updated 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST
Now, Allen, 41, stars in the surprise Yuletide smash The Santa Clause, which grossed a very merry $84 million in its first four weeks. With the aid of an 85-pound cranberry velvet fat suit, he plays Kris Kringle. "It's a good thing I'm new at the job," Allen has said. "If it had been Al Pacino, they would have had to shoot the movie in Iceland and leave him in a shack for three weeks while he got into character."
That's Allen, a good-guy comic with a Cheshire cat grin, a carny barker's delivery and a refreshing sense of disbelief that he may command $8 million for his next movie. "He's got a tremendous, empathetic quality," says Clause director John Pasquin. "Men like him, women and kids, little animals—even armadillos like him." Not bad at all for an ex-con who spent 28 months in prison (he was released in 1982) for selling cocaine. His college sweetheart, Laura Deibel, waited for him; they married in 1984 and have a daughter, Kady, 5. He began doing stand-up comedy and in 1990 caught the attention of Walt Disney Studios executives with his "men are pigs" routine. That evolved into the notion of a sitcom about the host of a fix-it cable TV show, and Home Improvement was born. Now, since Santa is a Disney movie (and his book is published by a Disney division), he's the studio's biggest cash cow since the Mouse.
Allen so far hasn't let his success go to his head. He has, however, let it go to his garage, which currently houses several snazzy cars, including the $66,000-plus Porsche the folks at Disney sent over a few weeks back as a token of their appreciation.