For nearly 75 years, residents of the 1200 block of East Acacia Avenue, in El Segundo, have decked out their homes with dazzling holiday displays — turning a local tradition into a widespread attraction. People flock to the neighborhood to walk down the cul-de-sac street — and this year, the crowds could be even bigger. That’s because a “Candy Cane Lane” film will be released on Dec. 1 on Amazon Prime Video. The film stars Eddie Murphy and Tracee Ellis Ross, and is based on the El Segundo neighborhood that dedicates a couple of weeks in December to extravagant decorations and the passersby who come to marvel at them. The film’s protagonist, Chris Carver (played by Murphy), is determined to win the neighborhood’s annual Christmas decorating contest by any means necessary. So he makes a pact with an elf to help him win, which casts a spell that brings the tradition of the 12 days of Christmas to life — with unexpected chaos ensuing. Screenwriter Kelly Younger said the film is based on his own experiences on Candy Cane Lane. His parents moved to the city — and near the heart of Candy Cane Lane — i n the 1990s, unaware that they were settling into arguably the most festive street in El Segundo, Younger said in an interview this week. Younger was already an adult, so he never lived there. Younger’s father, nonetheless, was eager to fit right in. “When my father found that out,” Younger said, “he wanted in on all the action.” He loved building things, Younger added, like chess pieces and furniture — so he naturally started making wooden decorations for the front yard. One year, Younger’s father converted a Cadillac and put it on risers in the front yard, then positioned reindeer to appear as if they were flying up toward the roof, with an Elvis Presley figure dressed as Santa. As for the upcoming film, each family member’s name has a yuletide theme, Younger said, and their last name, Carver, is a nod to the screenwriter’s father’s craftsmanship. “My most favorite work of his are the things he’d carve out of wood depending on what the grandkids were into,” Younger said, which ranged from superheroes and cartoon characters to gingerbread houses and elves. Over the years, he’d change his holiday theme and neighbors on either side would ask for his hand-me-downs, Younger said. “So ’til this day,” Younger said, “several houses going down the block have my dad’s work.” That, he said, inspired the extension of the lane. Younger’s parents’ house is farther west from the designated cul-de-sac where Candy Cane Lane all started, so his father’s initial involvement was met with a little contention. But over the years, Younger said, his dad’s participation helped expand the activity past the 26 homes on the original block. Younger’s wife, meanwhile, was born and raised in El Segundo, he said, which gave him one more reason to visit Candy Cane Lane throughout the years. While much of the movie shows how the real, generations-old custom takes place, it also bridges the magic of the Christmas spirit to life. “I think the holidays are these moments where we mark time,” Younger said. “Amongst the chaos and stress and exhaustion and how hectic things can be, I think the holidays give us a chance to hit the pause button and reflect on what and who matters most to us, and what we’re really celebrating.” And that, he said, is what he wanted to reflect in the movie. “To make it fun, chaotic, over the top and magical,” Younger said, “but at the same time, rooted in the real lives of a family that I think every family can relate to.” In the film, Santa Claus rides down the street on Candy Cane Lane’s opening night on a city fire truck and points to each home, “flipping the light switch” on the decorations — just as it happens in real life. The film, though, was not shot on location — despite not being too far from Hollywood. Rather, the film used a neighborhood set — and it’s the same one used for the Wisteria Lane of “Desperate Housewives.” The set, of course, was reimagined to look like the El Segundo street during the holidays. But the man who plays the El Segundo Santa Claus in the film, Tom Lindsey, is the one who has actually played St. Nick on Candy Cane Lane for about 30 years, Younger said. (There’s also a “real” Santa depicted in the film, played by David Alan Grier.) During casting, Younger said, he “tracked him down, reached out and he couldn’t believe it. “They brought him to set, dressed him up, put him on the fire truck,” he added, “and he just had the time of his life playing the part he’s been playing all these years.” The crew started filming in December 2022, around when the “the cul-de-sac that goes nuts every Christmas” begins stringing up lights, hanging ornaments and setting up villages on their front lawns, Younger said. Things came full circle when an annual party at his parents’ house, on Candy Cane Lane’s opening night, also kicked off the making of the movie. Younger, who has worked on numerous projects with Disney and Pixar, said he wanted to do something a little different this time around. “I love Christmas movies, and our favorite holiday family tradition is to pile on the couch and watch holiday movies,” Younger said. “I always wanted to write a holiday movie, but I knew I wanted it to be personal and to have a connection to it.” He also envisioned it set someplace unexpected, Younger said, ultimately highlighting the Southern California sand he would boogie board on as a kid during the winters — pretending it was snow. “I knew,” Younger said, “I wanted it to be in an unusual location that celebrated the holidays just as much as the places that have snow and icicles.” As for the real life celebration, it will once again get underway early next month. Candy Cane Lane will light up from 7 to 9 p.m. nightly from Saturday, Dec. 9, to Dec. 23.
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