When it comes to Christmas movies, you’d have to be a hard-hearted creature to not have the slightest hint of affection for Jon Favreau’s 2003 classic Elf.
Like those great holiday movies of yore, it’s full of old-fashioned Christmas cheer, as Buddy, Will Ferrell’s passionate Santa’s helper, goes in search of his real father after being raised by elves at the North Pole.
Alongside veterans like James Caan, Bob Newhart and Ed Asner (and with a starring role for Zooey Deschanel), Buddy’s love of Christmas is utterly infectious.
Read more: The best Christmas movies of the 21st century
To celebrate, then, here are 17 things you probably didn’t know about Elf.
1 | It could have been Jim Carrey
Since screenwriter David Berenbaum has been developing the script since 1993, Will Ferrell wasn’t the first actor to be ready for the role of Buddy. Jim Carrey came closest, but turned it down to make Ace Ventura, the film that would make his name.
2 | The amazing voice cameo
In the scene where Buddy greets a series of stop-motion creatures, the polar bear club is voiced by none other than animation legend Ray Harryhausen (director Favreau voiced the Narwhal). Favreau caught Harryhausen while he was engaged in a speech, to which he got a contract and a DAT player to record his batting.
3 | The first children were wild
The kid who plays Baby Buddy was actually three girls. They had a set of twins, who apparently looked like Ferrell with curly blond hair, but they wouldn’t stop crying during filming, so they were eventually replaced.
Read more: Will Ferrell reacts to Asda’s Elves advert
4 | Classic elf clothes
The outfits for the elves were modeled after those in “Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer” (see above), an American stop-motion television special that has been repeated annually in the United States since 1964.
5 | Ferrell has turned down a HUGE check for Elf 2
Will Ferrell reportedly turned down $29 million to star in Elf 2. “That’s what was on offer for it,” he told The Guardian. “But I killed the idea of a sequel. I’ve never liked it — $29 million sounds like a lot of money for a guy who wears pantyhose, but that’s what the market will put up with.
“It’s insane, but it’s not up to me. The studios perpetuate it and make it hard to say no. I remember asking myself: Could I stand up to criticism when it’s bad and they say, ‘Did he do the sequel for the money’? I decided I didn’t I would have been able to.
6 | The Discworld niche reference
When Buddy states that his favorite color is “Ocatrine”, it is a reference to Terry Pratchett’s popular Discworld series of novels, specifically The Color of Magic.
Read more: Is Elf the most overrated Christmas movie?
7 | Ferrell has kept it in the family
Will Ferrell’s brother Patrick plays one of the Empire State Building’s security guards.
8 | Zwigoff got bogged down
Ghost World director Terry Zwigoff was offered the film, but passed. But he went on to make another great Christmas movie, Bad Santa.
9 | Another nod to the classics
Peter Billingsley, who as a child played Ralphie in another Christmas classic A Christmas Story, appears in an uncredited role as a supervising elf in Santa’s workshop.
10 | Tunnel vision
Ferrell caused several minor car accidents during his walk through the Lincoln Tunnel, many seeing the actor in an elf costume and looking away from the road.
11 | Shock in the box
When Buddy is testing jacks-in-the-boxes at the North Pole, one of his many menial tasks, Jon Favreau wanted the latest on-camera shock to be authentic, so he controlled the box with an off-screen remote so that Ferrell could not know when it was about to open.
12 | Sweet dad
The sugar that Ferrell had to consume in the film didn’t agree with him at all. He suffered from severe headaches during filming and often had insomnia at night.
13 | No CGI for the elves
Rather than using CGI or dwarf actors, Favreau opted for the old “forced perspective” cinematic technique, constructing two sets: one for the full-sized actors that was full-sized, and one that was much smaller for Ferrell. With clever use of lighting, the sets are then merged.
14 | Caan on old Joanna
In the final moments of the film, that’s really James Caan playing Auld Lang Syne on the piano. It is multipurpose.
Read more: James Caan says the tension between Ferrell and Favreau killed Elf 2
15 | Santa’s list is real
When Santa shows Michael his “good list,” it consists of the names of the film crew members and what they wanted for Christmas.
16 | Life imitated art
Will Ferrell actually once worked as a mall Santa when he was a part of the popular Los Angeles-based improv group The Groundlings. One of his elves was Chris Kattan, who also crewed Saturday Night Live with Ferrell.
17 | The burp
The huge burp, after Buddy downed a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola, was performed by Maurice LaMarche, voice actor for cartoons such as Animaniacs and Futurama. He also played Egon in The Real Ghostbusters.
He said he’s been belching like that since he was a kid, and he specifically did on Animaniacs. One member of Elf’s crew recalled his windy abilities on the cartoon show, and the rest is gassy history. Ferrell lip-synched accordingly.
Watch: Will Ferrell responds to Asda’s Elf commercial