Movies

15 Fun Facts About Elf That Will Make You Love The Movie Even More

Let’s just say a lot of sugar was eaten during filming.

SANTA!!!! It’s officially beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. And for a few of us, that means eating a row of Tollhouse cookie dough, syrup-coated spaghetti, snowball fights, and singing “Santa’s Coming To Town” in the middle of Times Square. At least those are some facts about Elf starring Will Ferrell that we all remember fondly.

Another? The 2003 movie was one of Ferrell’s first official, leading roles after Saturday Night Live. Since it premiered in 2003, Elf has become a Christmas favorite. Not only does it have laughs for days, but there are also tons of Easter eggs that pay homage to other holiday staples and Christmas classics.

In a 2003 interview with Black Film, Ferrell spoke about his expectations for the movie, saying that he hoped the movie would bring people laughs. “Hopefully we have made a movie that people are going to find funny,” he said, “and something that can be a shared experience for the entire family in a way that's emotionally satisfying as a story but also works as a comedy and captures the spirit of the holidays all kind of rolled into one.”

Indeed, he did. Besides all the quotes, here are a few, quirky facts about Elf you may not have known about.

1

Jim Carrey Almost Had The Role Of “Buddy”

Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Could you imagine Jim Carrey in green leggings and a pointy elf hat with a gold bell yelling, “SANTA!” Well if this movie was made about a decade earlier that would’ve been the case. Screenwriter David Berenbaum wrote the script for Elf in 1993 with the Ace Ventura funnyman in mind, according to SlashFilm. But it took 10 years for the project to be picked up and Ferrell signed on. Carrey has never commented on the prospective role but everything worked out for the best. The Dumb and Dumber star went on to star in season favorites such as How The Grinch Stole Christmas and the CG version of A Christmas Carol.

2

Will Ferrell Used To Work As A Mall Santa

Ferrell isn’t new to this Christmas game, he is true to it! Before getting his big break on Saturday Night Live, he worked as a mall Santa in a department store, and SNL co-star Chris Kattan was one of his elves. Ferrell talked about his experience as Santa in a 2003 interview with Spliced Wire, when he and Kattan were part of a comedy troupe at the time. “Chris Kattan was my elf at this outdoor mall in Pasadena for five weeks, passing out candy canes,” he said. “It was hilarious because little kids could care less about the elf. They just come right to Santa Claus. So by the second weekend, Kattan had dropped the whole affectation he was doing and was like, 'Santa's over there, kid.’”

So in a way, you can say Ferrell was destined to play Buddy!

3

The Family Appeal Won Ferrell Over For The Role

Being the typical funny guy that Ferrell is, it was a breath of fresh air for the Saturday Night Live alum to get involved with something that kids of all ages can laugh at for a change. “I had it for a while,” Ferrell told Black Film about the script and his expectations for it at the time.

“If we could find a way to handle it correctly and shoot, the appeal of it was to be able to shoot a film that would be funny but also heartfelt and be a different type of thing for me to do in terms of something that a family audience would see as opposed to some of the other projects that I have gotten to work on which has obviously been for a different audience. That was the appeal. To have the potential to be in something like this.”

Potential accomplished!

4

A Lot Of Sugar Was Eaten

Buddy loved maple syrup-coated spaghetti and cotton candy. But keeping up with the elves’ main food groups; candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup, wreak havoc on Ferrell’s diet. “I ingested a lot of sugar in this movie, and I didn't get a lot of sleep,” Ferrell revealed to The Sun. He added that eating all of those sugary foods caused terrible headaches and sugar highs, but the comedian was committed to his role. “I constantly stayed up. But anything for the movie, I'm there. If it takes eating a lot of maple syrup, then I will — if that's what the job calls for.”

5

The Cotton Balls Were Actually Cotten Candy

In one scene, Walter takes Buddy to the doctor to get a paternity test to find out if the oversized human elf is really his son. While he was there, Buddy gets excited and starts stuffing cotton balls in his mouth. But these were not real cotton balls, more like cotton candy that had not been dyed yet, according to E!.

“A few bushels. No. How would you measure cotton? A few hundred cotton balls,” Ferrell joked in a 2003 interview with Black Film when he was asked how many cotton candy balls he ate. He added that he didn’t spit any out in between takes either, which contributed to his over-sugar diet during the production. “No, actually, we fooled you. That was cotton candy that we made special things out of.”

6

Buddy’s Costume Was Inspired By 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Buddy’s green and yellow elf costume was modeled after the elves in the 1964 animated, claymation television special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Director Jon Farveau told ABC, “The costume was important. It looks almost like he's a puppet and the tights and the boots and the hat and he was extremely brave wearing that costume.”

Costume designer Laura Jean Shannon shared that the hardest part of her job was dressing a 6-foot-3 frame man into this type of costume that looked good. “After all, I had to dress a grown man in tights and a cutaway coat,” Shannon told Feel Christmassy in a 2015 interview. But Ferrell seemed to enjoy the look as he told Black Film, “It's always nice to having something like that especially in the wardrobe area that immediately kind of helps you become the character. The elf outfit immediately, I didn't have to try too hard once I got in the tights. It was kind of a perfect visual.”

7

A Christmas Story’s Peter Billingsley Makes A Cameo

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We all know Ralphie from A Christmas Story. But did you also know he had a short run as an elf from the North Pole? A Christmas Story star Peter Billingsley made a cameo as Ming Ming the elf, glasses and all.

“I wanted some of the Christmas Story, that good mojo, that was our goal,” Farveau told ABC about Billingsley’s appearance. “We were half-joking, saying, ‘Maybe someday this will be like Christmas Story where every year they'll watch it.” Another fun fact, Billingsley is also a good friend of Farveau, according to IndieWire, so asking him to be part of his movie was probably a no-brainer.

8

The Other Elf Costumes Were Inspired By Various Folklore

Elf costume designer Laura Jean Shannon said she used folklore and artwork from different cultures about Santa’s little helpers as inspiration for her designs. “I made very strict rules for our North Pole elves and their costumes were an amalgamation of many cultures and times,” Shannon told Feeling Christmassy. She added that she wanted the costumes to represent not only the diversity of the cast but the overall holiday mythical beings. “We wanted them to be a people of the world, so I researched folklore and art from many cultures and many time periods that spoke to the patterns of design for their embellishments.”

Pretty insightful huh?

9

The Movie Pays Homage To A Former Retail Staple

The iconic New York City department store took on a new name, just for this movie! Macy’s Herald Square was digitally altered to Gimbels Department store, where Buddy worked. And get this, Gimbels was actually a real department store in New York City! During its heyday, Gimbels was a rival to Macy’s. The department store was right around the corner from Macy’s Herald Square and had 20 retail locations nationwide by 1930 and was actually featured in the 1947 film classic Miracle on 34th Street. Gimbels closed in 1986 after a 76-year run.

10

Buddy’s Epic Burp Was Not An Actual Burp

Nope. That pretty disgusting credit belongs to voice actor Maurice LaMarche who is best known for the vocals of Brain from Pinky and the Brain. LaMarche has also worked in The Simpsons, Rick, and Morty, Scooby-Doo Guess Who? and Mr. Big in Zootopia.

LaMarche shared the secret to his epic burp during a panel at the 2016 Vulture Festival. “It’s not a real burp,” he explained in a YouTube clip posted by New York Magazine from the festival. “It’s an effect that I do and I don’t know how to quite explain how I do it. It’s just that I kind of turn my tongue inside out and I do like a deep glottal rasp while I turn the tongue inside out.”

Burping professionally isn’t new to LaMarche. At the festival, he also shared that he did the singing burps for Wacko in Animaniacs.

11

The Snowballs Were Also Not Real

Remember the scene when Buddy and his little brother had a snowball fight with bullies in Central Park and how the balls were coming at the kids like a tennis ball machine? Well think about it... who could throw snowballs with as much force and speed as Buddy did? Turns out, most of the snow was computer-generated. To get the effect he wanted, Favreau asked composer John Debney to give it a Western feel like The Magnificent Seven.

Knowing that information and looking back on the movie now, it seems Ferrell was actually holding a bunch of nothing in the scene. Oh, the joy of technology! And another thing about these snowballs...

12

The Snowball Fight Scene Inspired A Card Game

It inspired a game! The snowball scene inspired the creation of the Elf: Snowball Showdown card game. In it, three to six players can reenact the snowball fight scene by playing various cards. Each player is given a set of like-colored snowball cards to throw another player. When you’re the target, roll the jumbo snowball dice to dodge the icy barrage. And when you get hit, take a snowball “splat” card. Three hits and you’re out. Sounds confusing?

Just purchase the game and try it for yourself. Elf: Snowball Showdown is available on Amazon for $6.99. There’s also an Elf-inspired board game for the family called Elf: Journey from the North Pole, also available on Amazon.

13

Buddy Caused A Few Traffic Incidents In NYC

Not too many events or people can shut down busy Manhattan streets. But Ferrell's Buddy costume was so captivating it stopped traffic — literally. Favreau talked about the road incidents while filming with Rolling Stone. “When we had Will in the Lincoln Tunnel, the tunnel was open. Same thing with the 59th Street Bridge,” Favreau told Rolling Stone in a 2020 interview. “Whenever he was out there in his suit, we'd hear screeches and fender-benders and lights smashing. People would be looking at him walking on the side and that would cause a few minor traffic accidents.”

No tickets were issued during the making of this film.

14

Favreau Hoped The Movie Would Bring Joy To New Yorkers After 9/11

The production of Elf also touched on some trauma from many New Yorkers who were still recovering from the attacks on Sept. 11. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Favreau said the team had begun scouting for film locations shortly after the 9/11 attacks and he found a more sentimental reason for wanting to shoot in the busy streets of New York City.

“Having grown up in New York, it was so sad to me that people thought of Manhattan in how it related to 9/11,” Favreau told Rolling Stone. “It was a city in mourning. And to go and make a movie about Christmas where the Empire State Building was something he dreamed about from a snow globe and his father worked there — it was almost like reclaiming Manhattan.”

15

The Director Didn’t Know Zooey Deschanel Could Sing

If you’ve seen Elf, you can recall the scene when Buddy hears Zooey Deschanel’s character singing in the department store’s shower and the two share an unexpected duo of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Well, it turns out, that was a late-minute add-on. Farveau told Rolling Stone he had no idea Deschanel could sing when he cast her and wrote a part in to showcase her vocals.

“That was not in the original script,” Farveau explained. “I wrote it in because she has that great Doris Day voice. The whole Christmas spirit, saving Christmas, that was pretty late in the game, too. That wasn’t in the original script. It gave it that magical feeling, that spirit-redeeming. Buddy changing a lot of people in small ways and overall changing the personality of the city, that’s something I think gives the movie heart.”