Not even hundreds of trees could camouflage some aspects of reality. "Because you could see between the buildings and see all of Downey, we had to build the facade of two houses on wheels," Stover explains. "We had scenic artists come in and paint the backs of two houses on the other street, the way two backyards butt up against each other, so we could move them around on a flatbed."
Stover had to include a facing street as well. "I put a curve in Hemlock Street so you could see the main houses, so we needed a street at the end with a curve as well-two compound arcs intersect with each other." One building he couldn't raze was painted "municipal park green" and was incorporated into the design as a processing plant.
As for the actual houses, Stover amassed books and photographs for inspiration on the look of the exteriors, interiors and Christmas decorations. Each house needed to reflect the personalities of its inhabitants.
"Because we were going to be looking at the Krank house the most, it was important that it didn't overpower the other houses. I tried to make it the most nondescript so when it's not decorated it stands out as this black hole on the street and in the end when it gets all its lights and decorations it really stands out," notes Stover, who used white lights to distinguish it.
Appropriately, the regimented, ultrapatriotic Frohmeyer (Aykroyd) lives in a brick edifice with a clipped hedge, a flag out front, and red, white and blue Christmas lights. The Trogdon house is Colonial-looking with a sloped driveway that figures in the plot, and the Scheel house has a porch from which the nosy owner (M. Emmet Walsh) can survey the neighborhood. "They were all basically the same design because that's how people did tract homes. But there's a character to each house that sets it apart so the audience knows where they are at any given time."