INTERVIEW: Chad Eikhoff Made An Elf’s Story Into a Christmas Classic

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An Elf’s Story: The Elf on the Shelf is a holiday children’s movie that has
been airing for eight years straight, and writer, producer, and director,
Chad Eikhoff was a big part in bringing the beloved Christmas book to
cinematic life.

Based on the 2005 children’s book, An Elf’s Story: The Elf on the Shelf is
about the little guys and gals who help Santa make all the toys for Christmas.
Chippy, one of Santa’s elves, is assigned to a family that is losing belief in the
magic of Christmas. For Chippy, the job is tough, and he questions his
relevance. However, with the help of his friends and the big guy in the red suit,
Chippy learns just how important the magic of the holiday season really is.

PopAxiom spoke with Chad Eikhoff about his career as a writer, director, and
producer, and making a modern-day children’s classic.

Road To Elves

The road to making An Elf’s Story started in a small town in Georgia called
Powder Springs. Chad recalls loving the look of Christmas, with “snow-
covered roads and lights.”

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Chad’s love for animation started at an early age. He remembers growing up
reading comic strips in newspapers. “My very first desire was to be a
cartoonist. I wanted to be Charles Shultz. I just thought it was amazing that
drawing characters could be a job.”

As early as middle school, Chad was creating and submitting his own strips.
But then a realization created a new desire. “Finding out that you can make
them move and bring the character to life is what really pulled me into
animation.”

What pulled Chad into animation are still driving him today. “I am fascinated
with the imitation of life. How a pencil and paper could turn into a character
that had a sense of life to it. It is magical to me.”

elf-christmas-movie

Christmas Specials

To say that Chad is a fan of the holiday season might be an understatement.
“I absolutely love Christmas specials. I love the entire Christmas season,
starting with Thanksgiving morning. My first cat as a grown-up was named
Macy, after the famous Thanksgiving Day parade.”

Watching An Elf’s Story might give you a familiar feeling if you have ever
watched the evergreen specials created by Rankin/Bass back in the 60s.
“What resonated with me was the use of artwork and a unique sense of style,
which really captured a sense of spirit, wonder, and whimsy.”

Capturing the spirit of Rankin/Bass films was “definitely intentional,” said
Chad. “I love those movies and have a great memory of them,” he said, “and I
know I’m not alone.”

Chad also realized that there had not been a holiday special since those
earlier Christmas films, which were made in the 60s. “There really hadn’t been
a sort of evergreen Christmas movie that came on every year like those,” he
stated. While creating An Elf’s Story, Chad says, “I wanted to lean into, ‘How
do we mimic what makes them resonate with so many people?’”

An Elf’s Story premiered in 2011 and has been playing every holiday season
since. It has aired once a week on TV since Thanksgiving. “It’s mind-blowing
when I see it next to the classics, such as the Grinch, Charlie Brown, Rudolf.”

About An Elf’s Story

An Elf’s Story uses computer-generated imagery to achieve its visual style.
However, the film still has an old-school charm about it. “In An Elf’s Story, we
worked with traditional animation techniques. Pixar, and later Disney, brought
these ideas back. For a while, there was a push toward making things look
like live-action. But, Pixar did a great job with storyboards and finding the story
in there.”

Chad continues to describe the process for An Elf’s Story: “We worked with a
story reel and edited it until it felt almost like an animated comic. We were
able to quickly move it into an animatic, which is set in the 3D universe. We
were scripting, rewriting, and re-conceptualizing in the same files we were
going to be using for the animation.”

A rare process, though, Chad mentions a recent Disney film that did a similar
thing. “The Lion King … did that same thing …” “We’re able to create the
world and build the story inside of that,” he said.

Wrapping Up

“There is a sense of wonder and whimsy in these holiday specials,” Chad
said, “and a sense of spirit. I found this as an adult when reconnecting with
the films through my kids.”

Chad continued: “The impact that’s so positive. And I am focused and inspired
by things that are creating positive, wondrous, whimsical worlds, stories, and
characters.”

As a writer, producer, and director, what movie would Chad like to get his
hands on in this age of remakes? His answer is unique and welcomed.

“There are certainly worlds that are fun to explore. With the techniques we
have, you can build out some of these worlds in incredible ways.”

Chad elaborates, “Glen Keane (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast)
was an animator and director who is someone I look up. He created all kinds
of characters for Disney. Now he’s working in hand-drawn, virtual reality
projects. Working with someone like that on creating something new would be
very interesting to me.”

For Chad, being able to draw and have it be his profession is a dream come
true. And despite today’s fancy tech, he says, “even when you’re working on
virtual reality in 3D, everything starts with a pencil on paper.”

Will you be enjoying the latest classic Christmas
children’s movie this holiday season?

Thanks to Chad Eikhoff and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.

Want to read more interviews like this? CLICK HERE.

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Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.

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