For many people, the holiday season doesn’t begin until they’ve had their yearly viewing of Elf.
The Will Ferrell-led comedy has become a Christmas classic since it was released in 2003, and while it’s hard to see how Buddy the Elf’s adventures in Christmastime New York City could have failed, even its mix of big heart, a superb cast, and memorable quotes didn’t guarantee its success.
Netflix’s The Holiday Movies that Made Us documented the film’s rocky road to movie theaters, including Elf’s struggle to secure its leading man, guerrilla filming, and how its stunning North Pole tribute to Rankin/Bass films almost came unstuck. Despite this, the documentary also stated director Jon Favreau’s three aims for the film.
First, he wanted to reference the Rankin/Bass Christmas films of the 1960s and keep family at its heart. Last but not least, he wanted to craft a timeless Christmas classic.
He succeeded. Elf wrings pure comedy and heart from its fish-out-of-water story. After being raised as an elf, Buddy’s discovery that he’s human takes him all the way to New York to find his biological father. Unfortunately, his dad is children’s book publisher Walter Hobbs, brilliantly played by James Caan, who is definitely on Santa’s naughty list.
Still, the Hobbs family, including half-brother Michael, soon warm to Buddy, who reveals his exceptional Christmas skills alongside his adorable naïveté. As he gets to know his new family, Buddy makes (and almost breaks) the Gimbels department store’s Christmas department and falls in love with coworker Jovie (Zooey Deschanel). At the film’s climax, Buddy, his friends, and his family save Santa by restoring the Big Apple’s essential Christmas spirit when his sleigh crashes in Central Park.
We’re all pretty well acquainted with Buddy at this point. But how did the human raised as an elf get his name?
How did Buddy get his name?
We find out early on in the film, and Buddy’s life, exactly how the soon-to-be elf got his name. In fact, we see it.
Elf begins on Christmas Eve when Ed Asner’s Santa descends the chimney of an orphanage. While he’s distracted by some cookies, one of the orphaned babies crawls into his sack and is unwittingly taken back to the North Pole. Santa doesn’t discover the child until he’s back at his North Pole workshop. It’s one of his elf helpers who names the surprise arrival, calling him Buddy after the brand of diapers the baby’s wearing. It’s a name that sticks when Papa Elf adopts the human child.
Buddy’s name might be the one thing that sticks out the least when he makes his way through the “seven levels of the Candy Cane forest,” the “sea of swirly twirly gumdrops,” and the “Lincoln Tunnel” to New York City.
I’m sure Buddy the Elf counts himself lucky that he wasn’t wearing another brand of diapers when he stowed away in Santa’s sack, otherwise we might be calling him Pampers.