In 2000, Hollywood decided audiences needed a live-action movie starring Jim Carrey as the terrifying-looking green creature from Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The film later won multiple Oscars, became one of the highest-grossing holiday films of all time, and remains one of the most beloved Christmas specials to date. But the real star of the movie isn’t Carrey as the Grinch; it’s Max the Dog, his ever-loyal best friend.
According to the Animal Humane Association, Max is played by six different mixed-breed shelter rescue dogs: Kelly, Chip, Topsy, Stella, Zelda, and Bo. Lots of harnesses and precautions were employed to bring Maxs scenes to life, and it was worth it, too — that pup is the best part of the movie. “Max is much more than just the Grinchs loyal dog and unwitting accomplice,” the Animal Humane Association wrote on its website. “In fact, Max may be the true hero of the story, as his humor, devotion, and likeability outshine even the Whos down in Whoville.”
This pup stands by his owner through it all — even the Grinchs deranged plan to, you know, steal Christmas from Whoville. “Max is the world’s greatest dog, let alone the Grinchs best companion,” actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who voiced the Grinch in a 2018 animated adaptation, told USA Today. “Anyone should be so lucky to have a Max in their life.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
In fact, we are kind of obsessed with the Grinch’s dog and he is why we love the story so much. Max is proof that dog’s are truly the most loyal companions anyone can ever have.
Are you a fan of Dr. Seuss? Do you enjoy How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Are you a fan of his dog Max? I know we are! But did you know Max his own book?
Written in 2018 by Astrid Holm, I Am Max is the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas but from the point of view of Max himself. And if you couldn’t tell, this is a Dr. Seuss style book, but obviously not written by the author himself.
Over on Amazon, the book will cost you about $3.99, although the list price is $7.99, and it truly gives us a new look at the classic story. And if you are anything like us, then you already know that we want as much Max content as we can get.
He’s Willing To Try New Things
The Grinch dresses Max up as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to lead his stealing-Christmas sleigh, and Max is kind of willing to roll with it — until his owner realizes the whole thing is a bad idea.
Is Max a real dog in the Grinch?
How did the Grinch end up with his dog Max?
Who plays Max the dog in the Grinch the musical?