For the video game, see The Polar Express (video game)
The Polar Express is a 2004 American 3D computer-animated Christmas musical fantasy film based on the 1985 children's book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg, who served as one of the executive producers on the film. Written, produced, and directed by Robert Zemeckis. The film stars Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, and Eddie Deezen. It was released on November 10, 2004 by Warner Bros. Pictures.
This is the story of a young hero boy on Christmas Eve who boards a powerful magical train that's headed to the North Pole and Santa Claus' home. What unfolds is an adventure which follows a doubting boy, who takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole; during this ride, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery which shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. Written by Anthony Pereyra.
Santa Claus does not exist. Or does he? For one doubting boy, an astonishing event occurs. Late on Christmas Eve night, he lies in bed hoping to hear the sound of reindeer bells from Santa's sleigh. When to his surprise, a steam engine's roar and whistle can be heard outside his window. The conductor invites him on board to take an extraordinary journey to the North Pole with many other pajama-clad children. There, he receives an extraordinary gift only those who still believe in Santa can experience.
- Tom Hanks as the Hero Boy (motion-capture only), the Hero Boy's father, the Conductor, the Hobo, Santa Claus, and the Narrator
- Leslie Zemeckis as Sister Sarah (motion-capture only) and the Hero Boy's mother
- Isabella Peregrina as Sister Sarah (voice)
- Ashly Holloway as Sister Sarah (additional motion-capture)
- Eddie Deezen as the Know-It-All Kid
- Jimmy Pinchak as the Know-It-All Kid (additional motion-capture)
- Nona Gaye as the Hero Girl
- Peter Scolari as Billy the Lonely Boy (motion-capture only)
- Dylan Cash as Boy on Train (voice)
- Brendan King and Andy Pellick as the Pastry Chefs
- Josh Eli, Rolandas Hendricks, Jon Scott, Sean Scott, Mark Mendonca, Mark Goodman, *Gregory Gast, and Gordon Hart as the Waiters
- Andre Sogliuzzo as Smokey and Steamer (voice)
- Michael Jeter (in his final film role) as Smokey and Steamer (motion-capture only)
- Chris Coppola as Gus the Toothless Boy and an Elf
- Connor Matheus as the Toothless Boy (additional motion-capture)
- Julene Renee as the Red Head Girl and an Elf
- Phil Fondacaro, Debbie Lee Carrington, Mark Povinelli, and Ed Gale as Elves
- Charles Fleischer as the Elf General
- Steven Tyler as the Elf Lieutenant and the Elf Singer
- Dante Pastula as the Little Boy
- Eric Newton, Aidan O'Shea, Aaron Hendry, Kevin C. Carr, Bee Jay Joyer, Jena Carpenter, Karine Mauffrey, Beth Carpenter, Bill Forchion, Devin Henderson, and *Sagiv Ben-Binyamin as Acrobatic Elves
- Evan Sabara as a Young Boy (additional motion-capture)
- Many of the shots in the film replicate illustrations from the book.
- This is the first feature-length film of several things:
- The first animated film to be entirely in digital capture.
- The first film to be released in 35 mm and IMAX 3D.
- This is the second film to be based off of a book by Chris Van Allsburg, after Jumanji from 1995.
- This is also the last film of several things:
- Warner Bros.' last theatrical film to be rated G by the MPAA.
- Michael Jeter's last film role.
- On some foreign DVDs of the film, such as the UK DVD release, the "You Wouldn't Steal a Car" promo is seen, but on the majority of DVD releases, this isn't used, possibly due to it being a bit too frightening for a family audience or because Warner Bros never used it on American DVD releases of their films
- Since adult actors did the motion capture for the children characters most of the time, over-sized props were used to get the movement right.
- Several references to Chris Van Allsburg, the author of the book and executive producer for the film, are made:
- While the film never mentioned Hero Boy's name, several art and fact books about the film say that it is Chris, named after Chris Van Allsburg.
- A University of Michigan pennant appears in Hero Boy's room. Van Allsburg studied at the University of Michigan.
- The locomotive in both the book and the film is based off of Pere Marquette 1225, an N1-class locmotive which Van Allsburg used to play on as a child while attending football games at Michigan State University, where it was on static display at the time. The number 1225 can be seen on the keystone of the tunnel entrance the train goes through during the lost ticket scene.
- After the train picks up Hero Boy, it passes by Herpolsheimer's, an old department store in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Van Allsburg's hometown. The film's grand premiere was also held in Grand Rapids.
- Fritz the Dog appears on top of the bedpost in Hero Boy's room, just like it did in the book.
The magazine Hero Boy pulls out of his drawer has the date of December 29, 1956, even though the film takes place on December 24. This could either mean that the movie did not take place earlier than 1957 or he could have gotten the magazine early.
- This is contradicted in The Polar Express: The Movie: Trip to the North Pole, which states that the story takes place in 1955
- Before the train appears in front of Hero Boy's house, the alarm clock in his room shows that it is 11:55, the same time when the train arrives at the North Pole, meaning that no time has passed. When he is dropped off, a clock in the living room shows 12:00, just like it was when Santa left the North Pole. This indicates that only five minutes passed during the entire journey.
- The address of Billy's home is 11344 Edbrooke Avenue. This was the childhood home Robert Zemeckis, the director of the movie.
- Several references to the Back to the Future films, which were also directed by Robert Zemeckis, are made in the film:
- When Hero Boy pulls the emergency brake to let Billy get on the train, the track level view of the locomotive's pilot coming to a halt right at the camera is similar to the same view in Back to the Future Part III when Carla is leaving and applies the emergency brake to stop the train after overhearing about Emmett "Doc" brown's heartbreak.
- After Hero Boy pulls the train whistle, he says, "I've wanted to do that my whole life." Emmett Brown does and says the same thing in Back to the Future Part III.
- In the scene when Smokey and Steamer are trying to catch the pin, a flux capacitor from Back to the Future can be seen briefly.
- The soldier doll that Hero Boy plays with on Christmas morning can also be seen in the abandoned toy car.
- The first time Hero Boy goes downstairs, a red snowman skirt is on the tree, but on Christmas morning, it is yellow and has bells on it.
- Early in the film when Hero Boy is in his room, his robe is seen on the bedpost closest to the bedroom door. However, it disappears briefly when his parents visit the room and reappears when Hero Boy looks outside to see the train.
- There are several moments when footprints left in the snow disappear too soon.
- The footprints and skid marks Hero Boy leaves while walking outside to observe the train disappear when the train leaves.
- The Conductor steps outside to invite Billy on the train, leaving a few footprints, which disappear when Billy starts running after the train.
- When the train goes up a hill and Hero Boy and the Hobo slide to the back of the observation car, Hero Boy's footprints on the car disappear.
- Know-It-All says that the locomotive was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. But it was actually built by the Lima Locomotive Works. He also messes up on the year, saying it was built in 1931 when it was actually built in 1941. However, this could have been Know-It-All's own mistake.
- At Herpolsheimer's, when Know-It-All says, "I want all of them!", the window on the car displays a reflection of a pile of presents, but those presents are not seen in the actual store.
- The train normally appears with five cars, but throughout the film, it changes from as little as three to as many as over twenty.
- Five cars are seen when the train is about to leave Hero Boy's house.
- Twenty cars are seen as the train passes by the wolves in the forest and as it is entering the North Pole.
- Seven cars are seen as Hero Boy and the Hobo jump from the first to second car.
- After the Hero Boy gets out of the abandoned toy car, he has transported to the second to last car, meaning that the train has three cars in that scene.
- When the Conductor is punching Hero Boy's ticket, holes are seen flying out of the puncher and onto Hero Boy's face. A total of 32 punches were made, but more than 32 holes land on his face.
- Hero Boy finds Hero Girl's ticket on her seat. However, it is not there when she reaches under her seat for the hot chocolate she saved for Billy.
- When Hero Girl's ticket gets stuck on the train's air intake, it disappears in one shot.
- As Hero Boy goes into the last car where Billy is, a silhouette of the Conductor and the Hero Girl on the roof cast from the Conductor's lantern can be seen, but a shadow in real life would not cast in the way it did.
- The Hobo tells Hero Boy, "You don't wanna be led down the primrose path!" However, the primrose path actually refers to an easy life. It would make more sense if he said, "garden path", which means to be deceived.
- The camera angle pans several times when Hero Boy and the Hobo are skiing atop the train. One shot is from the front of the train, showing the engine and the two fellows on the third car with two cars between them and the engine. Subsequent pans show them jumping more than three times, travelling on more than two cars.
- No coal marks or stains are seen on Hero Boy after he gets out of the coal tender.
- The sounds the caribou make in the film are actually those of elk.
- When the caribou clear the track, the Conductor says, "All ahead, slow!" This term refers to a ship with multiple engines, but it does not apply to a train being pulled by a locomotive.
- When the train goes up Glacier Gulch, the warning sign displays an 179 degree gradient. However, a vertical drop is 90 degrees, so it would make more sense for the sign to say 89 degrees.
- One shot of the train on the Ice Lake shows it heading towards an iceberg, though it crashes into it much later than it should have.
- The cracking ice is not seen when the train hits the iceberg, even though this occurred after the pin pierced the ice.
- The train's distance from the other side of the Ice Lake frequently increases decreases with each scene.
- As the train goes up the mountain before crossing the bridge, the cars curve around the bend to match the track, as though they were made of rubber. However, had they not curved, they would clip the mountain.
- All of the cars' windows are fully lit from the inside throughout the movie. However, the abandoned toy car has no lights inside.
- In the first shot of the elves marching at the North Pole Square, one elf is static.
- After the train stops and the children get off, they line up in two rows with Hero Boy and Hero Girl at the back. However, the other children disappear when Hero Boy and Hero Girl tells the Conductor about Billy staying behind. They all reappear in the next shot, but part of a building from the previous shot disappears.
- The children fling towards the front of the car when it hits the buffer on the turntable, but they should have flung towards the back since it was that end which hit the buffer.
- The number of children standing at the North Pole Square keeps changing.
- When the children are in the sack of presents, the blimp closes the sack over their heads, but it was shown at eye-level in the next scene.
- The height of the sack of presents constantly changes.
- The elves, when they bungee jump to catch the star, fall faster than the star does.
- When the silver bell comes off the harness and bounces on the ground, the leather straps attached to it do not twist and tangle like in the normal manner.
- The electric guitars played in Elf Singer's band are not plugged in.
- Throughout the film, whenever someone rings the bell, they hold it by the bell itself rather than by the tassels.
- After Hero Boy leaves the bell on the table and walks away, his reflection seen on the bell suddenly disappears.
- During at the end when the shines full of sparkling from a silver bell you can see Santa Claus’ face.