Comparing the Animated and Live-Action Grinch Adaptations

‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’ is a classic holiday staple. Let’s take a look at two adaptations!

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'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!' TV special poster and the 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' 2000 movie poster

The 1966 TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and the 2000 movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas are popular adaptations of Dr. Suess’s 1957 book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Both are great adaptations, each with its pros and cons. But how well do they stack up against each other? Read on to find out!

Faithful to the Book

The TV special is about 25 minutes long, so there’s only enough time to cover the book’s plot. The movie is nearly two hours long, so it needs more content. We got to know some of the residents of Whoville — particularly Cindy Lou Who — learned the Grinch’s backstory, and even got a romance subplot. There’s more to enjoy, but other than the basic plot, it strays far from the book.

'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!' by Dr. Suess book cover with the Grinch, some presents, and a Christmas tree.

The movie, due to being live-action, couldn’t use Dr. Suess’s art style as the animated special did. As a result, they had to get creative with design choices, from hairstyles — I’d love to know what inspired Cindy Lou’s hair — to the town sets. The TV special, while it couldn’t perfectly replicate Dr. Suess’s art style, still did it similarly enough, so there weren’t as many huge changes.


There isn’t anything particularly funny about the TV special apart from the Grinch’s exaggerated facial expressions and the song, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, which was written specifically for the special. And that’s okay — the story wasn’t designed with humor, but with teaching lessons about Christmas and family. It’s entertaining but not necessarily funny.

A closeup of Jim Carrey as the Grinch from the live-action 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas.'

Put Jim Carrey in a movie, and it’s bound to be funny. His portrayal of the Grinch was the best part of the movie, from his wild expressions to ad-libbed lines such as “6:30, dinner with me — I can’t cancel that again.” The movie was certainly darker than its source material, but it was balanced out with the humor.

How it Works as a Children’s Movie

The TV special isn’t rated, but it would likely be rated G, meaning anyone can watch it. It’s adapted exactly from the children’s book, so it functions well as a children’s movie. That makes it perfect as a traditional holiday special that everyone, from a small child to an elderly person, can enjoy.

'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!' TV special Grinch stealing the star from a Christmas tree.

The movie is rated PG, so parental guidance is suggested since the content may not be for all children. There is crude humor, and the Grinch’s cackling and exaggerated facial expressions may be frightening to young children. Older children may enjoy this movie, but it may not be for children younger than seven or so.

These are far from the only comparisons between the adaptations, but these are some of the most prominent. The answer to which one is better, however, is up to the individual.

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