John Carpenter (of all people) was the first choice to direct. He was turned down by the producers as he wanted final cut and a chance to do the score as well. Also, his choice for Santa was Brian Dennehy.
The film was first announced in 1978 with David Niven producing. Gene Kelly was going to direct and it was planned as an all-star affair.
Paul McCartney was originally going to write and perform a theme song, but his record label put the kibosh on that.
The role of the Ancient Elf was written with James Cagney in mind. However, even though Cagney liked the film's overall idea, his advanced age and weakened physical condition precluded him from taking the role. Fred Astaire was also considered.