Mrs. Seuss: Whoville Is Not Poo-ville

Dr. Seuss' widow, Audrey Geisel, uses veto power to nix bathroom humor from new Grinch film

By Mark Armstrong Nov 06, 2000 9:15 PMTags
You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch. But just keep your mind out of the toilet.

That, apparently, was the edict handed down by Dr. Seuss' widow, Audrey Geisel, during the making of this fall's hyped-to-the-high-heavens holiday movie, Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. As the gatekeeper to her late husband's estate--which includes nearly four dozen children's books that have become rhyming national treasures--the 79-year-old Geisel made sure the $123 million film, opening November 17 and starring Jim Carrey, did not stray (too far) from husband Theodor Geisel's original land of Whoville.

And, according to the latest issue of Newsweek, getting her blessings for the film was hardly as easy as one-fish, two-fish, red-fish, blue-fish.

The magazine reports Geisel, unimpressed with the original Grinch proposal, rebuffed Imagine honcho Brian Grazer in his attempt to secure rights for the film. She later relented to Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment--thanks to a bit of begging, a promise to make Carrey the dastardly green leading man and a personal visit from director Ron Howard, who conjured up an entirely new plot while flying to her La Jolla, California, home for a personal visit.

Geisel also had veto power over the script, which led to some reworking, according to the magazine. She objected to several jokes in the screenplay, including a poke about one family who did not have a Christmas tree or presents ("The Who-steins," Grinch declared upon finding a menorah) and the placement of a stuffed trophy of the Cat in the Hat on the Grinch's wall.

Geisel also called for Grazer and Howard to tone down the potty humor.

"There were too many bathroom jokes," she told Newsweek. "That's not the Seuss world, not at all."

The Seuss world the Whoville-hating Grinch inhabits was first published by Geisel in 1957. Just as memorable was its 1966 cartoon adaptation (and bona fide holiday classic) narrated by Boris Karloff.

Some, however, already note the irony in this Grinch adaptation: Here's a legendary story about the true meaning of Christmas--and a warning about holiday over-commercialism--all promoted ad nauseum with Grinch cookies, Grinch postage stamps, and all the other cross-promotional Grinch goodies you can possibly consume.

And don't forget the cereal. Kellogg's has launched a promotional campaign in which the Grinch is "stealing breakfast." His trademark wiry green fingers can now be seen on boxes of Apple Jacks and marshmallow-blasted Froot Loops.

"Kellogg's is behind the Grinch promotion in a big way," Kevin Smith, Kellogg's vice president of marketing services, said in a statement. "It will create excitement for the movie in the grocery store with everything from Grinch-theme foods and premium giveaways to a Visa sweepstakes."

But, as Newsweek points out, wasn't it Dr. Seuss himself who wrote, "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store"?

"Well," concedes his widow, who's getting 50 percent of all marketing revenues, "there you have a paradox to end all paradoxes."