CBM Talks To THE GRINCH (2018) Co-Director Yarrow Cheney About The Film's Recent Blu-Ray/DVD Release!

CBM Talks To THE GRINCH (2018) Co-Director Yarrow Cheney About The Film's Recent Blu-Ray/DVD Release!

CBM Talks To THE GRINCH (2018) Co-Director Yarrow Cheney About The Film's Recent Blu-Ray/DVD Release!

Director Yarrow Cheney tells us his favorite piece of bonus content, which Dr. Seuss book he believes should be adapted to film next, and why he feels everyone should own their own copy of The Grinch...

The Grinch (2018) released on DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K Ultra HD this Tuesday with a plethora of extras, including three mini-movies, behind the scenes, lyric videos and there’s even a special edition at Wal-Mart that includes 16 collectible Valentine’s Day cards. I can’t imagine anything more adorably facetious than Grinch-themed valentines.

To celebrate the launch of The Grinch (2018) on disc, Co-Director of the film, Yarrow Cheney, was kind enough to talk with me about some of the many reasons viewers should be interested in checking out this latest rendition of Dr. Seuss’s classic tale, even though the countdown to Christmas has reset for 2019.   

Check out our conversation below to get the scoop on this co-director’s pick for best special feature, why the story of The Grinch continues to endure, and what might make the next great Dr. Seuss adaptation.

Let’s jump in:

I know there’s going to be a lot of features on the DVD, there always are, for people to get excited about. So, I wanted to ask you, which one are you most excited to share with people?

Probably, definitely, the mini-movies. Those are…short films that are made at the same time as our feature film, in the same studio. So, by a lot of the same people. Usually, they’re directed by people that are on these films so that’s a really great feature.

You know, our DVDs tend to be kind of packed with cool stuff. So, I think that’s probably the big thing, and then there’s always—I haven’t seen the DVD yet so I’m looking forward to going through the extras also, but I’m sure there’s going to be some behind-the-scenes, and all that kind of stuff.

I love that kind of stuff. I’m kind of excited to see Benedict Cumberbatch’s facial expressions as he does the voice. I know when I saw the trailer for the first time, I heard the voice and I thought it sounded familiar, but I didn’t really recognize it at all. And then his name flashed [on the screen] and I thought, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

[Laughter]. Right. Yeah. Y’know, he—the Grinch—is such a wonderful character and he created this voice, this very uniquely-voiced version of the Grinch that is just so rich, and so interesting. And, you don’t know it’s him initially—it’s like you said. You know there’s something about it, but he created such a unique character that you just kind of go with it. And you just think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the Grinch!’

And yeah, the way that he acts with it, he doesn’t just stand there, you know, deadpan and delivering lines. The guy really, physically, kind of gets into the performance. So, that is a really wonderful thing to see.

Yeah? I’ve seen those behind-the-scenes Smaug takes. [Laughter]. So, changing course a little bit, The Grinch was not your first foray in the world of Dr. Seuss. 

No, no. Yeah.

You were part of The Lorax.

Yes, I was.

I’m not gonna ask what the appeal is, because it’s Dr. Seuss. I feel like that’s kind of obvious.

[Laughter]. Yes. Right.

But I am curious, if you could choose a Dr. Seuss book, any Dr. Seuss book, that hasn’t yet been adapted to film, which one would you choose?

That’s a really hard question. Something that I actually haven’t thought about. Just because I feel like the one that is so, sort of perfect for film is The Grinch. I think that…that character is such a big character whose arch is so huge that you—it makes sense to make a movie about it.

I don’t know about…the other books are a little bit more difficult…I think you could certainly, you know, make so many of them. Like, Cat in the Hat, and you know thinking of things even like The Sneetches. There’s some really wonderful kind of lessons and interesting dynamics in some of his other books. There are so many great characters that, yeah, I don’t know.

I mean, I think talented people could make films out of probably any of them, as long as they really appreciated and were respectful of where it came from—of  Dr. Seuss’ original vision. So, I don’t know. Yeah, that’s a hard one to pick.

Agreed—I think mine would be probably The Butter Battle Book. Only because, for a while, I had it memorized. My daughter loved that book.

Yeah! Right. That would be wonderful. That would be, tonally, such a fun book. Because it would be so, sort of pushed, and [with] almost tall-tale kind of aspects to it.

Right. And I like what you said about respect, because I have—you know, his stories, a lot of them like The Lorax, they have these over-arching themes that are kind of, you know, timeless. And you can kind of apply them to any period, but not all the adaptations have done that very well. And what I liked about this iteration of The Grinch is that it manages to deliver an original, expanded story that has a lot of modern social themes. You know, like a single-parent home, consumerism—things adults, more than children, might relate to.

How do you go about finding that balance, between making a movie that is timely and relevant for a broader audience, while also staying true to the spirit of its original form?

Yeah. Well, I think what we really tried to do was figure out what is the heart—the core—of that story, right? And the core of its character. And the thing that Dr. Seuss is really great at is creating timeless themes, timeless characters. This character who is this terrible person that is suffering, and who just kind of hates everybody.

Who hates all the things that we love; the more the Who’s love wonderful things like Christmas, the more he hates Christmas and the more he hates the Who’s. But it’s coming from a place of pain, and it’s coming from a place of, you know, loneliness. He’s sort of isolated himself up on this mountain.

You know, themes of loneliness. And this story is really about forgiveness. It’s that he’s seeing that these people are not who he thought they were, and he’s done this terrible thing. He’s stolen Christmas from all of these innocent people, and they forgive him, and they welcome him anyway. And that theme of forgiveness, and the transforming power of grace—that’s what the core and the heart of the story is, right?

And so, what we do is, we kind of hold that sacred and then we build our world and build our storyline using those things as sign posts…we kind of build everything out from there, and our world has to support that. It has to…help those stories, bring out those colors and those themes.

I liked how, too, in the movie…with his relationship with the animals—through that you kind of reveal his inner need for that kind of connection. For instance, when the reindeer abandons him at one point, he [the Grinch] just lets him go. And it’s sad, but it also gives little glimmers of hope throughout the entire movie that he’s not too far gone.

Right, right. Exactly.

Despite the fact that he’s planning this horrible thing.

Definitely, and I think the fact that Max really is a character that gives us a way into the Grinch. Because Max loves the Grinch, is loyal to the Grinch and would do anything for him. So, that allows us to think, like, ‘You know, there is something there.’ And then we do see how he, like you said, how he interacts with these animals when Fred comes into the picture.

You know one of the interesting things about the story is, through trying to destroy Christmas, he’s actually starting to become more animated, more alive, more...He’s experiencing joy.

He’s discovering its meaning, it seems like…

Yeah, and so as he’s making his plans, he needs a reindeer and so he recruits this other guy. So, now there’s three of them…He’s actually got two buddies that he’s kind of palling around with and doing this terrible thing, but doing it together and having a lot of fun. And it’s all happening around Christmas, with the subject of Christmas being central, and so it’s one of those things where…he’s a villain, but then we see how he interacts with Max and how Max interacts with him and then we see how he can actually enjoy something. He’s just sort of misappropriating the things that he has fun with in a destructive manner rather than a healthy, community-oriented…loving other people rather than his animals [sic].

But it is true, he’s able to kind of go there a little bit with his animals because they’re not people, they’re not Who’s, that he kind of holds this grudge against, and has all of these ideas about who these people are.

So, not to end it on a totally, highly self-promotional note, but what is the best reason for someone to pick up a copy of The Grinch right now, rather than procrastinating the entire year?

Right. Yeah. I think the movie is, of course, a Christmas movie—it occurs around Christmas—but it’s…essentially a film about a guy who’s going through something and we watch him go on this journey…to have a heart that grows two times, or three times bigger, and…we can always benefit going on those kinds of journeys.

I think it’s one of those things that will pick people up all year round. Give people kind of that perspective of...there’s good in the world; there’s forgiveness in the world. I can be good and forgiving toward those people that seem kind of mean on the outside. And if you are kind of on the outside, or are kind of bitter, to kind of vicariously live through this character who is finding real, lasting joy. I think that can be inspiring through the rest of the year.

It’s so easy to be jaded.

Definitely, and it doesn’t take—we’re not jaded only once a year. When we’re jaded, it comes…lots of different times a year. I think because it’s such a universal—this story and the character arch—is such a universal thing that, you know, it can be appreciated any time.

Final question. I’m looking forward to your next project, whatever that is, and so I was wondering if you might be able to give any hints as to what that might be?

You know what, right now, I don’t know. I’m taking a year off of films right now…I’ve worked on so many wonderful films at Illumination over these ten years and so, it’s funny because we’ve been overlapping them the whole time, so we’re just kind of taking a break.

And they’re all great films, too.

Yeah, I’ve been very fortunate. I just love the films that I was able to work on…and it’s been great, but it’s also been very, very busy. So, we’re just going to take some time, and it’s been nice to see the family…a little bit of a break. So, I don’t know what’s next, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Alright, well, I’m tossing my hat in for The Butter Battle Book. Just, FYI.

[Laughter]. I think that’s a great idea. That’d make a very cool movie.
You heard it, guys. The Butter Battle Book would make a very cool movie. If anyone at Illumination is reading this—it’s time to take us all out to the wall, hopefully before the last day of summer, ten hours before fall.

A huge thank you, once again, to Yarrow Cheney and his representatives for taking time to arrange our conversation about The Grinch (2018), available now on DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K Ultra HD.

I hope you all enjoyed our interview! Now, I’m going to pose the same question to all of you: Which Dr. Seuss book would you like to see adapted for the big screen? Let me know in the comments!
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