The Polar Express Movie Poster

Trivia for The Polar Express

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  • Hero Boy's real name is never mentioned. However, according to books containing information about The Polar Express, including art books and fact books, Hero Boy's name is Chris, after the novel's author, Chris Van Allsburg.
  • In the beginning of the movie, Hero Boy looks at a picture of himself on a store Santa's lap. The store is Herpolsheimer's, an old department store in Grand Rapids,Michigan, Chris Van Allsburg's hometown. Later, the train passes by the store.
  • The film used 3D motion capture techniques to digitally record the actors' physical performances before "skinning" them with their animated forms. The children's roles were acted by adults, using oversized props to get the movement right.
  • Michael Jeter's last movie.
  • Initial digital camera tests shot by Allen Daviau.
  • A close examination of the ticket numbers reveals that they all contain the number 1225. Pere Marquette No. 1225 was used as a model for the Polar Express locomotive. 12-25 also refers to the date of Christmas, December 25th.
  • The premiere was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, author Chris Van Allsburg's hometown.
  • The train set at the end is a recreation of the new Lionel Polar Express train set, combined with the older Lionel Berkshire and the older tubular track.
  • This was the first mainstream film to be simultaneously released as a 3D IMAX presentation.
  • The address spoken by the conductor early in the film "11344 Edbrooke" is the real address of Robert Zemeckis' childhood house. The house is in a south side Chicago neighborhood called Roseland.
  • The locomotive in the movie is based on the Pere Marquette 1225, a restored steam locomotive located in Owosso, MI. Many of the film's train sound effects are recordings of the actual train. The train runs between Owosso and nearby Ashley during the holiday season.
  • The film is listed in the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records as the "first all-digital capture" film, where all acted parts were done in digital capture.
  • The first feature-length film to be released in both 35 mm and IMAX 3D.
  • This is first animated film to use performance capture technology.
  • A University of Michigan pennant is on the wall behind Hero Boy's bed. Chris Van Allsburg is a real-life graduate of the University. Pere Marquette 1225, the locomotive used as the basis for the one in the film, was donated to the Michigan State University after being retired from active service. It was displayed on the campus from 1957 to 1983.
  • Director Trademark: [keyhole] The Hero Boy looks through a keyhole early in the movie.
  • Peter Scolari starred alongside Tom Hanks in Bosom Buddies (1980). It was the first significant role for both actors.
  • Before Hero Boy boards the Polar Express, the clock says 11:55. The time doesn't change until the first gift of Christmas is given, near the end of the film.
  • The appearance of the Ebenezer Scrooge marionette that frightens Hero Boy is the basis for the Ebenezer Scrooge that appears in Robert Zemeckis's next Christmas-themed film, A Christmas Carol (2009).
  • (Cameo) Steven Tyler: the Elf Lieutenant / Elf Singer.
  • Several obvious references (similar scenery, visual effects, spoken lines, etc.) to the Back to the Future (1985) trilogy (also directed by Robert Zemeckis) appear in this film.
  • When the Hero Boy first meets the Hobo on the roof of the train, he is playing the carol "Good King Wenceslas." The story of Saint Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia is that of a king braving the harsh winter to bring alms to the poor on the Feast of Stephan, December 26th. His page finds he can't go on through the harsh conditions and is directed to walk in the footprints that the king has made in the snow. The Hobo directs Hero Boy to follow behind him and ultimately helps him reach the engine before they make it to the tunnel, thus allowing him to find and help his friend. This is also a representation of the Holy Spirit idea of the Hobo, that he guides those who believe in Him to safety, even in perilous times.
  • The score contains a few key notes from the score of Reindeer Games (2000), also composed by Alan Silvestri.
  • The soldier doll that Hero Boy plays with on Christmas morning is part of the recycled toy program the conductor mentions. The same toy appears as a puppet in the background of the scene with the Scrooge puppet.
  • Billy is the only person aboard the Polar Express, passenger or crew member, who is identified by name.
  • When Hero Boy falls asleep, the clock in his bedroom reads 10:20, the same time as the clock in Scrooge's bedroom when Marley's ghost appears in the Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol (1951).
  • When the Hero Boy pulls the train whistle, he says "I've wanted to do that my whole life". In Back to the Future Part III (1990), another Robert Zemeckis film, Doc Brown does and says the same.
  • Some viewers speculate that the conductor time-traveled. His voice is heard as an older version of the main protagonist, and he could have gone back in time to help his past self.
  • In the scene where Smokey and Steamer (the fat man and the red-bearded man) are trying to catch the pin, a flux capacitor (from Back to the Future (1985), another Robert Zemeckis film) can be seen for a brief moment.
  • Three different actors play the role of Hero Boy. Tom Hanks does the motion capturing and adult voice, Daryl Sabara does the voice acting, and Josh Hutcherson does additional motion capturing.
  • This is the third Tom Hanks film directed by Robert Zemeckis. The previous films were Forrest Gump (1994) and Cast Away (2000).
  • The close shots of Hero Girl's train ticket floating in the air are a nod to the trademark shots of a feather doing the same in Forrest Gump (1994) which also starred Tom Hanks.
  • Hero Boy pulls the cord blowing the train whistle and says he has wanted to do that all his life. Emmett "Doc" Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) said the very same thing when he blew a train whistle in Back to the Future Part III (1990), also directed by Robert Zemeckis.
  • The track level view of the locomotive's cow catcher coming to a halt right at the camera (when the emergency brake is applied to let Billy get on the train at 0:14:05) is a repeat of the same view in Back to the Future Part III (1990), when Clara is leaving and applies the emergency brake to stop the train when she overhears about Emmett Brown's heartbreak (at 1:25:53).
  • The movie is based on the book "The Polar Express." Author Chris Van Alsburg also wrote "Jumanji" and "Zathura".
  • Contrary to popular belief, this film is not live-action, instead, this film is in fact supposed to look as if it is live-action, and this is the first ever digital capture film.
  • At the end of the movie when the hero boy received the bell Santa Claus can be seen in the reflection.
  • When Hero Boy first meets The Hobo, he is playing "Good King Wenceslas" on a Hurdy Gurdy.
  • When the shot of the Christmas tree pans out, the compass points south.
  • Several reviews called the motion-capture animation "creepy." In the 1978 book "Robots: Fact, Fiction, and Prediction", Masahiro Mori coined the term "uncanny valley" to describe the revulsion that people can feel when they encounter a robot that looks human enough, but is clearly not alive.
  • Director Robert Zemeckis' wife Leslie voices both Hero Boy's mom and sister.
  • Like the equally "innocent as milk" 1961 kiddie-film "Hand In Hand", this movie totally ignores/disregards one of the most basic and oft-repeated parental admonishments to young children --- "Never get into a vehicle with a stranger" --- while also neglecting to include a separate "aside notice" to viewers reminding them of this super-vital-to-remember practice.
  • Warner Bros.' first computer-animated film.
  • The latest-released Warner Bros.' animated film to be rated G by the MPAA.
  • In the scene where the engineer and fireman are trying to grab the pin necessary for the trains throttle, in the background you can see a working flux capacitor. This is a reference to Back to The Future and can possibly mean the the Polar Express is a functioning time machine.
  • Rob Reiner was attached to direct, but then dropped out.
  • In the end, Hero Boy says his friends, as well as his sister, lost the ability to hear the Christmas bell as they grew older. This is similar to Queen Susan losing her memories of Aslan and Narnia in the classic C.S. Lewis story, "The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe." The lesson is to hold on to child-like faith into adulthood.
  • A musical theme heard throughout the movie is identical to that heard in "Elf" when Santa's sleigh finally gets airborne heading south over Fifth Avenue.
  • This film along with The Reef (2006) the only Warner Bros theatrically released computer-animated films to be rated G by the MPAA. All the others were rated PG (and PG-13 in the case of Beowulf (2007)).

Spoilers

  • The visuals for North Pole City are based on the architecture of the Pullman plant, maker of Pullman railroad cars, in Chicago. The clock tower, which Santa comes out of, is based on the Pullman factory clock tower. Many of the other buildings are based on Pullman's unique architecture.
  • In the North Pole City communications room, an elf describing a bad little boy in New Jersey named Steven who is terrorizing his two little sisters. This line is a nod to Robert Zemeckis' friend and mentor, Steven Spielberg. Spielberg grew up in New Jersey, and has admitted many times that he frequently terrorized his two younger sisters.
  • At the end, Santa's reflection is faintly visible in the sleigh bell for a few seconds, in close-up, after Hero Boy places the bell on the table.
  • link=nm0000158] provides the voice for many characters, even if his likeness is discernible only as the Conductor. He voices, among others, both Santa Claus and the mysterious Hobo. The Hobo is merely suggested as being a spirit especially when he asks Hero Boy if he believes in ghosts. A deleted scene verifies that Hobo is indeed a ghost. The multiple roles of Tom Hanks are not simply an artistic choice, but they intentionally constitute some symbolic undertones in the plot. Santa Claus, the Conductor and the Hobo represent the Holy Trinity and the trip to the North Pole is a test of the Hero Boy's faith since he expresses some doubts about the existence of Santa Claus, who stands for God. The Conductor symbolizes Christ who continually tries to keep the children inside the train and ensures that the locomotive will not deviate (meaning that he guides the Christians on the right path). Finally the Hobo is the incarnate of the Holy Ghost in reference to the fact that he is a spirit who guides the Hero Boy continually testing his faith, and giving him options.
  • The Polar Express is another Christmas Carol movie. Hero Boy is Scrooge and doesn't believe in Santa anymore causing the three ghosts of Christmas (the Hobo, Conductor, and Santa) to change him forever. The Hobo is the Ghost of Christmas Past, and plays the role of Christmas Future. He tries to intimidate Hero Boy into changing his ways using only himself instead of the future. The Conductor is the Ghost Christmas Present and is in charge of keeping order in the present to get Hero Boy to Santa. Finally, Santa is Christmas Future and changes Hero Boy forever, like Scrooge was. They even pay homage to Dickens' classic by having a Scrooge puppet dance on screen briefly. (Controlled by Christmas Past)
  • The opening scenes, particularly in Hero Boy's bedroom, include two closeups of a chrome hubcap with a baseball lying next to it. During the second closeup of the hubcap as the boy's parents leave his room for the night after checking in on him, a small reflection of the Polar Express train is visible in the center of the hubcap.
  • The mini polar express under their Christmas tree was actually a present.
  • At the end when Hero Girl gets her ticket punched, the ticket reads Lead. Hero Girl thinks it reads "lead," like "lead balloon," but is told by the conductor that he believes it is pronounced "lead". As in "leader," "leadership." "Lead the way." "Follow you anywhere, ma'am." This is the same reference to how Led Zeppelin got their name, when Keith Moon said the band would go over like a "lead balloon." Jimmy Page remembered this years later when naming the band, knowing they would get mistaken for the word "lead," he named it "Led Zeppelin."
  • The Simple Basic Message of this Film is 'FAITH.'
  • During the sequence when Hero Girl's ticket is lost outside the train, just after the eaglet drops it, the train bursts out of a tunnel. The tunnel bears the number 1225. Usually the number would represent the year the tunnel was built but here signifies Christmas.
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