16 Fascinating (And Festive) Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Beloved Holiday Movies

·11 min read

1.Jon Favreau, the director of Elf, told 20/20 that the movie's team initially asked Macy's if they would be the department store/winter wonderland at the center of the film.

Santa with a child on his lap
New Line Cinema / youtube.com

But, in the spirit of keeping holiday magic alive, Macy's turned them down. Since one of the department store scenes involves Buddy the Elf accusing the store's Santa of being an imposter, the folks at Macy's were worried that kids would clue into the fact that their Santas weren't the real deal.

Buddy jumps up and down with kids when he thinks Santa is really there
New Line Cinema / youtube.com

Favreau said, "Because we’re using a Santa, of course, everybody thinks Macy's. But Macy's didn't like the idea that there was a fake Santa working there. They felt it would blow the illusion for kids."

Buddy realizes Santa is an imposter
New Line Cinema / youtube.com

Gimbels, a department store company that shuttered in 1987, took Macy's place.

Buddy sleeping in the window of Gimbels
New Line Cinema / Courtesy Everett Collection

2.Hugh Grant really, really, really didn't want to do that dancing scene in Love Actually.

Universal / giphy.com

Richard Curtis, the writer and director of the film, told the Daily Beast, "He was hugely grumpy about it. He was so wanting his bit not to be fake; he wanted to feel as though he could be prime minister. ... The fault line was the dance, because there was no way he could do that in a prime ministerial manner."

Hugh Grant behind his prime minister's desk
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

Grant's dance was filmed on the last day of shooting, since the actor had put it off for so long.

  Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

3.The Screen Junkies YouTube series Honest Action consults medical professionals about the types of injuries (and fatalities) that would ensue if onscreen action happened in real life. According to their video about Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, the Wet Bandits would die 23 times from the injuries inflicted on them by Kevin McCallister.

The Wet Bandits
20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

According to Dr. Adam Friedlander, Harry would die 9 times, and poor Marv would bite it no less than 14.

Kevin pointing a BB gun at one of the wet bandits
20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

This is to say nothing about the damage to their souls and psyches that two movies spent in the company of Kevin would do.

Kevin McAllister screaming
20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

4.Speaking of the Home Alone movies, the Plaza Hotel, aka where Kevin sets up shop in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, offers a "Home Alone 2: Fun in New York" package.

Kevin McAllister at the Plaza
20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy Everett Collection

The package includes a four-hour limo ride around New York City, complete with a large cheese pizza. And when you return to your "luxurious guest room," you can expect a "Home Alone sundae (16 scoops of assorted ice cream, whipped cream, maraschino cherries, M&M’s, brownie bits, chocolate, caramel, and raspberry sauce)."

Kevin in the limo with a pizza
20th Century Fox Film Corp / youtube.com

There's no price listed, presumably because that would put a damper on the festive whimsy of the whole thing.

  Peter Kramer / Getty Images
Peter Kramer / Getty Images

5.Miracle on 34th Street, one of the most famous Christmas movies of all time, wasn't released in December. Instead, it premiered on May 2, 1947.

Santa in Miracle on 34th Street
20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

According to Gothamist, this odd debut came about because the head of 20th Century Fox Studio, Darryl F. Zanuck, believed that movies released in the summer performed better. Therefore, the film's marketing downplayed its "Christmas setting."

the poster for Miracle on 34th Street
20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

6.Speaking of beloved classics: Remember It's a Wonderful Life, the moving 1946 film about a man realizing in the midst of his lowest moment how meaningful his life has been to those around him?

The protagonist hugging his child
Courtesy Everett Collection

Yeah, the FBI thought it was Communist propaganda.

a communist flag
Junior Gonzalez / Getty Images / fStop

According to the Independent, an FBI agent in Los Angeles wrote a memo detailing their suspicions. The agency originally looked into the film because two of its screenwriters, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, were believed to be "very close to known Communists."

the family gathered around the christmas tree
Courtesy Everett Collection

The agent who watched It's a Wonderful Life wrote in the memo that it "represented a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers," and that it "deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters." Referring specifically to the film's villainous banker character Mr. Potter, the agent, who probably did not go on to become a screenwriter, wrote that the movie could've shown Mr. Potter "following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiners in connection with making loans."

Mr. Potter
Courtesy Everett Collection

While the agent's report was delivered to the House Un-American Activities Committee, no action was taken against the film.

the poster for It's a wonderful life
Courtesy Everett Collection

7.During an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Jim Carrey revealed that the cumbersome costume he wore in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas was so awful that he literally underwent anti-torture training to deal with it.

Jim Carrey as the Grinch
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

Carrey said the process of applying his makeup was "like being buried alive every day," and that it took eight and a half hours on the first day. After that harrowing experience, Carrey tried to quit, so producer Brian Grazer decided to hire "a gentleman who is trained to teach CIA operatives how to endure torture."

Jim Carrey as The Grinch
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

The techniques the expert suggested to Carrey included eating throughout the day, turning on the TV to distract himself, and smoking cigarettes. Carrey had to use a cigarette holder to smoke, so as not to risk igniting his yak fur costume.

The Grinch and his dog
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

8.The scene in A Christmas Story where Flick, played by Scott Schwartz, gets his tongue stuck to a flagpole is one of the film's most iconic. But don't worry: Schwartz didn't actually have to lick a frozen pole.

Flick with his tongue stuck to the flagpole
MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

Schwartz told Yahoo! Entertainment that the flagpole was outfitted with a hidden suction device, not unlike a "small vacuum cleaner." When Flick licked the flagpole, it was this device, not the frozen metal, that held his tongue in place, through a small opening the size of "your pinky nail."

The protagonist pointing his BB gun
MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

He said that while the stunt wasn't painful, the frigid filming conditions were another matter. Schwartz said, "The worst part about it was just the bitter, bitter cold that we had. We were two days out there, and it was between 20 and 25 below zero with the wind chill.”

the kids after Flick rips his tongue off the pole
MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

9.In Chicago Magazine's oral history of Home Alone, director Chris Columbus said that John Hughes sent him the script (written by Hughes himself) after Columbus decided to leave another festive Hughes project: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Chevy Chase in National Lampoon Christmas Vacation
Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

Columbus decided to leave Christmas Vacation because star Chevy Chase proved just too difficult to work with. Said Columbus, "To be completely honest, Chevy treated me like dirt. ... Then I had another meeting with Chevy, and it was worse. I called John and said, 'There’s no way I can do this movie. I know I need to work, but I can’t do it with this guy.' John was very understanding."

Chevy Chase holding burnt Christmas presents
Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

Two weeks later, Hughes asked Columbus if he wanted to direct Home Alone. Columbus said, "I thought, 'Wow, this guy is really supporting me when no one else in Hollywood was going to.' John was my savior."

Chris Columbus and Macauley Culkin on set
20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy Everett Collection

10.In an essay for Vulture, Harold & Kumar screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg revealed that A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas was one of two possible ideas for the third movie in the series. The other was Harold & Kumar and the Legend of Eazy-E’s Stash, wherein the title characters "find out about an amazing bag of weed that once belonged to Eazy-E in the early nineties" and go on a quest to recover it.

Harold and Kumar at a Christmas party
Warner Bros. Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

The producers liked the Eazy-E idea, but soon after Hurwitz and Schlossberg began work on it, they had to drop it, because "the logistics of getting the rights to Eazy-E’s estate were more challenging than distributing a holiday film." Thus, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas was born.

Harold and Kumar with a Christmas Tree in between them
Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

The screenwriting duo wrote, "In the end, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas turned out almost exactly as we imagined when we first conceived of it. Whether it will ever be as brilliant as The Legend of Eazy-E’s Stash, we’ll unfortunately never know."

Harold and Kumar as claymation
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

11.Director Henry Selick told the Daily Beast that filming the stop-motion animation for The Nightmare Before Christmas took a year and a half. Said Selick, "At its peak, it was about 120 people working on it, and we had between 12–17 animators on the job. It’s an insane way to make a movie, but a lot of fun. It’s joy, along with a lot of pain."

Jack Skellington with Christmas lights
Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

The most difficult character to animate was Oogie Boogie, since "he’s big and pretty shapeless." Selick said that the moment where it's revealed that Oogie Boogie is filled with bugs took about four months to pull off, and that it "took some years off a few animators’ lives."

Oogie Boogie
Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Side note: What's the general consensus on The Nightmare Before Christmas? Is it a Halloween-y Christmas movie, or a Christmas-y Halloween movie?

Jack Skellington above a pumpkin patch
Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

12.According to Mental Floss, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) is partially blamed for the death of the aluminum Christmas tree trend.

Snoopy and Charlie decorating their Christmas tree
Courtesy Everett Collection

In the special, Charlie Brown and his friend Linus reject Lucy's suggestion to buy an aluminum tree, and instead choose a real one.

Peanuts cast decorating a tree
Courtesy Everett Collection

The aluminum Christmas tree was seen as "a symbol of everything that had gone wrong with Christmas," and sales dropped. However, the retro decorations have seen a recent, nostalgia-driven spike in popularity.

aluminum Christmas trees
Huephotography / Getty Images / iStockphoto

13.Director Robert Zemeckis told BBC that Chris Van Allsburg, the author of The Polar Express, sold the movie rights to his book on the condition that it not be adapted into "an animated cartoon."

Passengers and the conductor on the train
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

But Zemeckis didn't want to do a live-action adaptation, because "all the charm of the beautiful illustrations that were in the book would be lost, and I think they are so much a part of the emotion of the story."

Tom Hanks as the conductor
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

When Zemeckis met with Ken Ralston of Sony Imageworks, Ralston came up with the compromise of "doing it 'virtual' using motion capture."

Tom Hanks doing motion capture
Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

14.Michael Caine told GQ that he wanted to star in The Muppet Christmas Carol because his daughter, who was 7 at the time, was too young to watch any of his other movies.

the cast of the muppet christmas carol
Walt Disney Co. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Caine said, "I had never made a movie that a 7-year-old can see. And so a man mentioned the Muppets and I said, 'That’s it! I’ll do that!' ... And it was absolutely perfect at that time for what I wanted. I could make it, and my daughter could see it. That’s why I did it. And it was lovely."

Ms. Piggy, Kermit, and Tiny Tim Kermit
Walt Disney Co. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Caine played Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1992 film.

Ebenezer Scrooge with Kermit
Walt Disney Co. / Courtesy Everett Collection

15.In an interview with FilmIsNow, Mo'Nique said that while some scenes in Almost Christmas took longer to film because the actors were having so much fun together and making each other laugh, the cast "got it done" out of respect for their legendary co-star Danny Glover.

the family in Almost Christmas
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

Mo'Nique said, "When you are working with a legend, a living legend, and that's what Mr. Glover is to us, when you are working with that living legend, you don't want to mess around, because you want to respect what you're in front of. So, though we had a great time, we got it done, because we wanted to make sure we reserved our legend. We didn't want to have him there all hours of the night."

Danny Glover with a newspaper in Almost Christmas
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

Mo'Nique then joked that Glover taught the cast how to take a good nap.

Mo'Nique in Almost Christmas
Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

16.And finally: If you've ever been confused by the moment in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer where Yukon Cornelius licks his pickax, you're picking up on a deleted scene that explains a key plot point: Yukon is mining peppermint, not coal or silver or other such decidedly un-delicious materials.

NBC / giphy.com

In the deleted scene, Yukon licks his ax after it hits the ground, then says, "Peppermint! What I've been searching for all my life! I've struck it rich. I've got me a peppermint mine. Wahoo!"

all of the characters
NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection

Historian Rick Goldschmidt told the HuffPost, "The 'Peppermint Mine Scene' has not been on TV since 1964. The special as it airs on CBS is not right."

Santa and Rudolph
NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection
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