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A weekly show where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, John shares some little known facts about his favorite holiday films!

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Hi, I'm John Green, welcome to my salon.  I'm wearing my festive colors.  This is mental_floss video.  Did you know that Michael Caine had a difficult time playing Ebenezer Scrooge in the Muppets Christmas Carol?  The part required him to act very serious or else the film wouldn't be funny.  Because of that, he has described it as a very stretching difficult role, which is weird, 'cause Michael Caine seems like a fairly serious dude to me.  Anyway, that's the first of many facts about holiday-themed movies I'm gonna share with you today in honor of the season.


According to Tim Allen, the kids who played elves in the Santa Clause believed he was the real Santa so he stayed in character the entire time because he didn't want to disappoint them.  

It's a common misconception that the song White Christmas was written for the film White Christmas.  It was actually written for the 1942 film, Holiday Inn, which stars Bing Crosby.

Since this is a YouTube video, it would be wrong not to mention the Lifetime holiday movie, Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever.  Aubrey Plaza voices Grumpy Cat in the film, of course.  Plaza claims that she improvised and rewrote about 90% of her dialogue, which some would say 10% too few.

Dustin Hoffman's cameo in The Holiday was not planned.  He was having lunch next door to a Blockbuster where the movie was being filmed and walked over to see what was happening.  To see what the movie set was about, not to see, you know, a Blockbuster video.  You know, this was back in the days when you were more likely to encounter a Blockbuster video store than a movie set.  Anyway, it turns out that he's friends with director Nancy Meyers so they worked out a cameo for him, which she claims got the best laughs of the whole movie.

There are a number of Back to the Future references in the 2004 adaptation of The Polar Express.  The director of both movies, Robert (?~1:42) included some inside jokes like the boy in the film pulls the train horn and says, "I've wanted to do that my whole life."  Doc Brown does that very same thing in Back to the Future III.  Now if only we could travel back in time and make Back to the Future III better.

If you find the amount of separate love stories in Love Actually overwhelming, you'll be surprised to learn that a full four plot lines were cut from the final version.  Originally, there were 14 love stories.  

Holiday decorations were the inspiration for The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Producer Tim Burton grew up in Burbank, CA where the nice weather often means that seasonal decorations are not strictly separated and he's mentioned that seeing Halloween and Christmas decorations in the stores at the same time helped him come up for the idea for the movie, although, then again, isn't it also just like, being Tim Burton helped him come up with the idea for the movie?  Like, hey, Tim, what does Christmas look like to you?  Oh, it looks like this.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was actually directed by a first-time film director, Jeremiah Chechik, and he said that Stanley Kubrick is the reason he got the gig.  Kubrick had told The New York Times that his favorite American filmmaking was some commercials that Chechik had made.  After that, he started getting tons of job offers including Christmas Vacation and for some reason, that was the one he took.

While A Charlie Brown Christmas was in production, the biblical plot lines were controversial.  Director Bill (?~3:01) and executive producer Lee (?~3:02) asked Charles Schulz if he was sure that Linus should read directly from the book of Luke, and Schulz responded, "If we don't do it, who will?" which seems like a very kind of like, we're heroes thing to say when the movie is about, you know, Christmas.  I mean, Schroeder's probably playing a hymn right now, or he would be if we hadn't moved his piano over there.

Another film that caused religious controversy for somewhat different reasons was Bad Santa, but Billy Bob Thornton has a pretty good attitude about it.  He said, "We did get a few comments from some people on the religious right and my reply to them was, as far as I know, Santa Claus is not in the Bible.  I think you guys are talking about Jesus.  It ain't Santa Claus."  Now, far be it for me to criticize Billy Bob Thornton's theology, but I'm pretty sure Santa Claus is in the Bible.  It's right there in the gospel according to Luke, Rudolph, the chimney, Santa, the red coat, everything.  I know because I saw a Charlie Brown Christmas.

Jack Nicholson wanted the part of the dad in A Christmas Story but the film had a small budget and they couldn't afford him.

If you're a Christmas movie buff, you may already know that Ralphie from A Christmas Story was played Peter Billingsley, and he's had cameos in a couple other Christmas movies, including Elf (where he is an elf) and Four Christmases (where he is a ticket agent).  

Speaking of Four Christmases, it was directed by Seth Gordon, who got that job because Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon liked his documentary, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters which is about competitive Donkey Kong players and is excellent.  Gordon also claimed that Witherspoon and Vaughn read the script for Four Christmases a hundred times, which, you know, to me seems like torture.  

But let's return to Elf for a moment.  Billingsley wasn't the only cameo in Elf.  Its director, Jon Favreau, actually had multiple parts, voicing both the narwhal and the raccoon that attacks Buddy.  

It's a misconception that Die Hard was meant to be a sequel to the movie Commando.  Writer (?~4:49) has said that while there was a Commando II in the works, it was more like the movie Escape Plan, featuring Arnold breaking into a building as opposed to Die Hard's, you know, getting trapped in a building.  These are very important distinctions when you're working inside the adventure genre.

By the way, while Die Hard is now considered a Christmas movie, it was originally released in July of 1988.  

The parade in Jingle All The Way was based on a real parade that takes place in Minneapolis, but it wasn't shot on location.  Instead, the crew got 1500 extras in Los Angeles who had to dress up in holiday clothes while it was 100 degrees outside, and the scene took over three weeks to film.  

Another Christmas movie filmed in the summer was It's a Wonderful Life.  Fans have pointed out that Stewart is sweating in some key scenes and that's because there was a literal heat wave at the time.  Down here in the script, Meredith says that I should do my James Stewart impression again.  Ahem.  I don't do impressions.

Audrey Seuss, Dr. Seuss' widow, visited The Man on the Moon set to meet with Jim Carey in order to see if he would play the iconic Grinch.  He was so immersed in the role of Andy Kaufman though, that his audition has been described as Andy Kaufman impersonating Jim Carey's Grinch.  Sidenote: nothing against Jim Carey, but Andy Kaufman would have made an amazing Grinch.

For Bill Murray, the movie Scrooged represented a return to acting after a box office flop called The Razor's Edge and some time off, so the tagline for Scrooged was written as a Ghostbusters reference, because Ghostbusters was still popular, as indeed it is today and shall be forevermore.  The line was: "Bill Murray is back among the ghosts, only this time, it's three against one."

The film A Miracle on 34th Street gets credit for popularizing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and the film features actual footage from the 1946 parade.

Adam Sandler's actual parents voiced his character's parents in the Hanukkah themed film Eight Crazy Nights.

And every Christmas Eve in Sweden, the 1958 Donald Duck special From All of Us to All of You airs on TV1, their main public channel.  The special features only a handful of Disney cartoons, with only a few references to Christmas, but still, to many Swedes, watching it has become a Christmas tradition, much like It's A Wonderful Life is here in the United States.

And finally, I return here to my salon to tell you that there were three video games based on Home Alone, and I'm gonna guess that they were all terrible.  I personally have only played two of them and they're not much to recommend either.

Thanks for watching mental_floss video, which is made with the help of all of these wonderful people, most of whom will hopefully be on vacation while you're watching this.  Happy holidays and as we say in my hometown, don't forget to be awesome.