Proposed Jack Nicholson Grinch by Berkeley Breathed

berkeley breathed grinch

Before the live version of the How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey was made, at least one other version of a Grinch movie was proposed.  This would have been an animated / computer graphics CGI version with Jack Nicholson serving as the voice for the Grinch.  Movie concept designs depicting the Grinch were prepared by cartoonist Berkeley Breathed.

In the above concept design the Grinch is seen as a middle-aged, overweight, balding character with strands of green hair.  Dressed in brown with over-sized brown shoes, he is not an appealing character.  He also does not look much like the Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ book.

berkeley breathed grinch

This concept picture more clearly shows the Grinch being drawn to look like Jack Nicholson.  A character being voiced over by an actor is typically not drawn to look like the actor.  But that is what was proposed.

berkeley breathed grinch

Here the Grinch is using an old car for a sleigh.  This other picture depicts the Grinch looking like he came straight out of a Bloom County cartoon.

Berke Breathed became famous for his Bloom County cartoon and characters Bill the Cat and Opus the Penguin.  Bloom County ended its run in 1989, although many of its characters continued in subsequent cartoon series by Breathed such as Outland and Opus.

These concept versions make the Grinch story look more like a Bloom County cartoon than a Dr. Seuss cartoon.  It may have been great in its own.  We will never know.

The Jim Carrey Grinch movie directed by Ron Howard is definitely more faithful to the Grinch as envisioned by Dr. Seuss, and we are glad that is the direction chosen for making a movie.  Jack Nicholson, though, would likely have done a wonderful job voicing over the Grinch in an animated film.  Just so long as the Grinch looks like the Grinch and not Jack.

Jack Nicholson has received more Academy Award nominations than any other male actor in history.  However, these have not been for voicing over animated movies.

According to Box Office Mojo, the Jim Carrey Grinch movie made more money than any of Nicholson’s films in actual dollars.  Adjusted for inflation, two of Jack’s movies were bigger hits: Batman and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

The message printed below the sleigh picture of the Grinch and Max on Mount Crumpit states:

“The Grinch” movie concept art, 1997

In the mid-nineties we made a bid for The Grinch movie rights.
I saw the film as being a CG animated romp with Jack Nicholson in the
lead role and created the art here to demonstrate.

Dr. Seuss’s widow Audrey Geisel enjoyed our vision.  She enjoyed the vision
of Ron Howard and Universal’s option money somewhat more, alas.
The rest is Jim Carrey live-action movie history.

Nobody but Audrey has ever seen these.
Enjoy and muse along with me what might have been.  – bb


Fortunately, Berke decided to release this information.  Otherwise, we would not have known about the proposed Jack Nicholson version of the Grinch.




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