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The Polar Express (2004) Poster

Trivia

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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).
The film used 3D motion capture techniques to digitally record the physical performances of the actors before "skinning" them with their animated forms. All the children's roles were acted by adults using oversized props to get the movement right.
The real name of the Hero Boy is never mentioned.
The lonely boy is played by Peter Scolari, who starred alongside Tom Hanks (the Conductor) in Bosom Buddies (1980). It was the first significant role for both actors.
Listed in the Guiness Book of World Records 2006 as the "first all-digital capture" film, where all acted parts were done in digital capture.
Before the hero boy boards the Polar Express, the clock shows that it is 11:55. The time does not change until the first gift of Christmas is given near the end of the film.
The address spoken by the conductor early in the film "11344 Edbrooke" is the real address of Robert Zemeckis' childhood home. The home is in a south side of Chicago neighborhood called Roseland.
It is the first movie to use the Imagemotion technology.
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Steven Tyler appears in this film as the Elf Lieutenant / Elf Singer. His daughter, Liv Tyler, appears in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy as the elf Arwen.
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A close examination of all the ticket numbers reveals that they all contain the number "1225" in them. 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.
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Michael Jeter's last movie.
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The first animated film to use performance capture technology.
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In the beginning of the movie, Hero Boy looks at a picture of himself on a store Santa's lap. The store's name on the photo is Herpolsheimer's, an old department store in Grand Rapids, Chris Van Allsburg's hometown. Later the train passes by the store.
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The locomotive in the movie is based on the Pere Marquette 1225, a restored steam locomotive located in Owosso, MI. In fact, many of the sound effects of the film's train are recordings of the actual train. The train is often run between Owosso and nearby Chesaning for rides during festivals.
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According to books containing information about The Polar Express, including art books, and fact books, the Hero Boy's name is named after the man who wrote the novel, Chris.
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The first feature-length film to be released in both 35 mm and IMAX 3D.
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The Hero Boy has a University of Michigan pennant (featuring the well-known maize-colored "block M") on the wall behind his bed. Chris Van Allsburg is a real-life graduate of the University. Additionally, 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 and displayed on the campus from 1957 to 1983.
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The premiere was held in Grand Rapids, MI, author Chris Van Allsburg's hometown.
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This was the first mainstream film to be simultaneously released as a 3D IMAX presentation.
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The train set seen 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.
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Initial digital camera tests shot by Allen Daviau.
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Director Trademark 

Robert Zemeckis:  [keyhole]  The Hero Boy looks through a keyhole early in the movie.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The scene in the North Pole City communications room features 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.
Tom Hanks provides the voice for many characters even if his likeness is discernible only at 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 at 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 testing continually his faith and giving him options.
The visuals for North Pole City are based on the architecture of the Pullman plant (the company that made railroad cars) in Chicago, IL, near the childhood home of Robert Zemeckis in the Roseland neighborhood. The clock tower that Santa comes out of is based on the Pullman factory clock tower and many of the other buildings are based on Pullman's unique architecture.
Santa's reflection can be seen in the sleigh bell for just a few seconds, when it is shown in close-up, after Hero Boy places the bell on the table, at the film's end.

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Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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