Behind the Scenes of our Favorite Holiday Classics


Some of our favorite Christmas movies today have some interesting stories behind how they were created. Photos from Google. Graphic by Ella Ashby.

Kaylee Styers, Features Writer

“Elf” (2003): The movie “Elf,” directed by Jon Favreau, is a classic Christmas movie about Buddy, an orphan who lived and functioned as an elf for most of his life after sneaking into Santa’s workshop as a child. When Buddy finally finds out he’s a human and comes from a human family, he travels to New York City to search for his long-lost father. “Elf” made 225.1 million dollars at the box office. At the beginning of production process, director Jon Favreau was originally just doing rewrites of the script, but had some of his own ideas to make it funnier. He rewrote the script and then was later assigned to direct the film.
“I was hired on to do rewrites. There was an original script that was quite different,” Favreau told Rotten Tomatoes. When watching the film you might see some scenes that are familiar from the 1964 film “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” This is because the movie influenced the filmmakers to bring the same happy and cheery atmosphere to “Elf,” even using the same color scheme. All of the elf’s costumes, including Buddy’s, and the character Leon The Snowman are based on the 1964 cartoon. Actor Will Ferrell’s performance as Buddy has been highly praised, however, he wasn’t the first person considered for the role. Producers were hoping to cast actor Jim Carrey for the role but thought Ferrell was a better fit. While filming the scenes where Buddy is downtown, rather than having extras almost all of the NYC residents are just regular people. For example, in the scene where Buddy thinks a man walking is Santa, it is just an average New Yorker downtown.
“Home Alone”(1990): During the holidays, “Home Alone” is on almost every channel, holding a 27-year record for the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever, making 467.7 million dollars worldwide. It’s rare to find someone who’s never seen the movie about Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), an 8-year-old boy who is left at home all by himself for the holidays. Two robbers, Marve (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci) plan to break into the house, but Kevin has other plans and will fight to protect his home. Famous writer John Hughes came up with the plot after going on vacation and wondering what would happen if he left his son at home, writing the script in less than 10 days.
“I was going away on vacation and making a list of everything I didn’t want to forget. I thought, ‘Well, I’d better not forget my kids.’ Then I thought, ‘What if I left my 10-year-old son at home? What would he do?'” Hughes said in an interview with Time Magazine in 1990.
While filming, the director, Chris Columbus wanted Culkin to be genuinely scared and fearful of actor Joe Pesci to make it more realistic for the movie, so they only saw each other while filming the scenes. This tactic did end up working since Pesci accidentally bites Culkin’s finger in the scene when Kevin is put on a coat hook and Harry tells Kevin he is “going to bite all of his fingers off,” Culkin still has the scar to this day.
“The Polar Express”(2004): The animated cartoon movie ”The Polar Express ‘ is a memory most of us remember watching before winter break in elementary school. The movie follows a boy that no longer believes in Santa, but gets a visit on Christmas Eve by the Polar Express train, and is approached by the conductor. The train is filled with other children including a lonely boy named Billy and a Hero-girl, and the three form a friendship while experiencing life lessons. The movie is based on the book “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg, which was inspired by Allsburg’s childhood in Grand Rapids. The producers thought that filming it in live-action wouldn’t work, so they used motion-capture animation, which allowed the filmmakers to have the actors act on an empty stage, and make motion-captured animation for the first time in history. Tom Hanks had multiple parts in the movie voicing Hero Boy (adult voice), Hero Boy’s father, the Conductor, the Hobo, Santa Claus and the Ebenezer Scrooge puppet. Hanks enjoyed the new acting experiences, though he felt exhausted playing so many characters. “The Polar Express” made over 286 million dollars at box office.
Hopefully, you will enjoy your favorite classic holiday movies even more, now knowing how they came to be and maybe you can add a new one to your watch list this season.