Secrets behind making the Christmas movie, 'Elf'

Filmmakers Jon Favreau and Peter Billingsley, who both have cameos, talk about the costume looks and shooting some scenes in an old psychiatric hospital.
6:06 | 11/23/17

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Transcript for Secrets behind making the Christmas movie, 'Elf'
You're going to help me make it fly. Oh, looks like we got a short on the thermal coupler. Reporter: At the beginning of the movie "Elf," it's becoming clear to will Ferrell's character buddy he's not exactly the Santa's helper he thinks he is. Oh, I know that. Hey. Reporter: There I am playing the boss ming-ming calling him out for being the worst toymaker ever. 915 off the pace. Reporter: Jon Favreau directed the story of a human raised by Santa's elves. Part of why I asked you to cameo in the film was because I wanted some of "The Christmas story," that good mojo. That was our goal. We're half joking. Maybe some of this will be like "Christmas story" where every year you'll watch it. Reporter: "A Christmas story" wasn't the only source of inspiration. Jon rewrote the original, darker screenplay and studied classic TV Christmas specials like this one. I knew that nose would be useful someday! Reporter: Which like its namesake has gone down in history. ??? Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose ??? Reporter: Made in 1974, painstakingly shot frame by frame with stop-motion puppets and is the longest-running, highest-rated TV special of all-time. Buddy the elf was a kid that grew up in "A Christmas special." Hello, buddy. Hi, Leon. Reporter: To keep the look of the film like one of those old classics, Favreau chose not to use modern computer-generated effects, instead went with an old-school technique, something called forced perspective. You can see how it's done in the DVD extra. You have two different sets that line up. The person in the closer set will appear to be larger than the person in the set further back. Reporter: Buddy's elf costume was modeled after the elves' outfit like Hermie's, the dentist's. It looks almost like he's a puppet. And the tights and the boots and the hat. Then he was extremely brave, wearing that costume. Reporter: When "Elf" was made in 2003, Ferrell was not yet a movie star. Fresh out of "Snl," he had been part of an ensemble cast in a decidedly different movie, the adult r-rated comedy "Old school." We're going streaking! One of the things that stood out to me was how the comedy is. "Christmas story" is funny but "Elf" is laugh out loud funny. Okay, people, tomorrow moneying 10:00 A.M. Santa's coming to town. Santa! Oh my god! Santa, here? I know him! Where I found the comedy was to be very sincere about the Christmas story, then have him go to New York where it's the real world and Jimmy khan is your dad. ??? I love you I love you I love you ??? Wow, that was weird. Reporter: James khan, famous for his role with quick-tempered sonny coleone in "The godfather." Perfect casting with James khan, you can get in screen history can't get any more opposite. Sonny corleone, right. I am not going to tuck you in. All right, let's do this. Reporter: Some of the big names were unknowns at the time. Yes! Reporter: Here's a pre-"game of thrones" dinklage in the fight scene. Call me elf one more time. He's angry elf. Look at you! Ow! Reporter: And playing the part of the fake Santa at the department store -- Hot heck are you? What are you talking about? I'm Santa Claus. No, you're not. Reporter: Artie Lange, known for his seven-year tenure with shock jock Howard Stern. He took time to come off. A big get? So great, he was happy to be there too. Reporter: When he realizes santas fake, buddy gives us those now-classic lines. All right. You smell like beef and cheese, you don't smell like Santa. Improvised. I made sure I smelled like beef and cheese. I always sme like that. I'm Italian, it passes as cologne. You're on a throne of lies. Improv. "Throne of lies," first time I heard that is when he said it. Reporter: Then things got physical. He's a fake! Reporter: It took the art department weeks to build that set. And all those elaborate Christmas decorations. We had one take to destroy it. Favreau says, just go nuts. Okay, what do we got here? You I know tend to cameo in them. Yeah. You play the doctor in this. Does the DNA test. Ow! It's fun to be in the movie and see myself. What I'm more proud of is the voice. The narwahl comes out of the water, that's my voice. Bye, buddy, hope you find your dad. Thanks, Mr. Narwal. That's the one on t-shirts and sweaters. Reporter: What most people remember "Elf" for is how much they love it and how much they want to watch it every holiday season. It's surprising how each year it just gets higher and higher on people's lists. I wouldn't have predicted that. Running around the streets of New York, dressed as an elf, I Big impact. And it went the other way. I feel sofortunate. I'm so glad that's become part of the lexicon. And next, he opened his

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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