Even though it's already nearly 15 years old, one of the newest additions to the classic Christmas film canon is Elf. Will Ferrell's Buddy the Elf is an expert in spreading Christmas cheer, whether it's by singing loud for all to hear or by getting hit by cabs on the streets of New York City. Buddy's childlike innocence can get anybody into the holiday spirit, including his Scrooge-like biological dad Walter Hobbs. But while you've probably seen this movie hundreds of times since it came out in 2003, you still may have missed these things while watching Elf.
In an interview with Rolling Stone during the 10-year anniversary of Elf, director Jon Favreau said it was his intention while making the film for it to become a holiday classic. "Our goal, even then, was to make a movie that could be part of that pantheon," Favreau said. "The fact that it's in rotation is the highest honor that movie can have." And with Ferrell as the star, he surely succeeded.
Elf has the ability to make you laugh and cry and be filled with holiday wonder, just as any good Christmas flick should. And perhaps it's because Buddy excels at transporting you to a time when you believed in Santa Claus that you may have missed some fun details you otherwise would have picked up on. So in the interest of spreading holiday cheer, here are 21 things you never noticed in Elf before.
1. Ming Ming The Elf Is A Holiday Movie Star
The elf Ming Ming oversees toy production and unintentionally helps Buddy realize he's a human. Although his role is uncredited, Peter Billingsley plays Ming Ming and the actor is best known for being Ralphie in 1983's A Christmas Story. You'll shoot your eye out!
2. The Sound Of The Jack In The Box Is From Disney
The horrifying laughter in the Jack-in-the-boxes that Buddy tests is actually from a classic Disney film. The laugh is from the hyena in the zoo in Lady and the Tramp, which someone was kind enough to share on YouTube to confirm.
3. The Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Inspirations
In the Rolling Stone interview, Favreau said he chose to make it look like Buddy grew up in the stop-motion animated TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And his inspiration is visible since all of the elves' outfits are designed to look like the elves from Rudolph with Buddy's costume matching the Head Elf's. Even Leon the Snowman from Elf looks very much like Sam the Snowman from Rudolph.
4. Leon Is "Noel" Spelled Backward
Speaking of Leon, the snowman's name comes from his voice actor, Leon Redbone, so it's just a cool coincidence that Leon is "Noel" spelled backward. Redbone also sings "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Zooey Deschanel during the credits.
5. The Polar Bear Cub Is Voiced By A Pioneer In Stop-Motion Animation
In the credits, Ray Harryhausen is listed as the Polar Bear Cub. Although he has passed since Elf came out, Harryhausen is a legend when it comes to stop-motion animation.
6. Deb Is Going To Declaw Eight Kittens Over The Weekend
You probably have never paid attention to Amy Sedaris' character's phone conversation when Buddy first arrives at his father's office, but she has some truly bizarre weekend plans.
7. One Of The Security Guards Is Will Ferrell's Brother
Patrick Ferrell is listed as one of the security guards, and he appears to be Will's real-life brother. Gonna go out on a limb here and say that Patrick is the taller security guard on the left in the above photo.
8. The Store Buddy Works At Shares A Name With A Store From Another Holiday Classic
Buddy works at Gimbels with Zooey Deschanel's Jovie. Although no Gimbels existed when Elf was made, Gimbels used to be a store, and it was featured prominently as Macy's competitor in the original Miracle On 34th Street.
9. The Gimbels Manager's Name Is Wanda
Faizon Love plays the manager at the department store, and he's simply credited as "Gimbels Manager." But his name tag says his name is Wanda. No wonder he's so suspicious.
10. The Kid Who Sits On Santa's Lap Is Really Named Paul
When Buddy yells at Artie Lange's Santa, a child is sitting with Santa. The boy is credited as "Kid with Santa," but his real name is Paul Schofield. Paul is the name he gives to Santa, so no acting was required.
11. Director Jon Favreau Is The Doctor
Nowadays, Favreau is a big-time director with films like Iron Man and The Jungle Book under his belt. But before Elf, he was more known for being an actor and he appears as the doctor who does the paternity test for Walter. The IMDb trivia says he also is apparently the voice of Mr. Narwhal, but that's not confirmed in the end credits.
12. Michael & Buddy's Water Glasses Are Empty At Dinner
No wonder Buddy feels the need to drink a whole two-liter of Coke at dinner at his dad's house — he's thirsty.
13. Where Does Buddy Get His Pajamas?
He didn't bring a bag with him from the North Pole.
14. Walter's Apartment Building Is From A Non-Christmas Classic
The exterior of Walter and Emily's home is only shown briefly, but eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed it has been in a movie before. According to Brick Underground, it's the same as Dana Barrett's haunted apartment in Ghostbusters.
15. Miles Finch's Game Of Thrones Connection
At this point, every Game Of Thrones fan should know that Tyrion Lannister (actor Peter Dinklage) plays author Miles Finch. "I've got houses in L.A., Paris, and Vail," Miles says when he's angry at Buddy for calling him an elf. While Miles is referring to the ski resort town of Vail, Colorado, Tyrion memorably was kept prisoner at the Eyrie, which is located in the Vale of Arryn — also known simply as the Vale — in Game Of Thrones Season 1.
16. The It's A Wonderful Life Reference
The scene when Buddy is on the bridge and sees Santa's sleigh crash mirrors when George Bailey hits his low point in It's A Wonderful Life.
17. Buddy Looks Like Bigfoot
The shot where Buddy is caught by NY1 news cameras in Central Park is most likely a reference to the 1960s movie from Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin that allegedly featured Bigfoot, according to the website Zinzin. Buddy sure has the same stride as the mythical creature.
18. Mike From Veep Is Enamored With The NY1 Reporter
While reporter Charlotte is interviewing people about seeing Santa's sleigh in Central Park, a man takes over the interview by complimenting her. This man is actor and comedian Matt Walsh, best known for playing Mike McLintock on Veep. But even if you recognized him, you probably didn't notice he is also credited as playing "Himself." Whatta creep.
19. Inaccurate Reporting About The Central Park Rangers
Charlotte says how the Central Park Rangers used controversial tactics during the Simon and Garfunkel concert of '85. However, Simon and Garfunkel's concert in Central Park actually occurred in 1981, with the musicians releasing an album of it in 1982. Turns out, Charlotte's reporting isn't as stellar as she thinks.
20. Dirk Lawson Just Wants A Day At The Spa
It's hard to make out exactly what Michael says Dirk Lawson, the long-haired man at the biker bar, wants for Christmas, but it turns out he wants "a day of pampering at Burke Williams spa." Nothing embarrassing about that, Dirk.
21. The Meaning Behind Buddy's Baby's Name
A Buzzfeed employee picked up on an adorable fact about Buddy and Jovie's baby's name at the end of the film. Their daughter is Susie and Buddy's mom's name was Susan Wells, so she's most likely named for her grandmother. Somehow, this film just became even more charming.
When you watch Elf for the umpteenth time this Christmas season, be on the lookout for these moments you missed. And don't feel bad — Buddy would have missed these subtleties too.