30 Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Christmas Movies

Get the behind-the-scenes scoop on classics like A Christmas Story and It's a Wonderful Life

We can’t blame you for thinking you know all there is to know about your favorite beloved holiday flicks. After all, annual 24-hour marathons and Netflix access make it almost too easy to unintentionally learn every heartwarming and hilarious line.

But even the most diehard Christmas movie fanatics still have secrets to discover, from just how much actors went it took to bring storybook characters to life, to the cameos you might have missed even on your 10th viewing.

1. Now a beloved classic, It’s a Wonderful Life was a total box office flop when it was released in 1946.

2. Emma Thompson wore a fat suit while filming Love Actually.

3. Some of the Jean Shepherd stories that eventually made it to the A Christmas Story script were first published in Playboy.

4. Jim Carrey worked with a CIA specialist who trained agents to survive torture in order to get through the painful makeup process for Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

5. Then 8-year-old Natalie Wood believed her Miracle on 34th Street costar Edmund Gwenn was actually Santa Claus.

6. In The Muppet Christmas Carol, the flowing look of the Ghost of Christmas Past was achieved by submerging the puppet in a water tank.

7. According to The Nightmare Before Christmas‘ supervising animator Eric Leighton, the film was shot at 24 frames per second, meaning the characters had to be posed 24 different times for each second of the film.

8. An episode of MythBusters proved that a tongue can instantly get stuck to a freezing pole à la A Christmas Story.

9. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot a hidden Mickey Mouse logo when The Santa Clause characters Scott and Charlie pass by the moon in a sleigh.

10. Will Ferrell ate so much sugar while filming Elf that he had trouble sleeping.

11. John Candy shot all of his Home Alone scenes in one long 23-hour day on set.

12. Eric Lloyd, who played Charlie in The Santa Clause, broke his front teeth in a fall right before filming and had to wear prosthetics for the shoot.

13. A Christmas Story child star Peter Billingsley was the first of thousands to audition for the role. And he recently revealed that while on set, someone from the props department gave him real chewing tobacco to ingest during a key scene — a move that made the 12-year-old ill.

14. Gonzo was originally going to portray Christmas Yet to Come in The Muppet Christmas Carol. He eventually took on the role of Charles Dickens because, as director Brian Henson said, he was “the least likely character to be Charles Dickens.”

15. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer‘s stop-motion animation was produced in Japan, while most of the audio was recorded in Canada.

16. The shots of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in Miracle on 34th Street are real: Star Edmund Gwenn actually took to a float as Santa for the 1946 celebration.

17. Jim Carrey was originally slated to star in Elf.

18. The Santa Clause joke involving “1-800-SPANK-ME” caused massive problems for parents when kids discovered it connected them to an actual phone sex hotline. Some viewers who dialed the number reportedly racked up hundreds of dollars in phone bills.

19. Composer Danny Elfman still didn’t have a script when it came time to write the music for The Nightmare Before Christmas, so he based his songs only on conversations with and sketches from director Tim Burton.

20. Grown-up A Christmas Story star Peter Billingsley has an uncredited cameo in Elf.

21. Vincent Price was considered for the part of It’s a Wonderful Life villain Mr. Potter.

22. The Grinch was black-and-white in the original Dr. Seuss book, but director Chuck Jones had the idea to make him green for the 1966 animated feature.

23. After the release of Home Alone 2, families flocked to N.Y.C.’s Plaza Hotel, where they could recreate Kevin’s adventure in Suite 411, “Kevin’s Suite,” for $1,100 a night.

24. Writer Richard Curtis first conceived Love Actually as two separate films, and had planned entire movies following the storylines of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth’s characters.

25. It’s A Wonderful Life was named the most inspirational film of all time by the American Film Institute.

26. It took The Nightmare Before Christmas team an entire week to finish shooting each minute of the completed film.

27. Macaulay Culkin’s little brother Kieran had a small role as Kevin’s bed-wetting cousin in Home Alone and Home Alone 2.

28. Flash Gordon made an appearance in a deleted fantasy scene from A Christmas Story.

29. Despite being a holiday movie, Miracle on 34th Street hit theaters in May, because 20th Century Fox studio head Darryl Zanuck believed more people went to the movies in the summer.

30. Rudolph creator Robert May considered the names Reginald and Rollo for the reindeer.

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