Several minor traffic accidents occurred when Will Ferrell walked through the Lincoln Tunnel in his costume, because people were so surprised (and distracted from their driving) to see him wearing an elf outfit.
On the final day of shooting in New York City, it was just Director Jon Favreau, Will Ferrell, and a camera man driving around the city looking for locations to shoot. They would jump out and ask pedestrians if they would be willing to be extras for some quick cash, while Ferrell paraded around acting like Buddy. Much of the montage when Buddy first arrives in New York City was filmed then, such as when he is getting his shoes shined, and jumping between traffic.
The design for Santa's Workshop as well as the elf uniforms come from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). The elf uniforms completely mirror the ones from the television special. Most of the animals in the North Pole are also designed to look like the same form of stop-motion animation used in Rudolph.
Buddy's twelve-second belch was supplied by voice actor Maurice LaMarche, best-known for his cartoon character, "The Brain", from Pinky and the Brain (1995), and who also did the operatic belching in Animaniacs (1993) as "The Great Wakarotti". LaMarche also worked with Will Ferrell on the animated series, The Oblongs (2001).
The film's exterior of Gimbel's department store has previously been reported to be a digitally altered view of the Macy's flagship store on 34th Street in Manhattan. This is incorrect. It is actually 295 Fifth Avenue at 30th Street, also known as the Textile Building. But it is true that considerable CGI work went into transforming it into "Gimbel's". The actual Gimbel's was the main competitor for Macy's, with its flagship store located a block away on 33rd Street. It closed in 1986, and the site is now the Manhattan Mall.
Zooey Deschanel performs three songs in this film. One of them is "Baby, It's Cold Outside", which she sings in the shower accompanied by Will Ferrell, and then sings again with Leon Redbone over the end titles. She later made an official recording with her indie duo She & Him, released on their album "A Very She & Him Christmas" released in 2011.
The sound effect used by the jack-in-the-box, is the same sound effect used by the laughing hyenas at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and was also used in Lady and the Tramp (1955) for the laughing hyenas in the zoo, as well as for Ripper Roo in the Crash Bandicoot video game series.
The brief television news clip showing Buddy walking in Central Park (just before Buddy's dad and brother find him), and the still picture of Buddy in the news clip, closely mimic the famous 1967 film of an alleged Bigfoot ("Patty") taken by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin.
The skyline Buddy builds at Gimbel's contains many Philadelphia skyscrapers including One Liberty Place. Screenwriter David Berenbaum is from Philadelphia, and in real-life Gimbel's was a prominent Philadelphia department store, and sponsor of the country's first Thanksgiving parade held in that city in 1920.
When Buddy (Will Ferrell) goes to Gimbel's to ask Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) out on a date, the song playing over the loudspeaker is "Christmas Island" sung by Leon Redbone. Redbone also provided the voice of Leon the snowman at the North Pole.
Near the end, when Santa (Ed Asner) is showing Michael (Daniel Tay) his nice list, all of the people on Santa's list worked on the movie: Victoria Down (Key Make-up Artist) wants an English riding saddle with leathers and a crop; Drew Davidson (Chief Lighting Technician, as Andrew Davidson) wants Rock'em Sock'em robots; Andreas Nieman (Assistant Property Master, as Andy Nieman) wants a complete set of titanium drivers and a new golf glove; Nathan Tichenor (co-Production Coordinator) wants an Apple iBook with a one gig hard drive and a built-in CD burner; Michael Hobbs is a character in the movie; Jimmy Miller (Executive Producer) wants a Hot Wheels turbo ultra race track with six cars, power launcher, and track cleaner and Penny Gibbs (Unit Production Manager) wants an Old MacDonald Farm Kit with battery operated tractor and a remote controlled cow-tipper.
The scene where Buddy and the fake Santa fight was filmed in front of a greenscreen and all of the kids were put onto the greenscreen in editing. They were filmed separately from the fight scene. This was due to the fact that it had to be filmed in one take and it was too dangerous having all of the kids in the scene. This is evident when Buddy is framed against the kids when he first sees fake Santa.
When she first meets Buddy, Jovie asks, "Did Crumpet put you up to this?" Crumpet was David Sedaris' character name when he worked as a Macy's elf, as recounted in his Christmas story anthology "The Santaland Diaries". David Sedaris' sister, Amy Sedaris appeared in the film as James Caan's assistant, Deb. It may also be a reference to Mount Crumpit from the Dr. Seuss Christmas story "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".
The Christmas tree being too big for the living room is a nod to National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989), where Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) also uproots a tree with the Family station wagon that is too big for his living room.
The scene after Buddy hugs the raccoon and exits the forest to walk down a paved forest road was shot on Paradise Valley Road in Squamish, British Columbia. The crew was in the area randomly searching for a suitable location, and were found trespassing on private property just as they finished shooting the scene.
In the scene in which Buddy gets drunk in the mailroom with a mail worker, the mail worker laments "I'm 26 years old." The actor Mark Acheson who plays the mail worker was born in 1957 and was approximately age 46 when the movie came out.
As Santa is finally flying out of Central Park, he gruffly remarks, "I'm getting too old for this job". This may be a nod to Danny Glover's famous line from Lethal Weapon (1987), another Christmastime classic. References to other great Christmas projects are scattered throughout the film, including It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), A Christmas Story (1983), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966), and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964).
When baby Buddy is put in his crib on Christmas Eve, the nun at the orphanage gives him a bottle and leaves. While we now know that this is a dangerous practice, at the time that the scene was set, this was common. Parents and caretakers did not know of any risks, as physicians did not advise against it.
This marks the first time of many Edward Asner played Santa Claus for real. He had previously 'portrayed' Santa Claus in the 1986 Disney TV Movie The Christmas Star (1986), although on that occasion he was actually a con artist masquerading as Santa in order to trick some kids into helping him recover stolen loot.
When Santa gives Michael his present, it's a "Real Huf" board. Real is the brand of skateboard and Huf, is the nickname for professional skateboarder, Keith Hufnagel. Director John Favreau is friends with Keith Hufnagel, and used to use him for stunts. This is why his skateboard is used.