Elf is a Christmas classic, despite only being 17 years old, it's a Christmas movie that was almost instantly beloved. With Will Ferrell's childlike wonderment as Buddy and Zooey Deschanel's patented quirky girl laced with a twinge of scrooge, Elf strikes the balance of family-friendly but grown-up, too, making it the perfect Christmas fare no matter what your household looks like.
With Christmas fast approaching, more and more Elf related content is making its way online. Recently, there was the remake starring Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons.
The latest tidbit of Elf news was revealed in Netflix's The Holiday Movies That Made Us, it turns out that Elf was almost stopped mid-production, never to see the light of day.
According to Production Designer Rusty Smith, Elf took too much inspiration from the 1964 TV Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Rankin/Bass productions.
Director Jon Favreau (The Mandalorian and Marvel's Happy Hogan) had made his number one rule for the film that it should look like a Rankin/Bass production.
You can see the influence of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in Elf's stop-motion scenes and the costuming. Eventually, however: "We got in trouble with clearance," Smith explained.
"They got nervous that we had stolen too much from Rankin/Bass. And all of a sudden we had lawyers in our midst. Lawyers with you on the set, lawyers with you in the art department.
Lawyers saying like 'Where's your reference? Where'd you get this idea? Where'd this come from?'... The producer came to me and said 'The film might not be releasable.'"
Producer Jon Berg said the lawyers asked: 'How influenced are you?' And we said to them, 'really influenced. Favreau came in and threw the book on the freaking table in his first meeting."
Favreau's penchant for the aesthetics of Rankin/Bass was as a result of trying to make the script work. Ten years after Elf was made, released, he told Rolling Stone: "And I remember reading it, and it clicked: if I made the world that he was from as though he grew up as an elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, one of those Rankin/Bass Christmas specials I grew up with, then everything fell into place tonally.
"So for a year, I rewrote the script. It turned into more of a PG movie from a PG-13. He was a darker character in the script I had read originally.
"The character became a bit more innocent, and the world became more of a pastiche of the Rankin/Bass films. Part of the pitch, to make it a Rankin/Bass world and not a big CGI extravaganza – part of it is my aesthetic," he added.
With all this direct influence, exactly how the situation was rectified is much of a mystery to us. Executive producer Cale Boyter said: "Some fast legal work had to be done. Thankfully we had some pretty smart people that could figure it out."
Thank Santa for those smart people, indeed.
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