Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 13, 1999

We know what you’re up to, pal. You’re trying to shatter our morale. You’re trying to foster discontent, and seize the reins of government!

Special features


Aaw! How sweet! Also includes “Horton Hears a Who”, the heavily politicized elephant tale. It isn’t quite as good as “Grinch”, but it’s still quite entertaining. This double feature is a pretty good deal if you like those cartoons.

DirectorChuck Jones
Movie Rating7
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating7
  • Television Format

Two half hour Dr. Seuss television specials: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Horton Hears a Who”. The obvious connection between the two is that they both take place in “Whoville”. A friend of mine from the University of Virginia claims that “Whoville” is an analogy to the “Academic Village” known as the University of Virginia, and that the song of the Whos is the sporting cry of the Cavaliers.

If you haven’t seen “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, what cave have you been hiding in? It is a very funny, touching story about the monster who lives on the mountain above Whoville, and who hates Christmas so much—mostly the noise and happiness surrounding it—that he decides to steal Christmas away from all Whos in Whoville. Great, simple animation style, and wonderful voice-over by Boris Karloff make this classic fun to watch over and over, and Dr. Seuss’ great writing doesn’t hurt either.

“The Grinch” is a nice, simple story with a vaguely religious moral. Certainly a moral about where you should find Christmas happiness. It is a wonderful movie for television because it both celebrates and downplays Christmas commercialism. Some of the best parts are the descriptions of all the wonderful toys that Who children receive for Christmas, but of course all these wonderful toys are not what makes Christmas the happy time that it is (or should be).

“Horton Hears a Who”, on the other hand, has a different, more complex point which gets a little muddled when you look at it more closely. The story, especially the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, think-no-evil “Wickersham Brothers”, seems to be an obvious cautionary tale against the “red-baiting”, “communists in the water supply” fearmongering going in the decades before this movie came to television.

I do not remember “the Wickersham Brothers” in the book, but it has been a long time since I read it. Still, I almost had it memorized at one time. One of the children I used to babysit as a teenager wanted it read every time I came over. The kid had good taste, I’ll say that!

The Brothers are very clearly a take on some government investigatory committee along the lines of the House Unamerican Activities Committee’s search for commies underneath our collective bedcovers, or the Kefauvre hearings which investigated, among other things, comic books.

But one might also expect the brothers to be a take on the “Wickersham Commission”, though for what purpose I’m not sure. I assumed when I saw “Horton” again that the Wickersham Commission must have been another one of those anti-free speech committees of the fifties. I had some vague memory of that as being an overly idiotic, pro-busybody congressional committee. But when I went to look it up, it turns out that Wickersham is from prohibition, not the red scare. Now, certainly the dust speck can be seen as alcoholic: the busybodies want to “ban” it because they don’t understand it or they don’t like an undesirable using it. The Wickersham Commission came out in 1930 in favor of continuing prohibition, and stepping up law enforcement efforts against it. It was an interesting report in that the evidence it reported showed clearly that prohibition had increased crime and corruption, that prohibition enforcement was and would continue to be ineffective, and then went on to recommend that the correct response is not to end prohibition, but to toss more money, cops, and civil liberties at the problem. It seemed an obviously silly solution at the time (prohibition ended only two years later), and in 1970, when “Horton” came out, prohibition of other drugs was building up again. Perhaps Seuss had this in mind; perhaps not. But the Wickersham Brothers do steal the show. They have the best song.

Crazily, the Wickersham Commission report was still viewed favorably in Congress at least as late as 1996.

“Horton Hears a Who” is not quite as entertaining as “The Grinch”, but it is still well worth watching, and a good choice by Warner for putting on this DVD.

You also get some interesting (but not overly so) pencil sketches of the characters, and a cute (but quite easy—its really aimed at the kids, I think) trivia game for “The Grinch”.

This one is in Warner’s somewhat cheaper DVD case. It’s still definitely better than the pull out drawers used by Polygram, but it isn’t nearly as robust as it could be. Normally not a problem, but this one arrived with broken teeth on the center holder—which scratched up the area around the hub on the DVD. There doesn’t appear to be any damage to the part of the DVD that holds the movie, but there could have been. Make sure you check your DVDs for this sort of damage as soon as you buy them!

Recommendation: Purchase

DirectorChuck Jones
Spoken languagesEnglish, Spanish
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish
Special FeaturesGame, Storyboards
More links

If you enjoyed How the Grinch Stole Christmas…

For more about animation, you might also be interested in Heavy Metal, The Hobbit, Scooby Doo’s Original Mysteries, The Complete Superman Collection, Underdog, Wallace & Gromit, and Yellow Submarine.