.
  • Not surprisingly, Geisel was not eager to have more of his books made into film, but Chuck Jones persuaded him to allow Jones to direct and produce Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (released December 18, 1966.)
  • Shortly thereafter, they began collaboration on Horton Hears a Who!, which finally premiered on March 19, 1970 after several years in production.
  • Dr. Seuss, quoted in the Memphis Press-Scimitar on Friday, March 13, 1970: "I'd foresworn Hollywood until Chuck [Jones] did the Grinch.  I can't really draw–that is, I can't make a representational drawing and that rather hampers an animator.  I was never happy with my work in animation before Chuck."
  • Dr. Seuss, quoted in the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle on Sunday, March 15, 1970: "Horton Hears a Who! is one of the few Seuss books with a sociological theme.  I got to worrying about whether big countries were listening to little countries."  (Horton, a soft-hearted elephant, hears the Who cry from Whoville, which is so small its world is a speck of dust.)
  • Originally conceived as a one-hour special as reported in the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, September 20, 1967 for color airing in 1968.  Eventually the film was a half-hour special and aired in March of 1970.
  • The script was finalized in August of 1969 (two years after the beginning of pre-production!)  The story begins:

On the fifteenth of May/In the jungle of Nool,/In the heat of the day,/In the cool of the pool,/He was splashing…/Enjoying the jungle's great joys…/When Horton the Elephant heard a small noise.

  • Dr. Seuss pronounced Seuss like 'sauce' and said that he chose his nom de plume because he felt children's authors didn't get enough respect.
  • Chuck Jones voiced the character of Junyer Kangaroo, "Me, too!"

Image of the Day: Two Sizes Too Small

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"…The Grinch hated Christmas, the whole Christmas season.  Please don't ask why, no one quite knows the reason.

"It could be perhaps his shoes were too tight.

"It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.

"But I think the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

"But whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes…"

Imagine it's December 18, 1966.  You, your brothers and sisters, your Mom and Dad, are gathered around the brand new color television console in the den, ready to watch an animated Christmas special based on one of your favorite books, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  And just one-half hour later a new family tradition has been begun.  And every year thereafter, for the next forty-three years, it just isn't Christmas until you've watched the "Grinch."

Two Sizes Too Small, a hand-painted cel art edition of just 135 examples, was created from original art used in the production of the Chuck Jones directed 1966 television special, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Image of the Day: The Old Sew and Sew (A Moment in Time)

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A Moment in Time is a limited edition cel set-up incorporating one or more original production cels.  (The meaning of the word 'moment' is said to have been that amount of time between heartbeats.)

In the case of The Old Sew and Sew, the one production cel was a moving part of a multiple cel set-up that was under camera for the 1966 production of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  This scene series is limited by the number of original production cels (61) and each set-up is numbered in sequence 1 through 61.  The other four cels in the set-up, most of which were 'held cels,' have been re-created from the film by expert ingkers and painters to complete the scene image.  ('Held cels' are production cels that are held under the camera for more than one frame and therefore the images do not appear to move.) 

Image of the Day: The Strength of 10 Grinches + 2

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"The Grinch's body is a sort of huge, sagging, pear-shaped structure, with arms, legs, elbows, and bony knees not unlike those of the Coyote.  In fact, Dr. Seuss felt that my Grinch looked more like me than like his Grinch.  Like all fully animated characters, the Grinch has an implied skeletal structure and muscles; once decided, his skeleton had to be respected, to avoid rubbery inconsistency and unbelievability.

"The Grinch's dog, Max, has a much bigger role in the film than in the book, because we needed a character to be both victim and observer.  Max was directly inspired by a sad little fox terrier my father once tried–and failed–to train.

"To some extent we are all Grinches about Christmas–all that noise, all those unwanted presents, all those thank-you notes to write.

"Whenever I rented a car around the time [Dr. Seuss'] How the Grinch Stole Christmas! first appeared on television, it was invariably Grinch-green, which was a popular color for cars at the time.  I didn't like it, and frequently had to upgrade to a more congenial color.  The Grinch himself changes color slightly, turning a friendlier green when he has his change of heart."

–Chuck Jones, Chuck Reducks, Drawing From the Fun Side of Life