On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Three Grinch Cels
Two Dogs in Love
And a Sunday Comic Dick Tracy
“You’re a mean one, Mister Grinch”, but in this case, mean does not translate average. The animated special based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas has never failed to air each year since its introduction in 1966. While it may not be the most popular Dr. Seuss story, it certainly made the best television story. (Apparently, Green Eggs and Ham followed by Cat in the Hat hold the title of most popular.) Like everything with nostalgic sentimentality, Grinch related collectibles draw fans. And, like other collectibles, technology forever changes the means to create even something as traditional as a cartoon. Thus, items as rare as production art cels become even more sparse as the means of creating cartoons changes. That’s one reason it’s special to discuss three Grinch cels along Christmas Memory Lane.
A How the Grinch Stole Christmas Anecdote from my Dark Past
When I was young, don’t remember hold old, we visited my grandmother at Christmas time. Now, my cousin had a Christmas special she was performing in at the church across the street. But, I had a problem. How the Grinch Stole Christmas aired on TV that very same evening. I raised a stink, probably pouted and cried, ended up being left at Grandma’s house while most everyone else went to the show. Oddly, I don’t recall if I even got to watch the Grinch or not.
Now, in a metaphor of the grace and good news of the season, when the performance was over, my parents brought home a stocking filled with candy for me. The church passed out a treat to all kids in attendance. Though naughty, I still received the blessing of Christmas. I don’t know if you are naughty or nice, but we’ll discuss three Grinch Cels that are certainly a treat.
Creating Animation Cels
The above image of the Grinch production cel is a masterpiece as cartoon art goes. Here is how Heritage Auctions described it:
Here Max helps the Grinch assemble his Santa suit at the 8:36 mark and a case could easily be made that this scene is one of the most memorable in the film. Presented is an original hand-painted 12 field multi-cel setup of the Grinch and Max from this timeless holiday classic. Each of the four cels in the setup bears the number 84, align perfectly and are over their original hand-painted Key Master production background which is marked #7755 BG84. A protective clear cel is over the setup.
I quoted since there are some interesting technicalities. Such as, the background is a master used in the production as opposed to simply a reproduction added later. (More production means more rare.) Also, four cels make up the picture as opposed to just a single cel. Some hand painted cels used in production might feature just a change in position of one limb, for example. The artist does not need to redraw everything. Unfortunately, that makes the individual art much less interesting and much less investment worthy. The delightful picture above sold for $22,800 in 2019.
Two More Grinch Cels
The next picture is an amazing scene of the unlikely hero whose heart is “two sizes too small”. I included it here for educational purposes because it is a limited edition cel. It was produced with original art, but much later (2001) and not for use in production. As you would surmise, though original it is much less valuable since not used in production and thirty-five years more recent. It is currently up for auction with good documentation, so it is still a nice collectible.
Described as the greatest piece of Grinch production art ever, the Who Feast to conclude the story likely surpasses the $22,800 mark of the previous high. Visually, it is not as good as the prior two cels, however, a tremendous amount of production art comprises this piece. I displayed the feel-good ending with background only in the first image to illustrate the hand-painted cel art that overlays the background. Look here for full details.
In Day four, an anthropomorphic duck with a heart of gold (if you could just pry it out of his hand) takes center stage.
If you want to create your own hand drawn animation cel, here’s a step by step guide: How to Create a Hand Painted Animation Cel Tutorial | Colour Me Ren.