Mannequin for Will Ferrell’s Original Elf Movie Costume

Son of a Nutcracker! A custom display created for a screen used Elf movie costume worn by Will Ferrell in this modern holiday classic!

Often here at Tom Spina Designs, when we create custom costume displays there is a lot of blood or distressing involved! Not this time! Not only was this display happy and silly but involved Christmas too! One of our clients brought us this original, hero Elf movie costume worn by Will Ferrell in the Christmas classic, looking for a custom display to show off this iconic movie costume. Due to Will Ferrell’s tall stature and Buddy the Elf’s signature pose we were looking to recreate, a custom mannequin was really the best way to create a display that could incorporate all of the specialty needs.

When creating these custom mannequins we actually start with the costume and work our way backwards to come up with the proper sizing. It may seem a little counter-intuitive. Why we wouldn’t just create a mannequin to match an actor’s measurements? But there is a method to the madness. The first is that without being able to measure an actor’s physical body there is no guarantee that the measurements you can find are correct or more importantly correct for their body during that specific film.

But more importantly, we want to make sure our mannequins properly fit the costume as it is now. Depending on the specific type of fabric, over time they can either shrink or stretch out, meaning they will not necessarily match the actor’s original measurements. So we create our mannequins to help support these costumes and to minimize stress on the materials. We also want to create the best possible visual look with a proper drape for the costume.

Pierre Briel was the lead artist on the fiberglass work for the body and once he had a form in the correct pose and with the correct proportions, Patrick Louie started work on the display base. The fiberglass body was posed to match the look of the iconic film poster, with Buddy’s hands on hips and heels close together. The costume’s leggings added a few challenges! As with all skin-tight costumes, any work we did to the legs had to be flawless, but the real challenge was standing Buddy up! Because the leggings cover his feet and go to his waist, standard options like a heel post, calf bracket or even a “butt post” were not possible. A custom welded rig was made that starts as tube stock, then goes to flat stock and can slip under the belt and into a slot made in the figure’s back. Not the easy way to do it but the right way for this costume!

Since Will Ferrell is so tall and his Elf hat adds several more inches to his height, we worked with the client to ensure that the finished display would fit in the room they were planning on displaying him in. We used the ceiling height and height of the mannequin to determine how tall the base could safely be. We often have these sorts of conversations with our clients. Always checking if they have any doorways, tight corners, hallways or stairways we’ll need to fit as well.

We looked at several options for the design of his snowy base. We tried designs that incorporated style elements from Rankin and Bass, who inspired the film’s North Pole style, and others that had more ridged icy elements. In the end we used a mixture of both which created a similar style to the iceberg that Buddy floats to New York City on in the film. Once the base was carved out of EPS foam, we hard coated it  for durability and to add texture. We painted the base with several layers of  white and blue shades to add depth and interest. To additional realistic texture we coated the foam with a clear adhesive and covered it in a flocking style snow with a realistic look but just a bit of extra glitter mixed in for that classic Buddy sparkle!


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The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!

Check out this Christmas classic starring Will Ferrell