50 Facts About Our Favorite Christmas Movies And TV Shows
Christmas time is here, time to learn the stories you hold dear have some wild and weird stuff behind them—like opening the present that is your past, except instead of it being like an NES or Nintendo-themed socks inside, it's the revelation that …
1. It's a Wonderful Life's Snow was Fake (and Gross)
It's a Wonderful Life is the inspiring tale of how if you give everyone around you all you have, eventually you can jump off a bridge. George Bailey's tale features dozens of time periods, quite a few at Christmas, all of which required a lot of snow. So 6,000 gallons of sugar, water, and soap flakes were used to make the snow in the film, which is slightly different than the original method of black and white snow: painted cornflakes. None of those sound great to catch on your tongue or even be around, but hey, at least the cornflakes probably had lead paint in them, so that's something?
2. There's a VeggieTales Remake of Little Drummer Boy
Didn't think The Little Drummer Boy was light and soft enough? Was the story of a small child leading animals to the birthplace of Jesus not soft enough? Don't worry, the VeggieTales are here to make The Little Drummer Boy … more Christian? Is it more or less blasphemous for the mother of your Lord and Savior to be stop-motion … or a carrot?
3. The Year Without a Santa Claus has a Remake
Michael Keaton's been Birdman, Batman, and the Vulture, but did you know he was also Snow Miser in the live-action remake of The Year Without a Santa Claus? Yes, someone decided the classic Rankin-Bass stop-motion needed a live-action adaptation, and, thankfully, the viewing audience decided to ignore it entirely. The film also stars John Goodman as Santa, but almost none of the songs because who needs 'em?
4. There was a Frosty Remake in the Works (Sort of)
During the production of Justice League, producers leaked that Jason Momoa was cast as the new Frosty … except it turns out that, according to Momoa, it was a fake report to distract from the horrible working conditions of the Justice League. That said, Momoa Frosty? We're listening.
5. Star Wars Holiday Special was the Debut of Boba Fett
In addition to being a complete travesty, the Star Wars Holiday special featured the film debut of Boba Fett! Unfortunately, Lucas hated it so much that for years the only copies you could find were as illegal as a dentist's office at the North Pole. Luckily, Disney lightened up (read: loves money more than feels shame) and has since added the Boba Fett bit, if nothing else, to Disney+.
6. Mark Hamill's First Joker Appearance was at Christmas
Mark Hamill's first appearance as the Joker—which launched his voice acting career and he would reprise for years to come in many things, the Arkham series included—was set at Christmas, with him even singing the traditional "Batman smells" version of Jingle Bells. Tim Curry had been up for the role, but a combination of it being too taxing on his voice and him not fitting what producers were looking for led to Mark Hamill snagging the role.
7. What was in Jim's Teapot?
The White Christmas/Nasty Christmas episode of The Office is well remembered for, if nothing else, featuring Steve Carell shouting YANKEE SWAP. But it also features one of the first direct steps towards Jim and Pam becoming a couple, with Jim gifting Pam a teapot with a note inside, the contents of which are never revealed. Never, until Pam's Jenna Fischer revealed it was a small personal note from Jim actor John Krasinski to her about how much he enjoyed working with her.
8. Home Alone is a Family Affair
Home Alone is a story entirely about how important family is at the holidays, so it stands to reason that that spirit may have also played a part behind the scenes. Kevin's younger cousin Fuller is his real-life brother, Kieran Culkin, while dozens of Christopher Columbus' family members, including his mother-in-law, make cameos in the film.
9. Home Alone is in the Pokémon Universe (And Bicentennial Man)
Home Alone has a surprising sequel in Pokemon: Detective Pikachu and Bicentennial Man. While the latter film's small reference to Kate McCalister having a robot servant makes sense (they need someone around in case they forget Kevin a third time), few would think that Home Alone's world would soon change into the world we know and love from the Pokémon games, but that's what happened based on one scene from Pokémon: Detective Pikachu!
That's because …
10. Home Alone's Angels with Filthy Souls Isn't Real
But that doesn't mean Home Alone director Chris Columbus didn't treat it like it wasn't real. Despite having an incredibly tight budget, he even used period-specific props and shot on film that would've been used in the 1940s and even brought the actors back to film a new scene for the sequel. Just think, if Columbus had done enough sequels, we could've Frankensteined an entire noir flick out of them.
11. Home Alone's Best Bit Was Improvised
You know Kevin's famous scream, hands planted on the side of his face like Evard Munch's Scream? That was all Macaulay. They shot it multiple times, but the shot of Kevin keeping his hands next to his face while screaming sold it. Apparently, holding your hands up to your face and screaming when alone is just a universal human experience.
12. John Candy Was Almost the Least Paid Actor in Home Alone
Despite being a huge actor at the time, John Candy's salary ($414) was less than even the pizza boy from the beginning of the film—part of an agreement he made that allowed him to improvise all of his lines over the 23-hour-straight shooting schedule he had on the film. Not that everything made it in, given that this was John Candy and Catherine O'Hara in a PG film.
13. Home Sweet Home Alone is the Sixth Home Alone Film
Everyone knows about the original two McAllister films with Kevin. Some may even remember the third John Hughes written film about spies. Still, almost no one remembers the fourth film, Taking Back the House, the made for television French Stewart film featuring Kevin McCallister again but with different actors, or the fifth film, The Holiday Heist. This is just as well since the critical response has been … low. How'd Home Sweet Home Alone do again?
14. The Original Number Three
Before Macaulay Culkin took a break from acting, the plan was for Home Alone 3 to film shortly after the second one, featuring a teenage Kevin McCalister, with a script from John Hughes and Chris Columbus coming back as director, but with McCaulkin's sabbatical came the end of the true Home Alone Films and the beginning of the whole mess.
15. There Was Almost a Different Home Alone Series
Bushwacked, starring Wet Bandit Daniel Stern, as a man mixed in a heist leading to him being bamboozled by a group of boy scouts, started life as a Home Alone spin-off before being recreated as a movie no one's ever watched. Given that, we're going to claim Goodfellas as a spin-off too.
16. Dr. Seuss Based the Grinch … on Himself
Dr. Seuss is famous for creating wonderful children's books and hating children. So maybe it makes sense that the Grinch is just a self-portrait. The Grinch's 53-years of hating Christmas were Dr. Seuss' own, and his sitting on a hill looking down on the tinsel and lights were a reflection of his own experiences watching the town change for Christmas. He even had a vanity license plate that said GRINCH made up in case anyone was unclear on what was up.
17. The Grinch Helped Someone Get a Green Card
Despite being one of your favorite Christmas films, the Grinch was anything but fun for the people working on it. The make-up bothered Jim Carrey so much he brought in an enhanced interrogator expert to help him learn how to muscle through it (the answer: mostly smoking and punching himself). Unfortunately, there was no one to help others figure out how to tough out Carrey's attitude, leading to make-up artist Kazuhiro Tsuji leaving the film. He only came back once Carrey apologized and agreed, along with the other big shots, to help Tsuji get a Green Card. Hey, the Grinch may have been the worst, but he delivered at least one real present.
18. Hawkeye's Main Villain Had Never Acted
Echo, the niece of Kingpin and antagonist of Hawkeye, first appeared in the Hawkeye show before receiving a spin-off centered around her. Despite this, Echo's deaf, Native actress Alaqua Cox had only ever acted in a background part in a high school play before she got the role.
19. Hawkeye's Disney's Grinch
Despite being praised for its design and elements taken from the Matt Fraction and David Aja run of Hawkeye, Aja was not a credited creator on the show nor compensated, leading to some Marvel fans boycotting the show.
220. Charlie Brown's Christmas Special was a Coke Commercial
Despite the oft-repeated message that Christmas is getting too commercial, it's always been that way, with Charlie Brown's famous Christmas special originally being one big coke commercial. Charlie Brown isn't above being a commercial—he's not Calvin or even Hobbes.
21. Rudolph Is As Real as the Brawny Man
Rudolph was created when a department store wanted to create their own books in-house instead of making deals with publishers. Despite being paid zero dollars for it, the creator did eventually get the rights, so there's one bright light in the story, especially given the success of all the adaptations.
22. Doctor Who's "Twice Upon a Christmas" Features an Actual Christmas Miracle
The last Doctor Who Christmas special features an unbelievable ending, having both sides of a World War I battlefield put down their guns and celebrate Christmas together, but in World War I, the Christmas Truce actually happened. After soldiers heard their enemies celebrating and singing, a truce was declared, and Christmas was celebrated together. Granted, a Scottish man didn't then turn into a blonde girl, but you can't have everything.
23. The Santa Clause Featured an Actual Phone Sex Hotline
The Santa Clause bordered on the risqué at the best of times, but when making a joke about new step-dad Neil's phone number, Tim Allen—a famously R-rated stand-up comic at the time—spits out a number that has since been changed in all releases. That's because the original—1-800-SPANK-ME—led to an actual sex hotline. No word on whether the hotline complained or not.
24. Emma Thompson's Tears in Love, Actually Were Genuine
Love, Actually is about like two good relationships and then a bunch of bad ones. One of those relationships involved Emma Thompson finding out her husband's been cheating on her and crying. The scene was easy for Thompson to do as all she needed to think about was Helena Bonham Carter, who her actual husband, Thor director Kenneth Branagh, had cheated on her with.
25. Iron Man 3 Almost Had a Sex Scene
Like the majority of Shane Black's films—Lethal Weapon included—it's set at Christmas. Unlike most Christmas movies, at one point, it was set to have Pepper Potts, in a superpowered pheromone-induced lust, make a sex tape that would then be played in Home Depot. Merry Christmas!
26. Elf Used Almost No CGI
Just like Lord of the Rings, it relied on perspective, well-built sets, and filming tricks to recreate the height differences between Buddy and the rest of the elves at the North Pole. And, just like Lord of the Rings, it threw in more songs because of one of its leads being amazing at singing; the original plan being they would add scenes to support whatever the actor they cast was good at—they were even looking at someone who was great at skateboarding. How that would've helped power Santa's sled at the end is … completely obvious and a much better film. Damn it, Deschanel, why couldn't you have been a master skateboarder?
27. A Christmas Carol was Written to Pay Off a Debt
Charles Dickens wrote the book in only six weeks to pay off his debts. With a fifth child on the way, he thought he could grab a quick buck off of a Christmas story, and he was right. The book came out on December 19th and was sold out by Christmas. He made almost no money on it as he fell in love with the story and worked to make it the best he could, which worked well for everyone but him. Granted, due to the success, he did start doing paid readings which helped out a bit, but in the end, A Christmas Carol started out for money but became something more.
28. There's Over 150 Adaptations of the Story
A Christmas Carol is one of the most beloved stories of all time, with over 150 adaptations of it, starting in the 1910s with black and white silent films. And of course, it's also one of the more often produced plays.
29. The Muppet Christmas Carol is One of the Most Beloved Muppets Movies
Despite being known best for more serious fare, The Muppet Christmas Carol's Scrooge, Michael Caine, adores the film, as does Disney, being their first co-produced and distributed Muppet film, one of the first Muppet films on Blu-ray, and featuring more extras than the majority of live-action Disney DVD releases.
30. The Muppet Christmas Carol Cut Song (That Was Found)
"When Love Is Gone," the song that Scrooge's sweetheart uses to break up with him, is sweet and sad at the same time, and despite the director's desires, the song was cut from the theatrical release (even though it gets a reprise at the end of the film). After being readded to the home release, it kept not appearing in subsequent releases. For a while, the song was thought to be gone from all future re-releases as the original was lost, but then … the original was found and will be added to all new versions of the film.
31. A Christmas Story was Only Made Because of Porky's
While director Bob Clark had wanted to make a film based on the odd stories that formed the collection that became A Christmas Story since hearing them on the radio, he wasn't a big enough director until he made the blockbuster hit Porky's. If it weren't for creeps looking in peepholes, Ralphie wouldn't be warned about shooting his eye out. Truly, cinematic parallelism.
32. Jack Nicholson was Supposed to be Ralphie's Old Man
A fan of the original stories, Nicholson lobbied hard to get the role of the Old Man, and the creators wanted him to, but in the end, they just couldn't afford him. He later would also almost star in The Grinch.
33. TNT Replay is the Reason You Love It
In 1997, after Ted Turner bought MGM's library, TNT began running the film non-stop during Christmas, leading to it being the beloved Christmas staple it is today (coincidentally also the way that It's a Wonderful Life became viewed as favorably as it is now).
34. You Can Stay in the House!
Ralphie's house—or at least the house that stood in for the exterior shots of the house—has been remade to become a B&B with a house across the street serving as a Christmas Story museum and gift shop (selling, of course, Leg Lamps and Red Ryders). You can stay in it and get your own BB gun and then shoot the windows out (though we legally are not endorsing this action). Or just sit inside and watch the movie on repeat because what's more normal than that?
35. Trading Places and Connections
Trading Places is an oddball Christmas film about how if rich and poor people work together, we can mess up the ultra-rich. While they first met up here, Dan Aykroyd and Jaimie Lee Curtis would meet up again later in Christmas with the Kranks, whereas villains the Duke Brothers would show up again in Coming to America.
36. The Gremlins' Gizmo Originally Attacked Hill Valley
The Gremlins is one of the darker Christmas movies around, but it was almost a lot darker. Originally, instead of Gizmo—the good little Mogwai—staying good the whole film, he would've turned into Stripe, the villain, but Spielberg wanted Gizmo to stick around, necessitating a whole lot more work and rewrites to figure out how to work this adorable little monster into the rest of the film. Of course, he also wanted the film to be shot on location, but that proved to be too hard, and sets were built, which would later become Back to the Future's iconic Hill Valley. Yes, Gremlins is a prequel to Back to the Future—you heard it here first, folks. Now, we wait for the inevitable crossover.
37. Batman Returns Started Much Lighter
Despite being set at Christmas, Batman Returns doesn't have a lot of joy, but it almost did. Originally, Marlon Wayans was set to appear as a semi-comic book accurate Robin, but after he was cut and Keaton decided to just not read some of Batman's lines, the film took on a darker tone, with its hopeful ending—Catwoman lives!—being added only after audience test screenings showed she was adored (with a spin-off planned that eventually mutated into Halle Berry's oft-derided film). Tim Burton then learned to stay away from Christmas … mostly.
38. The Nightmare Before Christmas was Originally Darker
At the end of the film, there was originally going to be a scene revealing children playing with a severed head, that of Nightmare Before Christmas creator Tim Burton. Director Henry Sellick was forced to cut it, with executives worried Tim Burton wouldn't find it funny because Tim Burton famously hates all macabre humor. Speaking of …
39. Tim Burton's Poem
The Nightmare Before Christmas started life as a poem that Burton wrote while working as an animator at Disney (which sucked, given that meant Disney technically had some ownership over it). Granted, since the poem's eleven minutes or so to read, you could probably just watch the beginning and end of Nightmare Before Christmas and get the gist of it. More songs too.
40. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is Surprisingly Racist
The National Lampoon Vacation series is based on stories John Hughes wrote for the National Lampoon. The one that became Christmas Vacation featured an Asian thief, who at first seems to work as a manservant, named Xgung Wo, that would've made Breakfast at Tiffany's look downright sensitive. Granted, what do we expect from the creator of Long Duk Dong?
41. Bad Santa Wasn't Safe from the Bad Producer
Mira Sorvino was one of the actresses up for a part in this film, but due to her turning down Harvey Weinstein's advances, she was not even allowed to audition for this film, with Weinstein allegedly telling everyone she was a diva.
42. "White Christmas" is a Remake, Sort Of
"White Christmas" started as a song in the film Holiday Inn, but then a movie based on the song "White Christmas," also being a pseudo-remake of Holiday Inn, was made. It later got a stage adaptation, with Holiday Inn being a bit more somber and White Christmas (the one people actually watch) having a more song-and-dance feel.
43. The Snowman Comes Satanist Recommended
The Snowman (yeah, that one) is one of the Church of Satan's few recommended films, as it is about the preciousness of life. No word on Little Drummer Boy or the Veggietales remake of it.
44. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
Originally, Abed's delusions were so great that they led a girl to commit suicide. Luckily, that bit was cut. Instead, we just have him drive all of his friends near insane.
45. Miracle on 34th Street wasn't Marketed as a Christmas Film
Despite being one of the most influential depictions of Santa Claus to date, the film originally was not marketed as a Christmas Film in any way. Instead, it was sold as a rom-com potentially just so that internet writers in the future would have one of the wildest factoids about a Christmas film ever to write about.
46. The Film Was Released in May
Partially due to this, Miracle on 34th Street was released in May, which was closer to the past year's Christmas than the present year's, and tied into the lack of Christmas-themed marketing.
Despite this, the film was a commercial blockbuster, sticking around in theaters until it was actually time to see Santa granting Christmas miracles.
47. The Remake's Child Wasn't Originally So Saccharine
When remaking the film, a few different things were discussed, including having the main child Santa interacts with being clever, sarcastic, more interesting, and less saccharine sweet—but the role was rewritten, and star Mara Wilson even ended up saying she didn't like it.
48. The Remake Was Going to Change the Child to a Boy Before Mara Wilson Nabbed the Role
Of course, part of the reason the role was rewritten may have been because the daughter was supposed to be a son. It was only due to the desire for Mara Wilson to be in the film that they rewrote the role to be a girl instead of a boy (potentially because of the runaway success of writer/producer John Hughes' Home Alone).
49. Maureen O'Hara Told Children She Knew Santa
Maureen O'Hara would get children who asked her if she knew Santa Claus and would tell them "Yes." John Hughes, who created this, Home Alone, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, was never asked any such questions.
50. Santa Claus was Created by Coca-Cola
Santa Claus—despite having roots in various cultures and Saints, including Odin—as we know him now is entirely a creation of Coca-Cola, who have used him in their marketing for almost a hundred years now.
Top image: 20th Century Studios