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Stop-Motion ‘Elf’ Special Took Quick Route to NBC

Buddy is a pretty versatile elf. First,  the bigscreen, starring Will Ferrell. Then, Broadway. And now, thanks to Warner Bros. Animation, “Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas,” a one-hour special that airs Dec. 16 on NBC at 8 p.m., with Jim Parsons voicing the titular character originated by Ferrell in the 2003 pic.

Animation house Screen Novelties, which specializes in stop motion, created the TV version. “Warners thought doing it in stop motion would be cool, given the art’s historical ties with Christmas specials,” said co-founder Seamus Walsh (above, center).

The studio also may have been swayed by the success of 2012’s “A SpongeBob Christmas Special,” which Screen Novelties created for Nickelodeon.

When the green light for the “Elf” project came in January, it was fast-tracked. Production started in March and the final version was delivered only days ago.

“Normally a TV special like this would take a year and a half,” added Mark Caballero (above, left), another Screen Novelties co-founder. “We went double-time on it.” Several copies of each puppet were created to allow concurrent shooting on multiple environments and stages. (Screen Novelties co-founder Chris Finnegan is pictured above right.)

Up to 50 people worked on the project weekly, including fabricators, animators, camerapeople and compositors. The animators are hoping for multiple airings.

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