How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a Christmas classic, but many viewers missed some of the movie’s many Easter eggs and cameos on first viewing. Released in 2000, How the Grinch Stole Christmas was a big-budget live-action adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ classic Christmas story of the same name. Starring Jim Carrey in the title role, the movie saw director Ron Howard pull from both the original book and the 1966 adaptation by animation icon Chuck Jones in his retelling of the titular anti-Christmas anti-villain’s change of heart.
Like many of Ron Howard’s movies, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a family movie that has not only withstood the test of time but can also weather repeat viewings. The movie is filled with Easter eggs and clever nods to the original book, the director’s real life, and the rest of Dr. Seuss’ output, many of which will be missed out on by all but the most eagle-eyed of audience members upon first viewing. Fortunately, the holiday season is a perfect excuse to revisit this classic and run down the many How the Grinch Stole Christmas Easter eggs, clever in-jokes, and subtle asides dotted throughout its runtime.
Whoville Is A Family Town
Although the movie isn’t as filled with cameos as modern kid’s films like SpongeBob, director Ron Howard appears as a Who during one of How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ many crowd scenes. Although he goes uncredited in the small role, he does get a line of dialogue to himself, playing a worried Whoville policeman who yells as the Grinch grabs the Mayor’s shaving razor and begins his anarchic rampage through the town. Meanwhile, the director’s daughter (and future Jurassic World star) Bryce Dallas Howard plays a surprised Who, while his brother Clint (a staple of cult movies) plays Whobris. Howard has appeared in Christmas movies before, although few viewers of How the Grinch Stole Christmas are likely to remember his role in the gory horror Silent Night Deadly Night: Initiation. As well as featuring Ron Howard’s family in cameos, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is also dedicated to Howard’s beloved mother who died shortly before it was released and who “loved Christmas the most,” according to the movie’s epitaph.
The Grinch’s Directing Is A Spoof of Howard’s
During filming, skilled impressionist Jim Carrey amused himself one afternoon by snatching Howard’s hat and riffing an improvised impersonation of the famous director. Howard himself was so amused that he threw in a scene of the Grinch directing his bemused dog Max on how to be a reindeer, with Carrey’s mannerisms in the scene based on Howard’s real-life directing style. Interestingly, Tom Hanks is also able to do a pretty solid imitation of the director having worked with him on Cast Away, and both his and Carrey’s versions of Howard share a handful of recognizable traits. While Howard might not be the most recognizable to the public, it’s clear his quirks make Ron Howard impressions a regular workplace gag on film sets.
The scene when Carrey yanks aside a tablecloth, successfully keeps everything on the table in the process, then shoves everything to the ground regardless was unscripted. Instead, like the iconic ending of Sleepaway Camp was created by accident, this classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas moment was improvised. The script simply called for Carrey’s Grinch to pull the tablecloth aside and send everything balanced on it flying to the floor. No one — including Carrey himself — expected the actor to pull off the tablecloth yank, resulting in Carrey’s quick-thinking bit of priceless improvising as he swept everything to the floor.
The Whoville Statues
There’s a pair of odd, unexplained statues featured in the Jim Carrey movie which are both subtle references to other works from Seuss. The clocktower features an inexplicable statue of an elephant, but it’s not just any elephant: Seuss fans will recognize him as Horton, the title character of Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who, which later received an animated adaptation in 2008 from Blue Sky, the studio behind Ice Age. Meanwhile, the start of the scene featuring the annual Cheer-mister’s nomination sees Howard’s camera linger on a strange statue sitting in the center of Whoville’s town square: An odd animal with its antlers twisted into a circle. This is another one of Dr. Seuss’s creations, although a markedly more obscure one. The statue is one of the titular “Thinks” in the iconic illustrations of Oh, the Thinks You Can Think, one of the many Seuss stories which have not yet received a movie adaptation.
Green Eggs and Ham
For a more overt reference to Dr. Seuss’ famous work Green Eggs and Ham, viewers need to look no further than Cindy Lou Who’s dinner plate. In the closing scenes of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the adorable kid played by future Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen serves Max her helping of green eggs and ham, a dish that gives one of Dr. Seuss’ most famous works its title. Interestingly, Netflix adapted Green Eggs and Ham (very, very loosely), with their animated TV Green Eggs and Ham series debuting a year after Benedict Cumberbatch starred in an also-animated Grinch movie of his own, 2018’s The Grinch.
The Key Party
Around the time of How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ release in 2000, it was becoming an increasingly popular practice for filmmakers to sneak some adult-aimed punchlines in kid’s movies to keep the grown-ups entertained. A style first developed on television by the likes of WB icons the Animaniacs, Rugrats, and Tiny Toon Adventures, this process of seeing what adult jokes the creators could sneak by censors was popularized in cinema by both Pixar and Dreamworks.
However, the practice proved contentious for the creators of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, who were warned by the studio to keep their additions of subversive humor to a minimum. Carrey and Howard obliged, self-censoring and cutting any jokes and ad-libs they thought might be risque, only to find out later that the studio inserted some raunchy punchlines without their approval. Carrey later admitted that he wished he fought them on this. Several moments, such as the Grinch’s backstory flashbacks, feature odd, out-of-place adult jokes that feel more suited to Ace Ventura or The Mask than a Jim Carrey movie for young audiences. When the Grinch’s parents miss his arrival, it’s not just because they’re hosting a holiday party. Judging by the unexpected closeup shot of keys being thrown in a bowl, they’re hosting a swingers’ party. It’s a weird touch, and given how often studios soften dark originals scripts, it’s ironic that the producers actually added in exactly the sort of uncomfortable, trying-too-hard edgy joke that Carrey and Howard were warned against adding to How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
The Biggest Grinch 2000 Easter Egg Is Its Legacy
While other live-action Dr. Seuss adaptations (such as The Cat in the Hat) have failed, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has stood the test of time as a cult classic Christmas staple. While the 2018 animated movie, The Grinch, is arguably better, the Jim Carrey Grinch film has just enough adult and child humor to keep audiences of all ages invested. The proof is in the pudding when it comes to the Ron Howard film’s box office numbers. How the Grinch Stole Christmas made $345.8 million at the box office worldwide, making for a very profitable holiday movie. Carrey’s performance as the bitter grump was a particular highlight of the film, and while it’s not critically acclaimed, the movie has maintained its status as a Christmas-time staple. It’s true that this particular adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ beloved tale has surpassed all expectations and cemented itself with the likes of other holiday classics such as Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and the many adaptations of A Christmas Carol. Therefore, the biggest Easter egg in How the Grinch Stole Christmas is its lasting impact on the holiday season.