‘Elf’: Jon Favreau Explains Bizarre Filming Technique to Make Will Ferrell Bigger in the North Pole Scenes

Director Jon Favreau brought the spirit of Christmas and the North Pole to the world in his holiday movie Elf. The film’s infectious charm spreads through its cast of characters and the audience, making it a Christmas tentpole. Favreau once explained how he created the height difference between Will Ferrell’s Buddy and the rest of the elves.

How ‘Elf’ brings the Christmas spirit from the North Pole

'Elf' Jon Favreau talking North Pole scenes standing in front of blue step and repeat
Jon Favreau | Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

David Berenbaum’s Elf screenplay follows Buddy (Ferrell). Elves raised him, but his height always separated him from his peers. Buddy discovers that he isn’t actually an elf and sets out on a journey to New York City to find and meet his biological father, Walter (James Caan). However, he isn’t aware of his existence and is actually on the naughty list.

Meanwhile, Buddy meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) and falls in love with her while visiting the mall, who could also use a bit of the Christmas spirit. He might not be an elf, but he discovers how important his presence is to many humans. Elf is an annual Christmas movie tradition for many families around the world, as he does for audiences exactly what he accomplishes with the characters he touches throughout the movie.

Jon Favreau explains how ‘Elf’ made those North Pole scenes work without CGI

Rolling Stone interviewed Favreau about his memories of making Elf. He explained his process of working on the movie and specifically mentioned Elf‘s North Pole scenes. Favreau mentioned that they had a small budget, so it was important to avoid using CGI when possible. He touched on the height difference between actors during the North Pole scenes.

“The forced perspective is where you build two sets, one smaller than the other,” Favreau said. “They had recently used that technique for The Lord of the Rings, but really, it’s the same technique that was used for Darby O’Gill and the Little People.”

“One set is raised and closer and smaller, and one is bigger and further away,” Favreau explained. “And if you line up those two sets and measure them, you can have one person on one set appear to be much larger than a person on the other set. We did that for all the shots at the North Pole.”

Favreau added: “And if you look closely, you can see the two sets meet because we didn’t use CG to paint over that or blur it. I wanted it to have the same flaws that it would have had, to make the movie feel more timeless. It made for great souvenirs. I have a Louisville Slugger that’s four and a half feet long in my office, that the elves were building.”

Will Ferrell turned down the sequel

Ferrell was offered $29 million to return for Elf 2. However, he turned down the part with the fear of the movie turning out bad. Ferrell didn’t want to be associated with a bad sequel that could tarnish his reputation or the original film. However, some tensions between Ferrell and Favreau also got in the way of a sequel, according to Caan.

Elf remains essential holiday viewing for many families, so it doesn’t seem to be much of an issue that Elf 2 never happened. The movie holds up rather well on multiple viewings and is considered one of the more modern classics to get in the holiday spirit.

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