“Writers are just like potato chips–you just can’t get enough of them,” said an expansive, voluble Tim Allen as he lounged in a Dallas hotel suite munching on cashews during a promotional tour for “The Santa Clause 2.” Then, in jocular exaggeration he added, in egomaniacal-producer tones, “I like that! Somebody write that down!”

Allen was in town with co-star Elizabeth Mitchell and director Michael Lembeck, and was discussing the difficulties in getting the script right for the sequel to his 1994 feature debut, which scored big at the boxoffice and is a continuing draw in annual television showings. “It gets better ratings on the ABC Sunday Night Movie every year,” he interjected. “It’s one of the few movies that’s ever done that. It’s becoming a classic.”

That’s why Allen was so intent on making “Santa Clause 2” a worthy successor to the earlier film. “For me,” he explained, “[the greatest danger is] that you’ll screw up the original, which I had to remind Disney they make more money on each year… So I kept telling them, I kept reminding them, [about] sequels that work… I said I knew what it takes, and you’ve got to trust me.” As Allen described the long, drawn-out writing process, which he said–perhaps seriously–eventually involved sixteen contributors, it was touch-and-go to the very end. “The daunting part is telling the studio, ‘No, I don’t want the money and I don’t want the work,’ when I could have just said yes to both and not care. And I don’t want to sound all altruistic. It’s just that I love movies, and I like watching movies that make sense…. [And late in the process] we gave up. We got to the point where we all got frustrated. They greenlit the script, and I said I don’t want to do this. But we pushed through.”

One thing that helped was Lembeck’s joining the team. “He came in in mid-process,” Allen said, “when it was just in flux. The studio and I were really disagreeing on which direction to take it, if we were going to take it at all. We really didn’t think they were going to do this–we were so far apart. And then Michael came in”–along with still more new writers–“…and made the thing. He came to the set every day with an attitude that was great.”

The director, making his big-screen debut after a good deal of TV work on series like “Friends,” and Mitchell, who plays the hard-edged school principal whom Allen’s Scott Calvin romances (to get her to marry him before Christmas so that he can remain Santa Claus), were no less enthusiastic about Allen. Lembeck responded to a query whether his star had been as rambunctious on the set as he was in the interview by saying, “Every day, every single day, and if you couldn’t keep up with this–it was 6:30am to 6:30pm just like this, screaming and hollering and mayhem every day.” But, he quickly added, “We finished on time, under budget, we had no second-unit shooting, we did everything ourselves, and [the studio is] very happy with us.”

Mitchell, a native Dallasite, credited Lembeck with her casting. “I guess Michael saw me on ‘E.R.,'” she said. “He came to me, and he was adorable, and he was excited, and he was as passionate as I like people to be talking about things that they love. And then I met Tim, and he had me in stitches, and then he had me in tears… [Tim’s] the funniest man anyone knows, and Michael’s the warmest–he’s amazing.” She added: “This is a labor of love for these guys. When you think about it, any sequel could have been done, and it would have made a lot of money, because it’s ‘Santa Clause 2.’ But they chose not to do that–they chose to do something that meant a lot to them–they hand-picked everybody for what they thought it would bring to the movie. It made it a joy.” Playing against Allen, she added, was extremely easy. “What I feel with Tim is, if you’ve ever played tennis with a really good tennis player who’s playing just for you, and you have your racket up and basically you hit every ball, that’s what Tim did for me…. I held up my racket, and everything he threw at me bounced back eventually. I just kept holding up my racket.”

One thing all three agreed on was the joy of working with all the children who played elves in Santa’s North Pole factory. “As crotchety and cranky as I could get [putting on the makeup],” Allen said, “as soon as I walked out of the tent there’s children going, ‘Santa, Santa!’ They thought they were working with Santa.” Lembeck added, “For them it was fantasy-fulfillment…. It was the most patient, attentive, enthusiastic, kind group of children one could ever be blessed with–350 kids just being magnificent during the course of the day, and it’s 100o on the set.” Mitchell chimed in: “They thought I was Mrs. Claus. They hung on me, they wanted to hug me all the time. I came from a big family–it wasn’t a problem. I thought it was great. I could have five kids on either arm and be perfectly fine. I loved it.”

And many family audiences are likely to love “The Santa Claus 2.”