Even though Elf is a Christmas classic, its heartwarming story transcends the holiday and resonates even with audiences who don't celebrate Christmas. Will Ferrell stars as Buddy the Elf in this cult classic – and Netflix has been kind enough to extend their documentary series The Movies That Made Us to the holidays by covering this film and The Nightmare Before Christmas in their first-ever holiday season!
In Elf, they interview screenwriter David Berenbaum who starts by talking about his childhood obsession with Rankin/Bass movies and how the relationship with his father inspired Buddy's love and journey to find his dad. Producers Jon Berg, Todd Komarnicki, and executive producer with New Line Cale Boyter talk about what it took to get this movie written, produced, and shot. They tell stories of what it was like getting director Jon Favreau on board and shooting the movie with him as well as what it was like with fresh-to-films Ferrell and established legend James Caan.
Among other crew who talk about what production was like include location manager Santiago Quinones, director of photography Greg Gardiner, visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer, production designer Rusty Smith, and 2nd AD Kristin Bernstein. They talk about the "guerrilla" methods they used to film on location in New York City, what it was like filming interiors in an old mental hospital, and their little "infringement tango" with Rankin/Bass. You know, they're the production company that did all those retro slightly creepy stop motion movies back in the 1960s about Christmas stuff and stories.
One thing that united Berenbaum and Favreau was their vision for the film to be as timeless and as a live-action Rankin/Bass film. And those shots in the city, where Buddy the Elf is doing things like inching along the wall of the Lincoln Tunnel or running into a jogging "Santa" on the street? All real and not staged, they claim! It was pretty low budget as New Line (you know, The Nightmare on Elm Street studio) wasn't really sure they wanted to risk the first big Ferrell film and a wholesome family movie, so that brought the crew to some creative solutions. Like shooting in a PNE arena in Vancouver, because none of the studios were wide enough to accommodate the North Pole sets.
All in all, it's a wholesome, delightful 45 minutes of stories about the making of and process behind one of the best Christmas movies in some time. Once again, the series' creators offer viewers some unique insights and fresh perspectives not found in other examinations of the film- a must for docuseries such as these. The Holiday Movies That Made Us as well as its regular counterpart series, The Movies That Made Us, are on Netflix and available to stream.