AFI Movie Club: ELF – American Film Institute
ELF FILM STILL - Will Ferrell


AFI Movie Club: ELF

Idirector Jon Favreau’s heartwarming and hilarious holiday classic, ELFWill Ferrell stars as Buddya misfit raised by Santa’s elves who travels to New York in search of his father (James Caan). AFI Trustee Toby Emmerich served as one of the film’s executive producers. 

Watch cinematographer Greg Gardiner go “Behind the Scene” and talk about filming the holiday classic ELF in this exclusive conversation.


DID YOU KNOW? In order to make ELF feel timeless, director Jon Favreau insisted on not using any digital effects. Instead, he employed practical ones as often as possible, including replicating the stop motion aesthetic of the Rankin/Bass Christmas special RUDOLPH THE REDNOSED REINDEER.  

DID YOU KNOW? In ELF, the filmmakers used forced perspective to make Buddy seem larger than the other elves – positioning Will Ferrell closer to the camera than his scene partners and blocking shots in such a way that created an illusion of disparate sizes. 

DID YOU KNOW? Buddy the Elf’s iconic 12second burp was not performed by Will Ferrell.  It was actually bellowed by voice actor Maurice LaMarche, who is perhaps best known for being the voice of Brain in PINKY AND THE BRAIN. 

DID YOU KNOW? In ELF, when Buddy munches on big wads of cotton in the doctor’s office, they’re actually undyed tufts of cotton candy. 

DID YOU KNOW? Zooey Deschanel’s character wasn’t originally conceived as a singer. When director Jon Favreau discovered that Deschanel could sing, he reframed her role as Jovie, Buddy’s fellow Gimbels elfto accentuate that talent. Deschanel is actually one half of the musical duo She & Him, along with M. Ward.

DID YOU KNOW? In the scene where Buddy tests out jack-in-the-boxes, director Jon Favreau had a remote trigger  in order to get a real reaction from Will Ferrell. 

DID YOU KNOW? ELF was adapted into a Broadway musical, a video game for Game Boy Advance and an hour-long animated special called ELF: BUDDY’S MUSICAL CHRISTMAS. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

Click Here to Find Out How to Watch ELF Now

ELF – Reelgood


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

  • What makes ELF such a holiday classic? Why do you keep going back to watch the film each year? 
  • Why was it important for Buddy to find his dad?  
  • How does Buddy’s positivity affect those around him? What can we learn from Buddy in today’s society?  
  • How does the character of Buddy fit into the history of holiday classics – and why is his attitude so out of 
  • place in the contemporary real-world? 
  • What store does Buddy get a job at in the movie? What is the significance of the store in holiday movie history? 
  • How would you rate ELF? 


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