“A Charlie Brown Christmas” Almost Never Happened? Little Known Facts About Holiday Movie Classics
Whether you prefer Christmas classics like “It’s A Wonderful Life,” cult favorites such as “A Christmas Story” or newer hits like “Elf” or “The Santa Clause,” we bet you didn’t know some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of these holiday films.
“A Christmas Story”
There’s no other holiday movie that receives the amount of airplay that “A Christmas Story” does. TNT plays a 24-hour marathon that starts on Christmas Eve and if you’re a super fan what better way to spend that special time of year than in the same house that Ralphie, Randy and their parents lived? The house is real and has been preserved as a museum that is open year round. Over the holiday season, the museum holds an auction where anyone can bid on the experience to spend two days and two nights living in the house from Christmas Eve to Christmas. As an added bonus on Christmas morning, traditional “A Christmas Story” gifts are opened in the living room including two BB guns.
Peter Billingsley was just a boy when he starred as Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” but he’s also appeared in another holiday classic as an adult. Billingsley, who works as a producer and director, enjoys playing small roles in films and made a brief, uncredited appearance in “Elf.” “I did do a little part,” he said. “Every now and then I come back and do a little bit of acting. I love it. I did a little cameo in ‘Elf,’ which I didn’t take credit for, where I was one of the elves in Santa’s shop. Its fun to do it that way.”
“The Santa Clause”
In “The Santa Clause,” Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, an advertising executive who ends up becoming the man in red on the most important night of the year. In the film, Calvin makes a phone sex joke about his mother-in-law and the number 1-800-SPANK-ME. It turns out that was a real number and parents were complaining about their children racking up some serious phone charges after dialing the number. As a response, Disney tried to buy the number and they also cut the scene from the movie when it was released on DVD.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas”
No holiday would be the same without Charlie Brown and the gang celebrating the day, too. But “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was almost shelved because CBS executives hated it and didn’t want to air the special. It was deemed to be too slow and the underlying religious theme rubbed them the wrong way. Boy, how they were wrong. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” ended up winning an Emmy and has aired every year since then with millions of viewers tuning in.
In “Home Alone,” Kevin McCallister was left all alone to protect the house from a couple of bumbling burglars during the holiday. At first he enjoyed having the place all to himself and pigged out in front of the TV with sugary snacks while watching the gangster movie, “Angels With Filthy Souls.” But if you were looking to catch the black and white film on Netflix, stop searching. Turns out, the movie was a fake parody of the 1936 black and white flick “Angels With Dirty Faces.”
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
This film served as the third installment of the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” series and like the other two movies that came before it, “Christmas Vacation” was also based on a John Hughes short story, which was also published in a magazine. This was also the only “Vacation” film that spawned a sequel. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure” was released as a made-for-TV film almost 15 years later.
“How The Grinch Stole Christmas”
Dr. Seuss created one of the most iconic holiday villains of all time with the Grinch, but his signature green skin almost didn’t come to be. In the book that the film was based on, The Grinch was black and white but “Looney Tunes” animator Chuck Jones had a different vision for him. Jones and Seuss argued over the color with the original creator wanting the villain to remain as he drew him while Jones opted to have his color to pop on television. Jones eventually won the war and The Grinch became green.
“Miracle on 34th Street”
“Miracle on 34th Street” is one of the most classic holiday films of all time but could you imagine if it was released in the summer instead of around Christmas? Well, if you were around back in 1947 then you know that it hit the theaters in May. The film was originally billed as a love story and moved up from the fall to May just in time for the summer film season. Despite the whole movie being about Santa Claus, the original marketing and promo posters mentioned nothing about Christmas.
“The Polar Express”
There’s no doubt that Tom Hanks is a talented actor and has played a multitude of characters from a stranded person on an island to a lawyer dying of AIDS. But for the 2004 film “The Polar Express” he played five different characters in one film. In addition to voicing Santa Claus and the Conductor, Hanks was also the Hero Boy, Father and the Hobo. The Oscar winning actor said playing so many characters in one scene was oddly liberating.
“It’s A Wonderful Life”
Back when “It’s A Wonderful Life” was released in 1947, anti-communist feelings were at an all-time high and the FBI deemed the movie as propaganda. They issued a memo that stated, “With regard to the picture “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists. [In] addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters.”
“Jingle All The Way”
In the 1996 film “Jingle All The Way,” Arnold Schwarzenegger played tired father Howard Langston who was determined to bring home Turbo Man, the most sought after gift of the season for his son. But Dan Riordan had a very hard time playing the action figure in the film because his character spent a lot of time flying around and in real life Riordan was deathly afraid of heights. He eventually overcame his fear just enough to get the scenes shot.
“The Muppet Christmas Carol”
Jim Henson first made a name for himself by creating a couple Sesame Street characters in the 70’s. But it was the creation of The Muppets that he is best known for. Three years after “The Muppet Show” debuted on television, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang made their big screen debut. But after Henson abruptly died in 1990, it was unsure if The Muppets could sustain without their creator. “The Muppets Christmas Carol” was the first film that was released after his death and although it had a modest showing at the box office, it proved that there was still life for Kermit and his crew.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”
Tim Burton proved that if you want something bad enough and stick to your guns and never give even when others say no, then you could make anything happen. Burton penned the poem “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in 1982. He pitched the idea to the brass at Walt Disney Studios but their vision differed from Burton, who wanted it to be a stop animation film or nothing else. Eventually he got his way and the film was released in 1993 making $50 million in its first theatrical run. It was re-released several times.