The Grinch vs. The Cat in the Hat - Was That Real?
June 21, 2016
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. And welcome to another rendition of WTR, AKA Was That Real?
NC (vo): This is where we look at TV that was forgotten by some, but remembered by others for just how strange they were.
NC: With that said, we all love Dr. Seuss' timeless characters...
(Cut a clip of the original "Cat in the Hat" cartoon)
NC (vo): ...of the Cat in the Hat...
(Cut to a clip of the original "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" cartoon)
NC: But did you know there is a time when they actually did a crossover?
(Cut to a shot of a videotape case of the crossover special in question, entitled "The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat")
NC (vo): It's gone by a couple names over the years: "The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat"...
(Cut to a shot of a second videotape case of the same film, this one entitled "The Cat in the Hat Gets Grinched")
NC (vo): ..."The Cat in the Hat Gets Grinched"...
(Cut to clips of the special)
NC (vo): ...which both sound like children's intros to sexual harassment.
NC: But what everyone called when I was growing up was "The Grinch vs. the Cat in the Hat".
NC (vo): Because, really, that's what it is: it's two popular characters in the same universe finally meeting up and, well, surviving each other. This seems kinda strange for Dr. Seuss, who didn't really do crossover battles. That kind of stuff would usually be associated with, say, a Marvel production.
(Cut to a shot of the old Marvel Productions logo seen at the very end of the film)
NC (vo): Well, funny you should think that, because this actually was made by Marvel Productions!
NC: (grinning evilly) Yes! Soon...
(Cut to shots of, in order, Sam-I-Am, the Lorax, the Sneetches and the Whos (the last one taken from the original cartoon, while the rest are taken from the original books))
NC (vo): ...the Lorax and Sam-I-Am are gonna be fighting over the warring nations of the Sneetches and the Whos!
NC: With a cameo by (an image of Spider-Man wielding Captain America's shield from "Captain America: Civil War" appears in the corner) Spider-Man we've all been waiting for. (nods)
(Cut to still more clips of "The Grinch vs. the Cat in the Hat")
NC (vo): This was advertised everywhere when it came on TV, and to its credit, it's really not a bad idea. It's kinda like Batman vs. Superman... (a poster for "Batman v Superman" is shown) Yeah, you're funny. (a shot of World's Finest, the animated film featuring the two superheroes, is shown) There ya go! (continues) ...where there's two seemingly opposite protagonists who also seem to have a lot in common.
(Cut to alternating clips of the original cartoon versions of "The Cat in the Hat" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas")
NC (vo): Both are agents of anarchy: they like to disrupt the status quo and take people out of their comfort zones. The reasons, though, is what makes them enemies: one does it to lighten the mood and open up possibilities, while the other does it to ruin the mood and limit possibilities. Even the lessons have a different spin: with the Cat in the Hat, he's the one dispensing the moral; with the Grinch, he's the one learning the moral.
NC: So it seems like there was just enough in common and just enough different to make this really, really good, right?
NC (vo): Well, as much as I've praised Seuss in the past, even I have to admit, not everything was perfect. Nothing was awful, but some ideas were better as (a poster for "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" is briefly shown) just that: ideas. And for what it's worth, this does seem to have a lot of ideas, especially for kids. It just didn't seem to have a lot of focus.
(Cut to another clip of "The Cat in the Hat")
NC (vo): Again, a tough combination, as "Cat in the Hat" was a somewhat random and archaic story...
(Cut to another clip of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas")
NC (vo): ...where "Grinch" had a very solid beginning, middle and end.
(Cut to back to "The Grinch vs. the Cat in the Hat")
NC (vo): Which makes this a very tricky combination.
(Cut to clips of "Halloween is Grinch Night")
NC (vo): The Grinch, as well, was already used twice, with a Halloween special after the Christmas debut. It didn't exactly get the strongest reaction.
(Cut back to "The Grinch vs. the Cat in the Hat")
NC (vo): So it was tough to figure out if he could work in other tales outside of his first one.
NC: The story?
(Cut to the beginning of the film: the sun shines down into the Grinch's home and on his bed; he wakes up, yawning)
NC (vo): The Grinch wakes to the voice of the Smucker's Jelly guy [that would be Mason Adams, who also voices the Cat here], describing the morning.
(The Grinch is seen taking a shower and whistling, while his dog, Max, looks on)
Narrator: Never before had this nasty old guy left out of his bed with a smile in his eye and whistled "Hello!"
NC: (imitating narrator) I could kill kids with a pitchfork and you'd still love my voice.
(Back to the film: the Grinch is looking himself in the mirror and talking to it)
NC (vo): However, the Grinch goes back to his evil ways when his mirror yells at him.
Grinch's mirror reflection: I see nothing to whistle about!
NC: (looks around nervously) Yeah, like I said, kind of odd.
NC (vo): Mirror convinces him to go out and cause trouble. And this is where he literally bumps into the Cat in the Hat, who makes the apparent mistake of calling him "green face".
Cat: ...any inconvenience out of these that I may have caused you, Mr... Green Face.
Grinch: (enraged) Mr. Green Face!?
NC: (imitating the Grinch) That is our word!
NC (vo): So the Grinch decides to chase him down, create a machine that messes with reality, and... (awkward pause) just... kind of annoy him. It's... kind of a downgrade compared to his other adventures.
(Cut to a clip of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas")
NC (vo): First he wants to rob people of the joys of giving...
(Cut to a clip of "Halloween is Grinch Night")
(Back to "The Grinch vs. the Cat in the Hat")
NC (vo): ...now he's just... kind of a troll. In fact, you could argue that he's literally the world's first Internet troll. Think about it: he uses his computer to hack your everyday life to mildly annoy you. And he's the only one that finds it funny at all. (the Grinch is seen wearing a Guy Fawkes Anonymous mask) Guess he's sort of a pioneer of obnoxiousness when you think about it.
Grinch: (singing) And that brings about (Max yelps and jumps backwards) the most horrible things!
NC (vo): I'll admit, it's a little odd to see the Cat in the Hat constantly duped and get more and more frustrated as it goes on. It's kinda like seeing (a shot of Groucho Marx appears) Groucho Marx get mad, (a shot of Radical Edward from "Cowboy Bebop" appears) or Radical Edward get mad, (a shot of the Road Runner appears) or the Road Runner get mad. There's just some creations you think are always gonna be comfortable and in control of their world, which makes it a little off-putting when you see they don't always have the smart answer. (chuckles) It really cracks me up when he straight up calls the Grinch a psychopath.
Cat: (angrily) That Grinch! That psychopathic Grinch!
NC: (amused) How funny is that? There's a Dr. Seuss story where somebody uses the word "psychopath"!
NC (vo): That's insane! Or... psychopathic, I guess. To be fair, though, only a psychopath would change the pronunciation of words to make it rhyme.
Grinch: (singing) The sounds that you make are the sounds of my choice. I can make you sound better or make you sound "woise"!
NC: (pointing to camera) CHEATER!
Grinch: Are you feeling pretty "goot", Mr. Cat in the "Hoot"?
NC: "Goot" and "hoo–" Why were you changing that? They already rhymed!
(In the film, the Grinch pulls a lever on his machine, triggering one hell of an acid trip for the Cat and the restaurant he is hiding out in – that's Dr. Seuss for you!)
NC (vo): This all comes to a head when the Grinch uses his machine to mess with a restaurant for really no reason than to give Seuss an excuse to say he took LSD for inspiration. (some unfitting and wild, almost insane, Dixieland music is heard during this trippy scene) Yep, this is another Dr. Seuss trip-out scene that doesn't connect to much, but... Who cares?! It's a Dr. Seuss trip-out scene!
NC: (shaking his finger) I will totally endorse getting (a shot of a drunken Dumbo) a minor drunk if it leads to (a shot of the "Pink Elephants" scene from "Dumbo") another "pink elephants" sequence. (slams his hand down on the desk) Screw priorities, (points to camera) I want a trip-out, man!
(In the special, the Cat is about to eat some eggs in the restaurant, but the Grinch uses his machine to cover the eggs in polka dots; the polka dots on the eggs flash pink and green, and the Cat, looking grossed out, puts them aside)
NC (vo): Look at this! He's going against the lesson of his own books! Green eggs are okay, but polka-dot eggs?! Chuck that shit!
NC: But to be fair, maybe the Cat in the Hat's frustration ties into the "kinda-sorta" message.
NC (vo): Yeah, even the moral is a little hard to grasp, but I still can't say it's really wrong in any way. Amongst his frustration, he finally realizes that the way to win is not killing by anger, but killing with kindness. He goes to the Grinch's house and reminds him of his mother.
(In the film, the Cat and the restaurant people, staff and customers alike, stand outside the Grinch's house, where the Cat leads the restaurant people in a song to the Grinch, much to the Grinch's ever-weakening disdain)
Cat and restaurant people: (singing) Even a Grinch had a mother, who taught him of love...
NC (vo): Thank God he happened to have a good relationship with her, because it eventually softens him up and makes him good again. He even has an inner monologue with her, which... the more I think about it, strangely happens a lot in this. Half of the special is technically just people talking to themselves.
NC: Everyone's a psychopath!
NC (vo): So I guess the message centers around... the power of motherhood? To always bring family into everything? That a person's weakness is in their heart? It's confusing. Nevertheless, it is still a kinda nice, albeit unfocused, scene leading to a relatively harmless ending.
NC: And that's really the best way I can define this special: nice, unfocused, but harmless.
NC (vo): It's certainly not Seuss' strongest work, and truth be told, it could have been a bit more interesting, but it's still neat seeing two of his most famous characters meet and interact off each other. While the story's not the best, it still feels like this is what the characters would do and say if they ever did run into one another. So it's kind of fun to watch, if only for that reason. Yeah, it's pointless, yeah, it doesn't make sense, but sometimes, it's okay. It's still creative, still strange, and still unmistakably Seuss. (a DVD of the special pops up) You can still get it on DVD and witness all of the goofiness – or psychotic tendencies – yourself. Give it a buy, and see one of the most surreal crossovers ever devised.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. (gets up from his chair and leaves)