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This holiday, discover your inner elf.

— The film's tagline

Elf is an American Christmas comedy film directed by Jon Favreau, written by David Berenbaum, and starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, and Zooey Deschanel. It was released in the United States on November 7, 2003, and grossed over $220,400,000 worldwide.



One Christmas Eve, while Santa Claus is delivering toys to an orphanage, a baby named William, captivated by the sight of a teddy bear, crawls into Santa's sack of gifts. Santa unwittingly takes him back to the North Pole, where Papa Elf volunteers to raise him. William is renamed Buddy because he was wearing 'Little Buddy Diapers'. He is raised unaware that he is actually a human, until his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities force Papa Elf to tell him the truth. He reveals that Buddy was born to Walter Hobbs and Susan Wells and given up for adoption, and that Walter never knew that he was born. He explains how Susan later died, and that Walter now works at a children's book company in New York City. Santa tells Buddy that Walter is on "the naughty list"; nevertheless, he sets out for New York to find him.


Upon arriving in New York City, Buddy displays his ignorance in several ways, as he crosses the street at the wrong time, chews discarded gum on the subway station's handrails, and takes a coffee shop's claim to have the "world's best cup of coffee" literally. He eventually finds his father in the Empire State Building, but an incredulous Walter Hobbs has him thrown out. He takes a security guard's sarcastic suggestion to "get back to Gimbel's", where he is mistaken for an employee and meets the lovely but unenthusiastic Jovie. The next morning, he is shocked to discover that Gimbel's Santa is not the genuine article, and a fight ensues between them. He is arrested and sentenced to 24 hours in jail. Walter reluctantly bails him out and takes him to a pediatrician for a DNA test. Once it is proven that he is in fact Walter's son, he takes him home to meet his stepmother, Emily, and half-brother, Michael. Walter is clearly put off by his immature, innocent behavior (such as slathering his spaghetti with maple syrup and M&M's and not seeming to understand that Walter isn't interested in playing with him), but Emily insists that they take care of him until he "recovers".


Walter learns from his boss Fulton Greenway (Michael Lerner) that the company is in financial trouble after the book The Puppy and The Pigeon was published with two pages missing, as Walter believed a reprint would be too expensive. Greenway schedules a book pitch for Christmas Eve, and Walter's associates Eugene and Morris suggest that they hire temperamental best-selling writer Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage). Meanwhile, Buddy befriends Michael after helping him defeat a gang of bullies in a snowball fight, and Michael encourages him to ask Jovie out.

The next day, Walter reluctantly takes Buddy to work with him after being encouraged by Emily and sends him down to the mailroom so he won't cause any trouble. Unfortunately, he accidentally becomes drunk after mistaking a co-worker's whiskey for syrup and throws an outrageous dance party that interrupts a phone conversation between Walter, his associates, and Finch. On Christmas Eve, Buddy goes on his date with Jovie and wins her over with his child-like enthusiasum. During Walter's meeting with Finch, Buddy bursts into the conference room to tell him about his newfound love. He then notices Finch and innocently thinks he is an elf due to his dwarfism. Finch tries to hold his temper, but eventually loses it and beats Buddy up after being offended by his questions about how he managed to leave the North Pole. Despite Walter pleading for Finch to stay, he angrily leaves without signing a deal with Walter's company. Walter becomes so angry over this setback that he disowns Buddy by saying that he does not care that he is an elf, that he is crazy, or that he is his son and yells "GET OUT OF MY LIFE! NOW!" A deeply saddened Buddy leaves the conference room, and Walter's associates give him disapproving looks for his actions.

After returning home, Buddy writes a message on an etch-a-sketch apologizing for ruining Walter's life and cramming 11 cookies into the VCR before running away. Back at the office, Walter feels extremely guilty for upsetting Buddy and has given up hope on saving his job, until Eugene and Morris reveal that they found a notebook Finch left behind in the conference room. Discovering it is filled with ideas for children's literature, Walter tells them to prepare a storyboard in time for Greenway's arrival.


Meanwhile, Michael sees Buddy's message, and he bursts in on Walter's pitch meeting to frantically tell him that Buddy is gone. After being convinced to put his family above his job for the first time, Walter asks Greenway to reschedule. Greenway refuses, and Walter tells him up yours before leaving with Michael, resulting in Greenway firing Walter. While walking through the streets, Buddy sees Santa's sleigh crash into Central Park, which attracts a large crowd as well as TV reporters and the Central Park Rangers. He finds Santa, who explains that he lost the sleigh's engine and that the last bit of Christmas spirit on the Clausometer (which had powered the sleigh previously) is gone. He convinces Buddy to help him fix the sleigh. Walter and Michael find Buddy in Central Park as he locates the sleigh's engine. He takes them to meet Santa, who reveals to Michael that belief in him (manifested in knowing that he is bringing people what they want for Christmas) can make his sleigh fly. Michael therefore steals his list and reads it in front of the TV cameras now gathered outside the park, so that people all over New York City believe conclusively in him. The Central Park Rangers begin to chase his sleigh while Buddy is still trying to reattach the engine, and it is one point lost.

However, Jovie, remembering what Buddy had told her about how singing is the best way to spread the joy of Christmas, manages to overcome her shyness and get the sleigh in the air by the power of Christmas spirit when she leads the crowd in singing "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town", with even Walter eventually joining in. Later, he starts his own publishing company with the first book released being titled Elf, an account of Buddy's adventures. Buddy and Jovie also marry, have a daughter named Susie, and are shown to visit Papa Elf and the North Pole periodically.


The soundtrack was released in November 2003 in the USA and in October 2005 in the UK. The track listing is as follows:

  1. "Pennies from Heaven" - Louis Prima
  2. "Sleigh Ride" - Ella Fitzgerald and the Frank De Vol Orchestra
  3. "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" - Lena Horne
  4. "Sleigh Ride/Santa Claus Party" - Ferrante and Teicher/Les Baxter
  5. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Leon Redbone/Zooey Deschanel
  6. "Jingle Bells" - Jim Reeves
  7. "The Nutcracker Suite" - Brian Setzer
  8. "Christmas Island" - Leon Redbone
  9. "Santa Baby" - Eartha Kitt/Henri René and His Orchestra
  10. "Winter Wonderland" - Leon Redbone
  11. "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" - Eddy Arnold
  12. "Nothing from Nothing" - Billy Preston


  • A small store in Maine received a licensing fee from the producers after it was learned that they had owned the then-abandoned "Gimbel's" name.
  • Much of the filming takes place in New York City, with the exception of the exterior scenes for Gimbel's, which were done in Vancouver.
  • Director Jon Favreau makes a cameo appearance in the film as the Hobbs' family doctor.
  • Jim Carrey was originally cast to play Buddy, but he passed on it, giving Ferrell his Hollywood breakthrough role after originally starring on Saturday Night Live.
  • Ed Asner previously portrayed Santa Claus in The Story of Santa Claus and Olive, the Other Reindeer.
  • The designs for Santa's workshop and the elf uniforms come from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Additionally, the character of Leon the Snowman is an obvious parody of Sam the Snowman.


The film was released on VHS and DVD on November 16, 2004, and on Blu-ray on October 28, 2008. It was also made available as a Universal Media Disc for the PlayStation Portable in 2005. A Collector's Edition DVD and Blu-ray was released on October 26, 2010. A 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo pack was released on November 5, 2013.

In addition to the film's own individual releases, the DVD was also included in Warner Home Video's Christmas Comedy Collection box set, alongside A Christmas Story and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, in 2007. Two years later, it was then packaged in the Holiday Comedy Collection, along with Christmas Vacation and Fred Claus. The Blu-ray was also released as part of the Essential Holiday Collection Blu-ray set, which also included the Blu-rays of A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and The Polar Express.


On November 14, 2010, a stage musical version of the film opened on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. It was directed by Casey Nicholaw, with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan. The cast included Sebastian Arcelus as Buddy, Amy Spanger as Jovie, Beth Leavel as Emily, Mark Jacoby as Walter, Matthew Gumley as Michael, Valerie Wright as Deb, Michael McCormick as Mr. Greenway, Michael Mandell as the store manager, and George Wendt as Santa. It ran through to January 2, 2011.

A stop-motion animated musical adaptation of the film, titled Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas and starring Jim Parsons as Buddy, premiered on NBC on December 16, 2014.



The poster for the film's theatrical release, though its credits are German.

Actor Character
Will Ferrell Buddy
James Cann Walter Hobbs
Zooey Deschanel Jovie
Mary Steenburgen Emily Hobbs
Ed Asner Santa Claus
Bob Newhart Papa Elf
Daniel Tay Michael Hobbs
Faizon Love Gimbel's manager
Peter Dinklage Miles Finch
Amy Sedaris Deb
Michael Lerner Fulton
Andy Richter Morris
Kyle Gass Eugene
Artie Lange Gimbel's Santa
Leon Redbone Leon the Snowman
Ray Harryhausen Polar bear cub
Jon Favreau Dr. Leonardo
Peter Billingsley Ming-Ming
James Walsh Penguin family

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed
content from Wikipedia (view authors).
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Pictures Christmas in ConnecticutGremlinsNational Lampoon's Christmas VacationJack FrostNational Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island AdventureThe Year Without a Santa ClausFred ClausA Christmas Story 2
New Line Cinema ElfThe Nativity StoryFour ChristmasesA Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
Live-action television episodes
Friends and Joey "The One With Phoebe's Dad" • "The One Where Rachel Quits" • "The One With the Girl from Poughkeepsie" • "The One With the Inappropriate Sister" • "The One With the Routine" • "The One With the Holiday Armadillo" • "The One With the Creepy Holiday Card" • "The One With Christmas in Tulsa" • "Joey and the Plot Twist" • "Joey and the Christmas Party"
DC Comics "Season's Greedings" • "Home is Where the Hurt Is" • "Twas the Night Before Mxymas" • "Lexmas" • "Year's End"
Other shows "A Semi-Merry Christmas" • "Mel, the Magi" • "Mel's Christmas Carol" • "'Tis the Season to Be Jealous" • "A Christmas Story" (Growing Pains) • "A Christmas Story" (Just the Ten of Us) • "Santa on the Lam" • "Miracle on Elm Street" • "The Christmas Show" • "Fa La La La Laagghh!" • "The Man Who Canceled Christmas" • "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" • "Deck the Malls" • "Christmas Day-Ja Vu" • "A Country Christmas" • "How the Finch Stole Christmas" • "Meet the Cuban Parents" • "Christmas Punch" • "A Clear and Presentless Danger" • "George Is Being Elfish and Christ-Misses His Family" • "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis" • "Christmas" (The Middle) • "It's Beginning to Stink a Lot Like Christmas" • "The Maternal Congruence" • "Jolly Red Elf" • "The World Ain't Over 'Till It's Over" • "The Santa Simulation" • "Give Santa a Tail-Hole"
Animated productions
Looney Tunes and related shows The Shanty Where Santy Claus LivesBedtime for SnifflesGift WrappedBugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales • "It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special" • "'Twas the Day Before Christmas" • "Jingle Boo" • "The Great Wakkorotti: The Holiday Concert" • "A Christmas Plotz" • "Little Drummer Warners" • "No Time for Christmas" • "The Twelve Days of Christmas" • "A Pinky and the Brain Christmas" • "It Happened One Night Before Christmas" • "In Arms Way" • "Noel" • "The Christmas Tree" • "The Banks of the Delaware River" • "Feather Christmas" • "Yule Be Sorry" • "Christmas in July" • Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas • "A Christmas Carol"
DC Comics "Christmas With the Joker" • "Holiday Knights" • "Frozen Out" • "Comfort and Joy" • "Storybook Holiday" • "Invasion of the Secret Santas!" • "Second Christmas" • "The True Meaning of Christmas"
Other cartoons "Yuletide and Redtide" • A Scooby-Doo! Christmas • "The Match Before Xmas" • The Polar Express • "Ho Ho Horrors" • Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker TaleA Miser Brothers' Christmas • "Da Grinchy Code / Duck" • "FROST / Undercover Claus" • Scooby-Doo! Haunted Holidays • "Fantastic Four Christmases / Red and White Collar" • "The Plight Before Christmas" • Tom and Jerry: Santa's Little HelpersElf: Buddy's Musical Christmas • "Scary Christmas"
Have Yourself a Looney Tunes ChristmasA Hip-Hopera ChristmasMerry Christmas: Animaniacs & Looney TunesThe Looney Tunes Kwazy ChristmasA Looney Tunes Sing-A-Long Christmas

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