DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
The Grinch was shot almost entirely at Universal Studios in Hollywood, on 11 of the soundstages, including stage 12 at 30,000 sq.
ft., the largest of the lot and bursting at the seams with the massive Whoville set (the largest set ever built at the studio). A design of scientific ingenuity and dazzling imagination led by production designer Michael
Corenblith, the production used 2 million linear feet of Styrofoam (with no straight lines in Seuss' world, there was little need for conventional construction methods) to build the various sets. Taking a cue from Seuss' books, Corenblith instilled Whoville with a series of archways, bridges, stairs and spirals that repeats itself to a lesser extent on the interior sets.
The village of Whoville was based on what Corenblith believed was Geisel's love of medieval
architecture (evidenced in The Kings Stilts and the two Bartholomew books), even though in the Grinch book, Geisel depicted Whoville merely as a series of haystack houses. The Christmas tree is anchored in the middle of the village square with all the buildings radiating out like spikes from this 45-foot tall hub.
Viewed from above, the bricks on the plaza all spiral away from the tree, suggesting a center of the universe feel to the village. The buildings were designed so that they convey a sense of the history of Whoville, like villages in Europe reflect centuries of inhabitancy.
"The idea of what I was trying not to do," says Corenblith, "was build something that looked like a Santa's village that was dropped into place." Hence, the variance of styles in Whoville reflecting changing tastes over the years. The set was adorned with 8,000 ornaments and five miles of electrical wire holding 52,000 Christmas lights.
In so many of the Dr. Seuss books, it's plainly evident that Geisel had an obvious fondness for the ingenious Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi but also was enamored of Moroccan and Islamic architecture. The set for Whoville thusly turned out to be a Who version of a World's Fair. The town hall is neo-classical Greek with the Seuss animals guarding the entrance (reminiscent of the New York Public Library).
Farfingles department store featured art nouveau shapes of an old Parisian storefront; the old biddies lived in a New Orleans French Ouarter apartment; the
grocery store has an Islamic feel to it and the post office was pure Gaudi.
The interior of the Grinch's cave, while smaller in scale than the Whoville set, was no less inspired. The closest source material for the cave is probably Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, though the set (Universal's stages 28) was imbued with more of a cathedral space offset with the geometric stalagmites (growing from the floor) and stalactites (hanging from the ceiling).
The other architectural aspect that really tied into the Grinch's kinetic character (and more to the point, Jim Carrey's) was the spiral ramp (a La Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York City) which allowed a lot of freedom and spontaneity for Carrey. To that point, the scene where Cindy invites the Grinch to the Whobilation incorporates nearly all of the set.
The exterior of the Who houses (or, suburbs) was constructed on the Universal backlot between the
Psycho House and the laboratory from Jurassic Park.
Beyond the ingenuity of creating and then building the sets, the fact that every prop and set decoration had to be manufactured was somewhat daunting. The set decoration and props are Seussian inspired though it took a lot of trial and error to figure out what "Seussian" really meant and would it work in the
movie. When discussing the movie early in pre production with friend George Lucas, Ron Howard
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