How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
The Grinch’s loyal dog Max is back as well, and is played by six different mixed-breed shelter rescues: Kelly, Chip, Topsy, Stella, Zelda, and Bo. The dogs all wore a lightweight headpiece with long ears attached, and for the flying sequences wore an additional antler headpiece as well as fur-covered harnesses to secure the dogs in place. Kelly also wore a fur-covered harness in a scene where the Grinch and Max hide in the mailroom. They were suspended in the upper corner near the ceiling, while a crewmember held cables connected to four points on the harness from his position behind both the Grinch and the ceiling. The crewmember securely held the cables for the entirety of the scene, ensuring that there was no chance of Kelly falling.
While in the mailroom, Max tries to dissuade the Grinch from mixing up the Who’s mail. Max grabs the Grinch’s robe from behind and swings around as the Grinch attempts to dislodge him. To accomplish this, a handle device was attached to the Grinch and hidden under the folds of his costume. Chip was trained to grab it and hang from it, and the tape was sped up to achieve the illusion of Max being rapidly swung around. Max and the Grinch soon depart Whoville via a tunnel leading directly to the Grinch’s cave on Mt. Crumpit. The dog’s action was filmed in front of a blue screen The tunnel was actually generated in the computer. The trainer cued Stella (and Zelda) to roll on her side and hide her eyes. A blue screen also helped to make it appear as though Max was falling. Once out of the tunnel, the dog landed onto mattresses covered with fake snow. For the scene, Stella and Zelda wore a harness attached to cables and were lowered in the harness approximately six feet out of the tunnel to simulate falling. Max then carries a bag of “hazardous waste” in his mouth up the mountain. This was actually a very light bag filled with other bags. Also, the snow-covered Mt.Crumpit and Whoville were achieved on the set with fake snow—Max never suffered from the cold—and trainers protected the dogs’ eyes with Opti-Clean eyewash.
In the cave, Max is unamused by his master’s negativity regarding Christmas, but stands by him nonetheless. For the following sequences, the trainer cued the dog with various commands: “on your feet,” “pick it up,” “hold it,” “look here,” and the basic “sit,” “stay,” and “speak.” After Max presented the Grinch with Cindy-Lou Who’s invitation to the “Holiday Cheer-Meister of the Year Award” ceremony, the trainer removed the paper from the dog’s mouth and rewarded her with a treat. Also, a stuffy was used when the Grinch cold-heartedly kicks Max—who was excitedly Jingle Bell-Rockin’ at the Grinch’s decision to go to the ceremony—through the air.
Still in the cave, Max dons a hard hat with a miner’s light and carries a wrench in his mouth to hand over to the Grinch. Both the welding hat and the wrench were made of lightweight plastic, and there was a treat waiting in the toolbox for Max when he deposited the wrench back into the box. To get Max to watch the Grinch during his monologues, Jim Carrey’s stand-in would give the dog plenty of treats for being attentive during rehearsal, so that when filming began, the dog knew she’d be rewarded for her behavior.
During the Grinch’s Christmas Eve pillage, he encounters a cat in one of the Whoville homes. The Grinch wrestles with the cat and then “Whoovers” him up in his handy vacuum tube. The kitty’s fur was blown by a hair dryer on a low, cool speed to simulate vacuum pressure. To create the illusion of the cat being drawn into the vacuum, a fur-covered harness with a piece of filament wire was attached to the cat. When the trainer pulled the wire, the cat was gently pulled along with it. The cat was very calm and laid-back throughout filming. The cat bulge in the vacuum tube was actually a stuffy, and the entire sequence was enhanced with digital computer effects. Also, when the feline seemingly landed on the Grinch’s face, Jim Carrey was actually lying on the padded floor while a trainer gently placed the cat in his outstretched hands. Afterwards, another trainer took the cat from him and out of the frame. The mouse in the previous scene was also delicately handled, while the termites and moths were computer generated.
Extreme safety precautions were taken for Max’s sleigh rides. The dog was strapped into the sleigh by a fur-covered harness that was connected by a swivel hook and rope to the sleigh itself. The rope was loose enough so Kelly—who did most of the sleigh work—could move, but tight enough so she could not slip or attempt to jump out. Trainers were suspended from above the sleigh, situated directly in front of the dog and above the camera, verbally cueing her to stay in place. When the sleigh took off, there was a crewmember standing directly below as an added safety measure. To achieve the illusion of Max pulling the sleigh up Mt. Crumpit, Kelly wore a full-body harness covered in fur and tied with a piece of filament wire. The trainer hid in a crane box directly in front of Kelly, cueing her to “come.” As Kelly pulled against the filament wire with her body, it appeared as though she was actually pulling the sleigh, even though she clearly wasn’t. There was also a compartment and ramp built underneath the hill, which was covered with a large blanket of cotton with a slit cut into it for the dog to “break through.” This created the illusion of Max being buried in the snow as he strained up Mt. Crumpit with the sleigh in tow. The sleigh was actually being moved forwards and backwards by hydraulics. Once the hydraulics had moved the sleigh, the trainer verbally cued Kelly to lie down on her side to act exhausted from the exertion. Also, most of the lurching and flying sleigh scenes were filmed in front of a blue screen, with the sky and snow backgrounds added in post production. And, of course, the dogs had absolutely no contact with the Grinch’s whip.
While the Grinch’s heart literally—and painfully—grows to match his newfound love for humanity, Max barks and whines in distress along with his master. For this scene, Max’s part was filmed separately so that she wouldn’t be frightened by the Grinch’s sudden attack. The dog was reacting to the trainer’s cues rather than to the Grinch’s antics. Soon after, however, the Grinch finally professes his love for his canine companion, and Max affectionately licks his master’s face. The trainer prompted the dog to do this by placing baby food on the actor’s cheek. Yet Max’s ultimate reward, perhaps, is his hearty serving of “roast beast,” as he revels in the Christmas celebration in Whoville. The dog obediently sat at the crowded dinner table after the trainer told her to “stay,” and enjoyed a helping of ham.
For more Max news, see “How Max Stole the Show” to discover what happened to the real-life pooches after the cameras stopped rolling…
How Max Stole the Show
As one of the most highly anticipated movies of the Holiday 2000 season, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas features Jim Carrey as the hairy, green Christmas menace intent on destroying the Yuletide cheer for the people of Whoville. Unlike the animated version, this Grinch is somewhat of a tortured soul, and his hatred for the holiday goes beyond Santa and “roast beast”—this time the Grinch takes it personally, and it’s Cindy-Lou Who (played by Taylor Momsen) who must finally convince the heart-challenged Grinch what Christmas is really all about.
Along for the wild ride is the Grinch’s trusty dog Max, and though he objects to his master’s penchant for wreaking havoc, his loyalty never wavers. Yet Max is much more than just the Grinch’s loyal dog and unwitting accomplice, he’s also his moral compass—Max expressively reprimands the Green One for his wicked ways with those big brown eyes and a few well-meaning barks; his means of transport—that Grinch is such a sleigh-driver!; as well a provider of warmth and affection to a seemingly unlovable creature. In fact, Max may be the true hero of the story, as his humor, devotion, and likeability outshine even the Whos down in Whoville.
Max the Method Actor
Max was actually played by six different dogs, and all were mixed-breed shelter rescues. The two lead dogs were Kelly and Chip—with Kelly doing most of the stunts—and the other four were Topsy, Stella, Zelda, and Bo. Animal trainer Roger Schumacher spent 3 and 1/2 months practicing with the animals prior to filming to perfect their stunts and acclimate them to the set environment. This period not only allowed the canine stars to become their character, but also allowed the trainers to discern which particular behaviors each dog was comfortable doing. As a rule, the animals were only expected to perform the actions they were willing to do based on their individual personalities and physical capabilities. Topsy, for example, was the resident scratcher, while Zelda was trained to scoot in a sitting position. She struts her stuff in the film when Max is forced to smooch the materialistic mayor of Whoville and then scoots off in disgust. Bo’s special trick was pulling the sleigh and Stella’s was to speak and back up.
In case you’re wondering if the dogs were initially frightened of Carrey in full Grinch-regalia, AHA monitored the pre-production training and observed that the dogs were desensitized to all of the actors’ make-up and costumes during training, as well as familiarized with their own costumes and safety devices. For example, Max’s antlers and long, floppy ears were actually a lightweight headpiece that the dogs wore throughout their training, and by the time filming began, the little divas were well adjusted to their accoutrements. Max also adorns a mini hardhat and Rudolph nose, although he gets to swipe off the clownish, red nose with his paws in the movie.
Many television and movie star dogs are actually “discovered” as orphans at local animal shelters or pounds. Happy, who stars in TV’s “7th Heaven” was rescued from a veterinarian’s office, and J.J. is a yellow lab that was rescued from the pound and stars in the upcoming movie “The Mexican” with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Schumacher often finds dogs with star potential at pounds, and actually discovered all six “Max” dogs at local shelters. Although he does look for qualities such as playfulness and a lack of shy and skittish behavior, Schumacher states that he does not wait to find one particular “fit” for a role. The “Max” dogs, after all, had their hair dyed and trimmed to resemble one another, and each had their own distinctive personality.
A strong, individual personality is just one of the perks of adopting a shelter animal. Having already “lived a little,” all of the dogs on the Grinch have a unique disposition. Stella, the speaking Max, is sweet and gentle and docile while Topsy can be downright stubborn! Topsy’s new owner, Marnie Cooper—who was also the acting coach for Taylor Momsen, AKA little Cindy-Lou Who—adores Topsy’s strong will and loving demeanor, and finds her new pet well-suited to her home. In fact, all of the four new “Max” dog owners—in addition to Schumacher, who kept the lead dogs, Kelly and Chip—find their movie star pets loving and sweet, with great personalities.
In addition to their inherent charm, the dogs’ film training socialized the animals, teaching them to be responsive to direction and, perhaps most importantly, ensured that they were housebroken! As a bonus, most of the new “Max” owners find that their little star can do tricks they hadn’t seen before. Bryan Ellenburg, Bo’s owner, thought that Bo just didn’t enjoy his walks because he would often strain against his leash. Then Ellenburg realized that he’d been inadvertently signaling Bo to strain forward—Bo must’ve thought he was still pulling the Grinch’s sleigh!
Stella’s owner, Orly Kroh-Trifman, knows about patience. After months of watching the six “Max” dogs training on the Universal lot outside her office window, she decided that she had to have one of the little “mutts.” Similarly, when Marnie Cooper first laid eyes on Topsy, she knew that she was the one. Both Kroh-Trifman and Cooper visited their future pet on the Grinch set almost daily, and found it increasingly difficult to wait for the day they’d be allowed to take their dog home. About 8 months later, they were finally able to leave the set with their new family member—Kroh-Trifman with Stella, and Cooper with Topsy—and they’ve been ecstatic ever since.
Schumacher actually begins the process of finding a home for his rescues almost immediately. He finds, however, that once the dogs are on a film set, there are usually cast and crew members—and people peeking through their office windows—who want to adopt a pet and approach him first. In order to properly match the dog with his or her prospective owner, Schumacher talks to the interested parties about their background with pets, and also observes them with the animal to discover whether or not they’ll make good owners. If he cannot place a dog after wrapping a film, the dog lives with Schumacher in the interim; the dogs never go back to the pound or shelter.
It’s been quite a journey for the “Max” dogs. They’ve been rescued from shelters, trained to be movie stars, snagged a major motion picture, adopted into loving, secure homes, and finally—at least for Topsy, Stella, Zelda, and Bo—retired from show business. Although it was a brief career, their paw print has been made—and judging by the potential blockbuster-status of the Dr. Seuss classic, it won’t go unnoticed.