Andy Lipschultz,
How the Grinch Stole Hollywood
(Random House, 2000)

Andy Lipschultz, an entertainment journalist, has produced another the-making-of-a-movie book that delivers the goods for those who relish the behind-the-scenes details involved in any Hollywood creation. Here "creation" is definitely the operative word, for Universal Studios' How the Grinch Stole Christmas entailed the daunting task of bringing to life the uniquely imaginative vision of Dr. Seuss, beloved writer/illustrator of picture books for children and the young at heart of all ages.

The book includes interviews with the key persons involved in the Grinch live-action feature film project, from director Ron Howard to star Jim Carrey, to make-up designer Rick Baker and production designer Michael Corenblith, to costume designer Rita Ryack, providing those juicy details that backstage buffs crave. If the text at times is a bit sparse, this is more than compensated for by the profuse, gorgeous, full-color photos (and frequently production sketches) that adorn every page of this large-format, glossy trade paperback.

Lipschultz documents the process by which a team of talented folks collaborate to bring an invented world to life for the cinema screen, for the Grinch project in particular embodies an effort of near unprecedented scale. Dr. Seuss' world of Whoville and its not-quite-human inhabitants (and their heroic efforts to save their beloved Christmas holiday from the selfishness of the mean green one), had to be built and dressed from scratch and this challenging task is revealed in fascinating detail. Make-up magic involved the evolution of Jim Carrey's Grinch face, which took over three hours to apply with its three custom-made facial appliances and yellow contact lenses, not to mention some 200-odd Whoville residents, all of whom required make-up, wigs and distinct costumes of their own. Whoville, a quintessentially Seussian world with no straight lines or right angles, was an architectural challenge that required special engineering consultations and the expertise of authorities on Antoni Gaudi, the world-famous architect who inspired Dr. Seuss to begin with. To flesh out the simple, yet timeless and appealing story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas to full-length feature format required the dramatic license of scriptwriters whose solutions (approved by Audrey Geisel, widow of the "source of all") included adding newly invented characters to the tale. Film-makers had to recruite a cast of talented, dedicated actors willing to endure cosmetic applications nearly as complex as Jim Carrey's. Then the wildly inventive sets all had to be specially lit, photographed and enhanced by CGI special effects, but the devil of believability is in the details -- thus, all the props were custom-crafted and employed along with 600 miles of Styrofoam, 50,000 Christmas lights, 8,000 ornaments, tons of artificial snow and thousands of candy canes and other seasonal objects.

Through all this production minutiae, Lipschultz makes one thing abundantly clear -- all the producers, cast members and crew signed on to the How the Grinch Stole Christmas project out of love for the Dr. Seuss books on which they all grew up, and they poured their enthusiasm and creativity into attempting to be as true to the spirit of their source of inspiration as they could be. They did this in the hopes that their efforts would communicate the original, ingenious and magical invention of this giant of juvenilia in a movie that would "steal Hollywood" and engender box office magic! Judging from the profusion of sketches, photos and never-before-seen scenes contained in this document of the production process, How the Grinch Stole Christmas looks exceedingly promising and tantalizing (as though their goal has been achieved), thus How the Grinch Stole Hollywood may indeed be prophetic and not be yet another artifact of filmic folly.

[ by Amy Harlib ]

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