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The Hobo (King) is a recurring character in The Polar Express film. He is a ghost/spirit of a man [1] who lives on top of the Polar Express and rides it whenever he feels like it for free. He does not believe in Santa Claus or Christmas, but his negativity tests Hero Boy's faith. Throughout the film, Hero Boy is the only character who sees and directly interacts with him.

  • 1 Role in the Film
  • 2.1 The Polar Express: The Video Game
  • 2.2 The Polar Express Ticket Chase
  • 3 Behind the scenes
  • 4 International languages
  • 6.2 Video Game
  • 8 References

Role in the Film [ ]

The Hobo first appears sleeping in a hammock underneath the train during the ticket journey scene. As the wind blows Hero Girl's ticket underneath the train, it lands on his face before being blown away again.

When Hero Boy tries returning Hero Girl 's ticket and goes on the roof after learning from Billy that Hero Girl and the Conductor are on the roof, although he wasn't able to catch up after the light from the Conductor's lantern, he sees light from the Hobo's campfire in the distance. Thinking it is the light from the Conductor's lantern, he walks up to it. He meets the Hobo, preparing coffee over a fire while humming "Good King Wenceslas" and playing a hurdy-gurdy. Hero Boy says that he is "looking for a girl", though the Hobo laughs, thinking he meant a romantic partner. When he shows Hero Girl's ticket, the Hobo recognizes its value and suggests Hero Boy put it in his slipper. He goes on to explain how he rides on top of the train for free whenever he likes and claims to be the king of both the train and the North Pole . He also offers Hero Boy a cup of coffee, though the boy spits it out when he finds out the Hobo washes his socks in it. Afterwards, he questions him being the king of the North Pole, thinking that role would belong to Santa Claus, which leads to the Hobo mocking Santa by putting on a Santa hat and pretending to be a department store animatronic Santa. The Hobo asks why he wants to see Santa and Hero Boy explains that he wants to believe. The Hobo then hints that everything is just a dream and asks Hero Boy if he "believes in ghosts." When Hero Boy's replies "No," all Hobo says is "interesting" as he mysteriously appears and vanishes in the snow.

The Hobo comes back and puts Hero Boy onto his shoulders to get ready to head to the locomotive , explaining that they must make it before they reach Flat Top Tunnel , which is only one inch taller than the locomotive. However, when the train goes up a hill, they slide towards the back of the train. The Hobo stops them by grabbing the top rung from the train ladder with one of his ski sticks, but Hero Boy falls off his shoulders and starts hanging off the edge of the train. The Hobo uses his other ski stick to save him and puts him onto his skis in front of him. The train begins going down the hill and the two ski down the train, jumping from one car to the next. As soon as Flat Top Tunnel's teeth fly out, Hero Boy jumps into the tender of the locomotive just in time after the Hobo mysteriously disappears.

Later, the train ends up on the Ice Lake and crashes through an iceberg, causing it to lean sideways and Hero Girl to nearly fall off. Hero Boy and the Conductor grab her in time, but are unable to pull her to safety. Luckily, the Hobo appears and helps them, then disappears before anyone other than Hero Boy could see him. While Hero Boy, Hero Girl and the Conductor go through the abandoned toy car , the Hobo, hiding on top of the car, uses a Scrooge marionette to scare Hero Boy. He appears again on the speeding runaway observation car, tapping on the manual brake wheel to show Hero Boy where the brakes are while drinking another cup of coffee. He disappears again when the car rushes through a tunnel. The Hobo makes one last appearance near the end of the film when Hero Boy is dropped off at his house . He waves goodbye to Hero Boy from the roof of the train before disappearing one last time.

Other appearances [ ]

The polar express: the video game [ ].

The Hobo only appears in the second chapter of the video game and plays a less antagonistic role. Like in the film, he meets Hero Boy on the roof of the train, but not on the observation car, instead on one of the other passenger cars. Impressed with his determination in trying to return Hero Girl's ticket, he helps Hero Boy get to the locomotive by skiing down the hill, not down the cars, with Hero Boy leaning from side to side to help steer. They eventually get to the bottom and Hero Boy makes it into the engine room.

The Polar Express Ticket Chase [ ]

After the player helps Hero Boy retrieve his lost ticket, they become the Hobo and ski down the train to help Hero Boy return to the first passenger car before the train reaches Flat Top Tunnel. They must avoid obstacles along the way.

Behind the scenes [ ]

Like most human characters in the film, the Hobo's animation was done through motion-capture, which was provided by Tom Hanks along with the voice. However, some keyframe animation was done to perfect his movements. [2] While on set, Hanks would help imagine himself into his characters by wearing different pairs of shoes for each role, including a specific pair of boots for the Hobo, as the actors did not wear costumes. [1]

The Hobo would have been featured in the deleted scene " It Takes Two " in which his backstory is told. The scene was cut for time when the filmmakers thought it would make the film flow better. In the scene, Smokey and Steamer tell the story of the Hobo to Hero Boy and Hero Girl in a shadow puppet show. The Hobo rode on the roof of the train on Christmas Eve of 1933 and was killed at Flat Top Tunnel due to its low clearance. His ghost can still be seen riding the train every year. It also reveals that his name is King .

International languages [ ]

  • The Hobo is one of many characters from the film to not be originally in the book . He is the only such character played by Tom Hanks.
  • 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. He probably meant "garden path," which means to be deceived.
  • In the film when Hero Boy, Hero Girl, and the Conductor return to the passenger cars, the Conductor talks about when he nearly fell off the train during his first ride on the Polar Express, though he never figured out who or what saved him. It can be assumed to have been the Hobo, but it is never specified.
  • "Is there something I can do for you?"
  • "Ain't we all?!"
  • "I own this train. Oh, yeah. It's like I'm the king of the train. Yeah, the king of the Polar Express. In fact, I'm the king of the North Pole!"
  • "Hey, would you like some joe? A nice hot refreshment perfect for a cold winter's night."
  • "But, you don't wanna be bamboozled. You don't wanna be led down the primrose path! You don't wanna be conned or duped, have the wool pulled over your eyes. Hoodwinked! You don't wanna be taken for a ride, RAILROADED!!!"
  • "Seeing is believing. Am I right?"
  • "One other thing. Do you believe in ghosts?"
  • "We gotta make the engine before we hit Flat Top Tunnel."
  • "So many questions. There is but one inch of clearance between the roof of this rattler and the roof of Flat Top Tunnel. Savvy?"
  • "You said it, kid. Not me."
  • "There's only one trick to this kid. When I say jump... YOU JUMP!!!!"
  • "Take a break, kid! How about a nice, good hot cup of Joe?!"

Video Game [ ]

  • ”You know, it’s pretty dangerous up here, but I’m impressed that you managed to get this far. You’re a regular hero, trying to give that girl her ticket back, and let me tell you, if you thought getting up here was hot, then you better prepare yourself for a shock, that was nothing, cause frankly, there’s no way you’re gonna make it, if you stay on the roof.”
  • ”There’s one way to get that ticket back to the girl. Do you wanna hear it?”
  • ”We gotta jump off this here train, and take a shortcut. Now look at me in the eye, do you believe that you can do this?”
  • ”Okay, take my hand, broad deep breath.”
  • ”On the count to three, we’re gonna ski down the hill. You’re gonna need to shift your weight to steer us clear in the rocks. One, two, three!”
  • ”Like I was saying, this here is the fastest route for the front of the train.”
  • ”Don’t worry son, will catch that train in no time.”
  • ”Okay, this is it, we’re nearly there! When I say jump, you got to jump, got it!?”
  • ”Ready, set, JUMP!”

Gallery [ ]

Hobo sleeping under the train

References [ ]

  • ↑ 1.0 1.1 Cotta Vaz, Mark. Starkey, Steve. (November 4, 2004) The Art of the Polar Express , Chronicle Books. p. 28 & 57. ISBN 978-0811846592 .
  • ↑ Schaub, David (November 23, 2004). " 'The Polar Express' Diary: Part 1 -- Testing and Prepping ". Animation World Network .
  • 2 Hero Boy (Chris)
  • 3 Know-It-All
  • Entertainment

Tom Hanks Played 7 People in "The Polar Express," Including Santa Claus

Updated on 12/15/2022 at 5:15 PM

ghost of christmas past polar express

Sure, " How the Grinch Stole Christmas ," " Elf ," and " A Christmas Story " all reign supreme when it comes to classic holiday movies, but if you love Tom Hanks as much as we do, then you don't want to sleep on "The Polar Express." (Really, you might miss your stop.) In addition to voicing the incredibly punctual conductor in the film, the actor and America's Dad plays six other characters who contribute to the 2004 film's whimsy.

"Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart."

As the narrator, he shepherds us into a snow-covered world where an enchanted train can carry children directly to the North Pole, a universe straight out of the 1985 book of the same name that inspired the film. As the ghost of the man who rides the Polar Express, he tests the Hero Boy's (Daryl Sabara and Josh Hutcherson) faith in Santa Claus. "Seeing is believing. Am I right?" he tells the Hero Boy as they make their journey to see Santa in person once and for all. With the help of his friends — the Know It-All (Eddie Deezen) and the Hero Girl (Nona Gaye) — the Hero Boy hangs onto hope that Santa is real.

And of course, Hanks also voices Santa, keeping the spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts by reminding the Hero Boy to always believe. "This bell is a wonder symbol of the spirit of Christmas, as am I," Santa tells the Hero Boy when they finally meet. As a token to remember him by, Santa gifts the boy a magical silver bell that can only be heard by those who believe in the spirit of Christmas. "Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart," he adds.

From wild shrieks and stern warnings to the bellowing "ho ho ho" he lets out as Santa Claus, Hanks's heartfelt performances make "The Polar Express" a modern-day holiday classic. Ahead, take a closer look at all his characters, and relive some of their best moments throughout the film.

The Conductor

As the Conductor, Hanks brought us the holiday classic "Hot Chocolate," which is definitely worth singing whenever cocoa is around. Infatuated with getting to the North Pole on time, the Conductor acts as a guide on the Hero Boy's unexpected journey, introducing twists and saving him at every wrong turn until he's safely back home.

The Hero Boy

"Spy Kids" actor Sabara does voice the Hero Boy, but those raised eyebrows and inquisitive looks are all courtesy of Hanks, whose face was used to motion-capture the character's movements during animation, according to The Byrde Theatre . Considering that the Conductor also bears a striking resemblance to Hanks, it's almost like he's the Hero Boy all grown up.

Santa Claus

Hanks as Santa Claus is a sort of dream come true, if you ask us. The polar (pun-intended) opposite of Jim Carrey in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," his Santa is boisterous, festive, and jolly. His booming voice and surprising height solidify the fact that he is the Santa and give us secondhand amazement as the Hero Boy stares up at him in childlike wonder.

The Narrator

Hanks has one of those wonderfully soothing voices that makes everything seem a little more peaceful. As the narrator, who is the Hero Boy all grown up, he perfectly captures the tone of a father telling his kids a story around the fireplace on Christmas Eve.

The Hero Boy's Dad

Oh, and Hanks plays the Hero Boy's unnamed and mostly unseen dad. While he has very few lines, the Hero Boy's dad inadvertently makes it clear to his son that the silver bell Santa Claus gifted him doesn't work for adults. It's at this moment that the main character understands the power of believing and sets out to hold onto that feeling for as long as possible.

The Ghost on the Train

The man who lives on top of the train is a complex character who tests the Hero Boy's faith in Santa Claus while also saving him and the other riders — including the Conductor — from mayhem whenever possible. Curiously, he flits in and out of the film, only appearing fully for the Hero Boy to see, implying that he's a ghost eternally tied to the Polar Express.

The Ebenezer Scrooge Puppet

This one's easy to miss, but Hanks also voices the Ebenezer Scrooge puppet, which the man on top of the train uses to scare Hero Boy into doubting that the Polar Express is real. "You are just like me, my friend: a scrooge!" the puppet says, frightening the Hero Boy. "North Pole, Santa Claus, this train — it's all a bunch o' humbug!" The Hero Boy does eventually notice that it's just the man on the train playing a trick on him, but we don't blame him for scurrying away anyway after hearing Hanks's booming voice reverberate through the moving train car.

The Spirit of Christmas

OK, this one wasn't actually one of his roles in the film, but Hanks did embody the spirit of Christmas in every single one of these roles. So please excuse us while we pop some marshmallows in our hot chocolate and settle in to relive the magic this holiday season.

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  • Cinema Summaries

The Polar Express: a modern-day Christmas Carol?

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In this week’s edition of Cinema Summaries, staff reporter Andrew Jauregui tells of two beloved classics, and how they may be related.

Andrew Jáuregui , Interactive Media Editor December 8, 2021

Watching The Polar Express every December is among my favorite holiday movie traditions. While some can’t stand to watch the motion-capture animation style of the film, those who can are treated to a magical quasi-musical journey that captures that magical Christmas feeling. 

The film is relatively simple, as it follows our main protagonist, a boy with doubt that Santa exists, who makes new friends and learns to believe after a train ride to the north pole. However, on my most recent viewings, it has become clear to me that the film adaptation of the famous book of the same name, borrows many aspects from the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol .

This connection between the two stories can be derived from several major aspects of the film. First, the story follows a boy regaining his belief in Santa, similar to Scrooge, who regains his Christmas spirit after a life-changing journey. However, this is a common theme in Christmas movies, so more evidence is needed to connect the film to A Christmas Carol . 

More convincingly, the film features three figures that act as the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. The ghost of Christmas past is represented by the hobo that rides on top of the train. He is old and worn, clearly having spent many years making many journeys to the north pole. He asks our main protagonist if he believes in ghosts, and makes a habit of spontaneously appearing and disappearing in the film, confirming that he himself is a ghost. The ghost of the Christmas present is represented by the train’s conductor, who is constantly worried about being on-time, fitting for a ghost dedicated to the present. Lastly, the ghost of Christmas future is represented by Santa, who is responsible for taking off into the night to deliver the presents that the children will find under their trees the next day. Santa also features a ghostly glow in the scenes that he is featured in. Further bringing this theory together is the fact that all three of these featured characters are all played by Tom Hanks . 

In the middle of the film, the hobo scares the protagonist with a Scrooge puppet, who claims that the boy is just like him. Although this might make the connection between the two seem obvious, calling an enthusiastic person a “Scrooge” during the holiday season has become a common practice, so much so to the point where it is largely unnoticeable when it happens. However, when combined with the ghosts and general plot of the film, it can be seen that the film is the most creative reimagining of A Christmas Carol , one that I’ll always enjoy watching for years to come.

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  • Main content

18 details you probably missed in 'The Polar Express'

  • "The Polar Express" came out in 2004, but fans may have missed these sneaky details.
  • There are references to "Back to the Future," which shares a director with the Christmas film . 
  • The level of detail in reflections, clothing material, and real-life replicas is impressive. 

The boy burns himself on his radiator and then avoids making the same mistake.

ghost of christmas past polar express

The Hero Boy looks out his bedroom window when he first hears something outside his house.

As he leans closer to the window, he burns himself on the radiator underneath it.

The moment happens quickly, but he adjusts how he's standing after that to avoid burning himself again.

Reflections in the movie are very detailed.

ghost of christmas past polar express

Throughout the movie, realistic details stand out, like visible stitching on clothing and the way different materials move.

Additionally, when the Hero Boy watches his parents talk to his sister through the keyhole in his room, the keyhole is reflected on his eye as he backs away.

Later in the film, there are also several reflection details in the metal platters during the hot-chocolate scene. 

There's a hidden reference to "Back to the Future" in the newspaper clipping.

ghost of christmas past polar express

The boy's collection of papers show why he's come to the conclusion that Santa isn't real.

One newspaper article about department-store Santas is titled "Santas on Strike: Department store Santas walkout." The strike signs they're holding in the photo appear to say "Say yes to Lone Pine Mall construction."

The name of the mall is a subtle reference to a mall in the "Back to the Future" franchise, which director Robert Zemeckis also worked on. 

The magazine the boy pulls out of his drawer is a near-identical replica of a real issue from December 1956.

ghost of christmas past polar express

Although there isn't a ton of information concerning exactly when the film takes place, the Hero Boy has a copy of a Saturday Evening Post magazine from December 29, 1956.

Since the film takes place on Christmas Eve, it's safe to say that it's at least set in 1957.

The magazine cover is based on a real issue , and many of the details are accurate, but there are slight differences in the look of the Santa costume.

At the beginning, it's clear there are five cars on the Polar Express, but in later scenes, the train is much longer.

ghost of christmas past polar express

When the Polar Express pulls up in front of the Hero Boy's house, you can clearly count the five cars of the train. 

Those five cars are visible at other points throughout the film as well. But in some scenes, like when the train is riding past a pack of wolves, there seem to be closer to 20 cars. 

The train passes Herpolsheimer's, a real Grand Rapids department store.

ghost of christmas past polar express

When the Polar Express passes Herpolsheimer's, the kids cheer and rush to the train's windows.

This is the first indication of the film's setting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the department store existed in real life from 1865 to 1987. 

When the Hero Boy was looking through his papers in his room, he also had a holiday card from the store featuring a photo with Santa. 

The Conductor makes way too many paper cutouts the first time he punches the boy's ticket.

ghost of christmas past polar express

When the Conductor first makes a show of marking the Hero Boy's ticket, he punches out a "B" and an "E." Once he's done, it's easy to count that the letters are made up of 32 individual hole punches.

But based on the auditory and visual cues as he was dramatically punching out the letters, he made far more cuts than that. 

Billy's address may have been inspired by the director's childhood home.

ghost of christmas past polar express

Zemeckis seemed to take inspiration from his own life when creating Billy's address, 11344 S Edbrooke Avenue, which the Conductor repeats a few times as the train pulls up to his house.

Although the film is set in Grand Rapids, the address is actually from Chicago's Roseland neighborhood, where Zemeckis reportedly grew up .

The hot-chocolate mugs have the same logo as the train.

ghost of christmas past polar express

The back of the Polar Express has a red circle with "PE" embossed in gold.

The hot-chocolate mugs that the children drink from also have the same gold "PE" logo.

The Hero Girl didn't actually leave her ticket on her seat.

ghost of christmas past polar express

One main source of conflict when the children are on the train comes after the Hero Girl leaves her ticket on her seat while bringing Billy a cup of hot chocolate .

Trying to be helpful, the Hero Boy attempts to run after her to give her the ticket, but in a series of unfortunate events, it flies away from the train and somehow lands back in their car's vent. When the Conductor returns and sees the Hero Girl doesn't have a ticket, he walks her to the front of the train via the roofs of the cars and inexplicably lets her drive. 

But none of this should've happened in the first place because when the Hero Girl first gets out of her seat, the ticket clearly isn't there. It isn't until the Hero Boy turns around that the gold ticket appears to be left behind. 

There seems to be a flux capacitor on the Polar Express.

ghost of christmas past polar express

Viewers who are paying very close attention during the scene in the locomotive car may spot what appears to be a flux capacitor in the background. 

The fictional piece of technology, which allows for time travel, is originally from the "Back to the Future" series, so it's likely another nod to Zemeckis' past work.

But it may also help explain how the Polar Express seems to be running on its own time. 

Smokey is wearing Christmas socks.

ghost of christmas past polar express

Smokey and Steamer work as the fireman and engineer on the Polar Express.

In the scene where they're scrambling for the fallen throttle pin, Smokey's pant bottoms lift for a moment, exposing his appropriately festive Christmas-tree socks. 

As the Polar Express ascends the last mountain to the North Pole, the train cars physically bend around the curves.

ghost of christmas past polar express

When the Polar Express is making its final climb toward the North Pole, the train rides up a winding mountain track.

But instead of naturally bending at the joints where the train cars meet, the actual cars somehow curve around the mountainside. 

The kids on the monitors in Santa's toy factory have names, but most of the main characters don't.

ghost of christmas past polar express

When the characters are in the toy factory, they see some elves monitoring the behavior of kids all over the world to see if they've been naughty or nice.

There's a massive collection of screens set up like a wall of security-camera footage, and each quadrant is labeled with a child's name.

But we never learn the names of the children on the Polar Express, except for Billy. 

The conductor's pocket watch shows how he knew when they were running late.

ghost of christmas past polar express

If the flux capacitor wasn't enough evidence that the train doesn't run on any standard time system, the Conductor's pocket watch is a further indication. 

Throughout the journey to the North Pole, he's very focused on getting there on time, and he's often shown checking his watch in a frantic manner. 

Toward the end of the movie, the inside of his pocket watch is finally visible. But instead of having a regular clock face, the hands point to sections labeled "On Time," "Early," "Still," and "Late" with various subcategories. 

The same faces are used on multiple elves.

ghost of christmas past polar express

Some of the North Pole scenes show all of Santa's elves gathered together.

There are hundreds of elves, but very few distinct elf faces. It appears as though a handful of faces were repeated to create the large crowd of elves. 

Santa's face appears briefly in the reflection of the bell.

ghost of christmas past polar express

At the end of the film, when the narrator is explaining when different people in his life stopped believing in Santa Claus — and therefore can't hear the bell ring — a reflection of Santa briefly comes into view in the bell.

His image is recognizable from the iconic white beard and red-and-white hat. 

The same actor voiced the Conductor, Santa, and a few other adult characters.

ghost of christmas past polar express

Tom Hanks voiced several of the main adult roles in "The Polar Express."

He was the narrator, the Conductor, the Hobo, the Scrooge marionette, the Hero Boy's father, and even Santa.

ghost of christmas past polar express

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The Hidden Messages In The Polar Express

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Table of Contents Show

What is the polar express about, the nameless characters, why does tom hanks play so many characters, the mysterious “hobo”, know it all, is it all a dream, the significance of believing.

Since its release in 2004, The Polar Express has become one of the most beloved Christmas movies. Every December, it graces the screens of televisions all over the world. It’s even inspired a real-life Polar Express experience that stops by various towns throughout the United States every Christmas. Though it might be a Christmas classic, The Polar Express has always felt more complex than most light-hearted Christmas movies.

The main character looks up at the train conductor as they both stand beside The Polar Express.

Though it might seem like an adventurous film about a mysterious, late-night train ride, there is more than meets the eye. From the nameless characters to the mysterious ghost on the roof, there are many messages hidden in this children’s film that distinguish it from all the holiday films that came before it. The Polar Express explores more than Christmas spirit but also taps into the power of belief. It takes us on a dream-like experience that becomes possible only when you truly believe.

The Polar Express is a film that follows a young, cynical boy who finds himself struggling to believe in Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, a large train comes charging through his small town, stopping in front of his house. Strangely, no one else in his household is awoken by the loud train. The conductor tells him the train is called The Polar Express, and it is on its way to the North Pole where everyone aboard will get to see Santa Claus. Initially, the boy is doubtful and doesn’t get on the train, yet he jumps on once it starts pulling away. Throughout the train ride, he is determined to find out if there really is a Santa Claus.

Throughout the film, we only learn the names of two characters, Sarah, the main character’s younger sister, and Billy, one of the boys on the train. Even in the film’s credits, they are only listed as “Hero Boy” or “Hero Girl.” It is never made clear why the majority of the characters are nameless. Did the screenwriter feel names were unimportant and would distract from the film’s message, or is there a reason behind it?

Three characters from the film walk in a line, balancing as they walk across the train tracks.

The nameless characters definitely add to some of the eeriness of the Christmas classic. As the train is incredibly mysterious and dream-like, so are the characters. It makes it clear that this is a one night only train ride, a once in a lifetime experience, and the characters are never going to meet again. They will never have proof that any of them ever existed, which makes the goodbyes at the end so emotional. If the main characters are nameless, why name Hero Boy’s younger sister or Billy? There’s no clear answer why but it sure adds to the enigma of The Polar Express.

A film produced by Warner Brothers with a budget of 150 million US dollars surely could afford a full cast. However, instead of hiring a full cast, Tom Hanks did the voices for five of the film’s characters. Tom Hanks voices The Conductor, Hero Boy, Hero Boy’s Father, Santa Claus, and the mysterious Hobo. Tom Hanks is a talented actor who can play a vast range of film roles, and though that may be reason enough for him to voice five of the film’s characters, there seems to be another reason.

The Conductor stands outside of the train in the snow.

There’s a connection between all of the characters in the film, and Hero Boy can potentially grow up to be like any of them. If he continues to be doubtful, he’ll end up like the cynical Hobo character or his father, who can’t hear the sound of the sleigh bell at the end of the film. If he chooses to believe, he’s more inclined to end up like the more positive train conductor or Santa Claus himself. Also, for someone who believes the whole train ride was a dream, the other characters could be people the boy made up in his mind. They all represent his contradicting thoughts about whether or not he should believe.

One of the strangest yet most intriguing characters in the film is Hobo, who rides on top of the Polar Express and only ever interacts with the main character. The only other possible mention of him comes from a story the conductor tells to Hero Boy and Hero Girl. The conductor tells of a time when he almost fell off the train but never did. The boy asks if “someone” pulled him back up, hinting that he believes the conductor may have seen Hobo too; the conductor responds, “or something.”

The hobo from the film looks up as snow flurries behind him.

The existence of him seems very blurred. He often disappears into the wind like a ghost leaving the audience questioning who he is, if he’s real, and what his purpose is in the film. Some online forums claim there is a deleted scene from the film where the train engineers say he is a ghost who was killed after hitting his head on Flat Top Tunnel. Unfortunately, this scene can not be found anywhere online.

“Seeing his believing, am I right?” -Hobo, The Polar Express

The boy first meets this mysterious man when he’s trying to return Hero Girl’s ticket to her. The man is sitting on top of the train by a bonfire playing the hurdy-gurdy . He has a cynical personality, which seems to reflect all of Hero Boy’s doubts. He mocks, laughs at, and persuades Hero Boy to be a non-believer like himself. Hobo refers to himself as the King of The Polar Express and The King of The North Pole. He asks the boy his “persuasion” on Santa Claus. Hero Boy tells him he wants to believe, then, before he can finish his sentence, Hobo interrupts. He suggests Hero Boy is afraid of being “bamboozled” or let down.

This scene cements Hobo’s purpose. He is a personification of Hero Boy’s fears and doubts and is meant to test his ability to believe. This scene is crucial because it can relate to real-life struggles people have with believing in themselves. People are so afraid of being let down or disappointed that they’d rather not take a chance. Instead, they stay doubtful and cynical as a way to protect themselves. However, the only way to get anywhere is to take chances; like Hero Boy learns, all the magic lies in when you choose to get on the train.

Character Lessons

Towards the end of the film, it becomes clear that the Polar Express doesn’t stop at random children’s houses asking if they want to go to the north pole. If that were the case, Hero Boy’s younger sister, Sarah, would have joined him on his adventure. But Sarah already believed in Santa Claus at the start of the film and didn’t need to get on the Polar Express. However, her brother did. Whether it’s the importance of believing or the power of leadership, each child aboard the Polar Express is there to learn a valuable life lesson.

Hero Boy is extremely doubtful. He spends the start of the film looking through newspaper articles and geography textbooks that seem to prove the existence of Santa Claus and his North Pole residency impossible. He listens for sleigh bells he can’t hear and even sneaks downstairs, determined to find out if Santa is down there or if it’s just his parents. When the train first arrives at his house, the conductor reveals that Hero Boy didn’t bother sending in a letter to Santa.

Hero Boy doubts everyone on the train who seems excited about going to the North Pole, and even when he gets there, he’s still suspicious that it all might be one big scheme. In one scene, the train passes a store window. The window is decorated with Christmas decorations, one of the decorations being a mechanical Santa Claus. While the other kids run to the window in excitement, mesmerized by the festive windows, Hero Boy’s eyes are drawn straight to the mechanism on Santa’s back. He shakes his head at the fake Santa, seemingly irritated at the store’s attempt to trick him.

The main characters stands holding on to the train as it pulls away.

However, while aboard the train, he learns from his unexplainable experiences and the people around him that maybe there are things that exist even if he can’t see them. At the North Pole, during Santa’s arrival, Hero Boy struggles to see him. While his friends cheer in excitement, he’s left panicked and wondering why he is the only one who can’t see Santa Claus.

One small sleigh bell falls from the reindeers’ ropes, Hero Boy picks it up and shakes it. Initially, he hears nothing, so he begins to repeat, “I believe” to himself. It is then that he hears the bell ring and meets Santa face to face. It’s at this point in the movie that Hero Boy learns why believing is so important. If he didn’t believe, he would’ve missed out on getting the first present of Christmas from Santa Claus himself.

“Sometimes seeing is believing, and sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” -Conductor, The Polar Express

As he boards the train ready to leave the North Pole and head back home, the conductor asks for his ticket so he can punch it one last time. When he gets his ticket back, it says, “Believe.” He tries to read it aloud to the conductor, something all the other children ahead of him did; however, the conductor cuts him off, he says, “It’s nothing I need to know.” Hero Boy was the only one who needed to learn about believing, and he is the only one who needs to know what he believes in.

We’re introduced to Hero Girl at the start of the film when Hero Boy gets on the train. She is sitting in the seat across from his and is the first child he meets. Hero Girl is the opposite of Hero Boy. She fully believes in the magic of Christmas and is ecstatic about going to the North Pole. She’s also incredibly kind, even taking an extra cup of hot chocolate to bring to Billy who is sitting in a separate room. Hero Girl is the first to acknowledge him even though he intentionally isolated himself from the other kids.

Hero Girl holds her ticket and looks up at the conductor before getting on the train.

Hero Girl is also smart. She learns about operating the train from the train engineers and always knows the right way to go or the right thing to do. However, other people don’t always believe in her, especially Hero boy. He doubts her several times throughout the film, constantly asking, “Are you sure?” anytime she tries to make a decision. Each time he asks this question, she is shaken. At the North Pole, Hero Boy, Hero Girl, and Billy get separated from everyone else.

They have to find their way back, and Hero Girl leads the way by following the sound of a sleigh bell that Hero Boy can’t hear. When she tells Billy and Hero Boy, what direction to go in, Hero Boy once again asks, “Are you sure?” She confidently responds, “Absolutely.” When it’s time to get back on the train, she hands her ticket to the conductor. He punches “Lead” into it. Hero Girl’s purpose was to become confident as a leader. She learns this lesson and happily gets back on the train.

Billy is the last child to board the train and the only main character whose name is revealed. Like Hero Boy, he hesitates to get on the train. He only gets on after it pulls away. He chases it down and nearly misses it, but Hero boy pulls the emergency brake so Billy can get on.

Billy immediately isolates himself from all the other children. While everyone else sits in the main train car, he sits in an abandoned car alone. He tells the other children that Christmas doesn’t work out for him, and he struggles to relate to the other children. Billy isn’t cynical like Hero Boy. Instead, he is sad. He, too, wants to believe, but it doesn’t seem possible for him.

Billy stands in the snow with a sad expression on his face.

Billy is also credited as “Lonely Boy.” This is because he doesn’t seem to make friends as easily as the other kids. However, after spending time with Hero Boy and Hero Girl, he learns what the conductor refers to as the true meaning of Christmas. He learns how to trust and depend on his friends and that spending all that time alone isn’t helpful. When he gets his ticket punched, he receives three different messages. Billy’s ticket reads, “Depend On. Rely On. Count On.” The conductor then asks if he can count on them to get him home safely. He responds, “Absolutely, me and my friends.”

Know It All is one of the most comical characters in the film and seems to exist only to make the audience laugh. However, even he has a purpose for being on the train. From the moment he’s introduced, Know It All has already educated other children on the train about topics they didn’t ask about. Know It All offers unsolicited opinions and advice about everything and seems to talk every chance he gets without listening to anyone else.

one of the characters looks out the train window with an excited expression on his face.

He’s extremely self-centered and thrives off of attention. When he meets Santa Claus, he loudly announces that he wants to be the one to receive the first gift of Christmas by yelling, “Pick me!” Know It All even sneaks into Santa’s toy bag to make sure he gets all the presents on his list. To his disappointment, all he finds is “a bunch of stupid underwear.”

Santa Claus suggests that Know It All learn some patience and humility. When he gets back on the train, the conductor punches “Learn” onto his ticket. He initially misreads it as “Lean,” ready to correct the conductor. When the conductor corrects him, he accepts it and gets on the train, learning that he doesn’t always have to educate other people because it is just as important to learn from others.

“Young man, patience, and a smidgen of humility.” -Santa Claus, The Polar Express

Although every character had a crucial lesson to learn, none of the characters were forced onto the train. In fact, both Hero Boy and Billy almost missed it. Each child’s decision was whether or not to get on, meaning they were not destined to learn anything. They had to make the conscious choice to take a risk and get on the train in order to grow.

It’s unclear if the experience Hero Boy has on the Polar Express was all just a dream, but many things suggest it might have been. During the scene with Hobo, Hero Boy asks, “Are you saying that this is all just a dream?” Hobo responds, “You said it, kid, not me.” Later, as Hero Boy struggles through the snowstorm on top of the train, he tries to force himself to wake up. He pinches his arm, shakes his head, and yells, “Wake up.” Yet, nothing he does seems to wake him from what he perceives as a dream.

“The one thing about trains is, it doesn’t matter where they’re going, what matters is deciding to get on.” -Conductor, The Polar Express

Another telling sign is the parallel between the two scenes in the film. At the start of the film, when Hero Boy awakes to the sound of the Polar Express, he grabs his robe off of his bed and accidentally rips his pocket. The marbles that were in his pocket fall and scattered around the floor. The following morning, Hero Boy grabs his robe to run downstairs and open his Christmas presents. Again, he rips his pocket, and his marbles fall all over the floor. Could this have happened twice, or was the original scene an illusion?

the polar express makes its way through the snowy tracks.

Perhaps whether it is a dream or not is all up to perspective, or more specifically, one’s ability to believe. After Hero Boy is given the first gift of Christmas, a bell from Santa’s sleigh, he puts it in his robe pocket. Unfortunately, he puts it in the pocket he ripped, and he loses it. The next morning, after he and his sister open all their presents, Sarah finds one last present behind the tree. A note attached reads, “Found this on the seat of my sleigh, better fix that hole in your pocket,” and it is signed, Mr. C. It seems impossible that his parents could have done this as the only ones to know about the bell were Santa, the elves, and the passengers on the train.

“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.” -Hero Boy, The Polar Express

Hero Boy and his sister can hear the bell, but his parents can not. This is because his parents don’t believe as he and his sister do. This seems to answer the question of whether or not the Polar Express was all a dream. For those who don’t believe, it could be perceived as a dream or an imaginary experience. For those who do believe, it was real. Like many things in this world, the Polar Express is only as real as someone believes it to be.

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The Polar Express

Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, and Josh Hutcherson in The Polar Express (2004)

On Christmas Eve, a young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express, while learning about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, a young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express, while learning about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, a young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express, while learning about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas.

  • Robert Zemeckis
  • Chris Van Allsburg
  • William Broyles Jr.
  • Chris Coppola
  • Michael Jeter
  • 669 User reviews
  • 171 Critic reviews
  • 61 Metascore
  • 5 wins & 26 nominations total

The Polar Express

  • Toothless Boy

Michael Jeter

  • Sister Sarah

Eddie Deezen

  • Know-It-All

Nona Gaye

  • Billy - Lonely Boy
  • Pastry Chef
  • (as Rolandas Hendricks)

Gregory Gast

  • Red Head Girl
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Did you know

  • Trivia 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.
  • Goofs Early in the film when Hero Boy is in his room, his robe is seen on the bedpost closest to the bedroom door - when his parents visit the room, that bedpost is bare, then when he goes to see the train, the robe is there again (and he rips the pocket).

The Conductor : Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see.

  • Crazy credits The production company credits are covered with snow and ice.
  • Alternate versions The film's IMAX release presented the film cropped to the Univisium 2.00:1 aspect ratio.
  • Connections Featured in HBO First Look: The Polar Express (2004)
  • Soundtracks The Polar Express Written and Produced by Glen Ballard & Alan Silvestri

User reviews 669

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  • Dec 11, 2004
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  • What is "The Polar Express" about?
  • Is "The Polar Express" based on a book?
  • Why are there two actors for each of the major children's parts?
  • November 10, 2004 (United States)
  • United States
  • Official Facebook
  • Warner Bros. (United States)
  • The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience
  • Arctic Ocean
  • Castle Rock Entertainment
  • Shangri-La Entertainment
  • See more company credits at IMDbPro
  • $165,000,000 (estimated)
  • $189,528,738
  • $23,323,463
  • Nov 14, 2004
  • $318,226,393

Technical specs

  • Runtime 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Dolby Digital
  • IMAX 6-Track
  • 12-Track Digital Sound

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Uncovering the Hidden Meanings in ‘The Polar Express’ by Chris Van Allsburg

ghost of christmas past polar express

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A Train Ride to Remember

There’s something magical about taking a train ride, especially during the holiday season. The sound of the whistle blowing, the gentle sway of the carriages and the stunning scenery passing by all contribute to an unforgettable experience.

One such train ride that captures this magic is depicted in Chris Van Allsburg’s classic children’s book, ‘The Polar Express’. The story follows a young boy who takes a mysterious train journey on Christmas Eve to visit Santa Claus at the North Pole.

But beyond its enchanting storyline, ‘The Polar Express’ also contains hidden meanings that can be uncovered through careful analysis. For example:

– The conductor represents faith and belief in something greater than oneself.

 – The hot chocolate served on board symbolizes warmth and comfort during difficult times.

– The journey itself represents personal growth and overcoming fear.

These themes are just some of what makes ‘The Polar Express’ such a beloved tale for both children and adults alike. And while not every train ride may lead you to meet Santa Claus himself, there’s no denying that each one has its own unique charm and memories waiting to be made.

The Mysterious Conductor’s Identity

In ‘The Polar Express’ by Chris Van Allsburg, the identity of the mysterious conductor has been a topic of discussion among readers. Here are some possible interpretations:

  • The conductor is a symbol of guidance and leadership, helping the children on their journey to believe in Christmas magic.
  • Some readers speculate that the conductor may be a representation of Santa Claus himself, as he seems to have magical powers and knowledge about each child’s wishes.
  • Others suggest that the conductor could be a guardian angel or spirit guide, leading the children through their spiritual journey towards belief in something greater than themselves.
  • It’s also possible that the conductor is simply an enigmatic character meant to add mystery and intrigue to the story without any specific symbolic meaning attached.

While there are many theories about who or what exactly the mysterious conductor represents in ‘The Polar Express’, his presence adds depth and complexity to this beloved holiday tale.

The Symbolism of the Bell

In ‘The Polar Express’ by Chris Van Allsburg, the bell is a powerful symbol that represents belief and the magic of Christmas. The bell is given to the protagonist as a gift from Santa Claus himself, but only those who truly believe in him can hear its ringing.

The symbolism of the bell extends beyond just belief in Santa Claus. It also represents faith and hope in general. The sound of bells has long been associated with religious ceremonies and celebrations, so it’s no surprise that it would be used as a symbol for faith.

The fact that only those who believe can hear its ringing emphasizes how important it is to hold onto our beliefs even when others may doubt or dismiss them. This message is especially relevant during times when we may feel discouraged or uncertain about our beliefs.

Overall, the symbolism of the bell in ‘The Polar Express’ serves as a reminder to hold onto our faith and hope even when things seem bleak. It encourages us to keep believing in ourselves and what we know to be true despite any doubts or challenges we may face along the way.

The Importance of Believing

Believing is an essential aspect of human life. It gives us hope, motivation, and a sense of purpose. In the book ‘The Polar Express’ by Chris Van Allsburg, the importance of believing is highlighted through the story’s main character.

Believing in oneself can lead to great achievements and success. When we believe in our abilities and strengths, we are more likely to take risks and pursue our dreams. This belief can also inspire others around us to do the same.

Believing in others can also have a significant impact on their lives. When we show faith in someone else’s abilities or potential, it can boost their confidence and encourage them to strive for greatness.

Furthermore, believing in something greater than ourselves provides comfort during difficult times. Whether it be faith in a higher power or belief in a cause or mission, having something to hold onto during challenging moments can provide strength and resilience.

In conclusion, believing plays an important role not only individually but also collectively as a society. It inspires growth, progress and helps us navigate through life’s challenges with hopefulness rather than despair. List: – Belief leads to motivation – Belief inspires others – Faith provides comfort – Belief encourages risk-taking – Collective belief leads towards progress

The Journey to Self-Discovery

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is more than just a children’s book. It is a journey to self-discovery that teaches us valuable lessons about life. The story follows a young boy who embarks on an adventure to the North Pole, where he learns important lessons about himself and the world around him.

One of the hidden meanings in The Polar Express is the importance of belief. The boy struggles with his belief in Santa Claus and Christmas magic, but ultimately learns that believing in something can make it real. This message encourages readers to have faith in themselves and their dreams.

Another theme explored in The Polar Express is the power of imagination. Through his journey, the boy discovers that anything is possible if you use your imagination. This message inspires readers to think creatively and pursue their passions.

The book also touches on themes of friendship, bravery, and perseverance as the boy faces challenges along his journey to self-discovery.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg offers valuable insights into life through its hidden meanings and messages. It reminds us that we are capable of achieving great things if we believe in ourselves and use our imaginations to overcome obstacles along our path towards self-discovery.

Why The Polar Express Is More Horror Movie Than Christmas Classic

Despite its slow journey to Christmas classic, the 2004 film The Polar Express is a ride that's more thrills and chills than cheery goodness.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, 2004's The Polar Express has become a Christmas classic , despite early criticism. Audiences initially were put off by the uncanny valley created by the motion-capture animation, but they eventually warmed to the film, to the point that it's regularly included on television lineup of Christmas favorites, airing numerous times each December.

But something else critics and viewers alike noticed is that it's not exactly a warm-and-cozy film. The late Roger Ebert highlighted the "shivery tone" in his review, and how The Polar Express maintains a creeping feeling of unease. Something about the film never shakes a pall of eeriness, which helps to make it even more memorable.

RELATED: Hawkeye: How the Christmas Setting Ups the Stakes for Clint Barton

This starts with the art direction. The children's car on the train, and many shots of the North Pole, are bathed in warm tones, but the rest is often shot in shivery blue, with ice and snow everywhere. When the children are on their own at the North Pole, even the warm colors take on a muted appearance. The outside shots of the train wouldn't be too out of place when put up against shots from  Snowpiercer -- ice and driving snow as the train barrels on to its destination. The train itself doesn't look inviting from the outside, either -- it's an intimidating behemoth that shows up where it doesn't belong before whisking into the unknown, with a conductor (Tom Hanks) who is aware of details about the children that should be impossible for him to know.

Not to mention the moments where the cold blues of the ice and snow contrast with the warm oranges and yellows of the lights. When the train approaches and enters Flat Top Tunnel, which resembles a monstrous beast eating the train, the steam from the stack and the fire from the engine light up holes above the tunnel, making it look like burning, evil eyes. The contrast of the oranges of the driver's quarter of the train only highlights the peril seen by the children and the conductor when it barrels out of control through Glacier Gulch and across the frozen lake, making the world seem colder and darker by contrast. Even the lights of the children's cab feel as if it's barely able to stave off the freezing darkness.

This isn't even getting into the story itself, which starts off with a magical train and crew spiriting children away, not unlike some fairy stories. The lead children are frequently in some sort of peril, whether from trying to navigate the train, the route they take to the North Pole or getting lost at the North Pole. Watching them try to find their way through the cold, gray industrialized belly of the North Pole while classic Christmas carols echo and skip in the background feels less like a warm children's story and more like a chilling horror film. A ghost haunts the train, and the viewer who didn't jump at the Scrooge puppet is a rare one indeed. The obstacles the characters encounter feel ethereal and terrifying, at least in passing. Even the music is strange, eerie and melancholic throughout the movie.

RELATED: What to Watch Over Christmas: The Most Festive Feel-Good Anime on Netflix

And then there's the main character, the boy who has doubts about Santa Claus' existence even after boarding the Polar Express, despite the train magically appearing on the street for him -- and only him. His entire journey feels like an existential crisis, something much more complex than what a child is normally expected to go through. His doubts and hesitation cause many points of conflict that only increase the danger, and the conclusion of the movie is bittersweet : He forever can hear the bell, because he believed without seeing, a message of Biblical origin. But as time goes on, his family and friends cease to hear the bell, because they failed to go on the journey with him toward belief.

All together it makes for a melancholic and haunting film, not one you would expect to be such a hit around the holiday season. Colorful movies with bright musical numbers are the norm, so a cold film with haunting music feels less like a warm classic and more like a horror film. Yet the strongest stories are those that are unafraid to objectively look at the terror of the unknown and still go for the warmth of success . The Polar Express does just that, which makes it a Christmas classic with characters we can root for. It's a beautiful film in a haunting way, but that only makes it more memorable.

KEEP READING: A Boy Called Christmas' Most Twisted Character Isn't the Elf Witch - It's [Spoiler]

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18 details you probably missed in 'The Polar Express'

"The Polar Express" came out in 2004, but fans may have missed these sneaky details.

There are references to "Back to the Future," which shares a director with the Christmas film .

The level of detail in reflections, clothing material, and real-life replicas is impressive.

The boy burns himself on his radiator and then avoids making the same mistake.

The Hero Boy looks out his bedroom window when he first hears something outside his house.

As he leans closer to the window, he burns himself on the radiator underneath it.

The moment happens quickly, but he adjusts how he's standing after that to avoid burning himself again.

Reflections in the movie are very detailed.

Throughout the movie, realistic details stand out, like visible stitching on clothing and the way different materials move.

Additionally, when the Hero Boy watches his parents talk to his sister through the keyhole in his room, the keyhole is reflected on his eye as he backs away.

Later in the film, there are also several reflection details in the metal platters during the hot-chocolate scene.

There's a hidden reference to "Back to the Future" in the newspaper clipping.

The boy's collection of papers show why he's come to the conclusion that Santa isn't real.

One newspaper article about department-store Santas is titled "Santas on Strike: Department store Santas walkout." The strike signs they're holding in the photo appear to say "Say yes to Lone Pine Mall construction."

The name of the mall is a subtle reference to a mall in the "Back to the Future" franchise, which director Robert Zemeckis also worked on.

The magazine the boy pulls out of his drawer is a near-identical replica of a real issue from December 1956.

Although there isn't a ton of information concerning exactly when the film takes place, the Hero Boy has a copy of a Saturday Evening Post magazine from December 29, 1956.

Since the film takes place on Christmas Eve, it's safe to say that it's at least set in 1957.

The magazine cover is based on a real issue , and many of the details are accurate, but there are slight differences in the look of the Santa costume.

At the beginning, it's clear there are five cars on the Polar Express, but in later scenes, the train is much longer.

When the Polar Express pulls up in front of the Hero Boy's house, you can clearly count the five cars of the train.

Those five cars are visible at other points throughout the film as well. But in some scenes, like when the train is riding past a pack of wolves, there seem to be closer to 20 cars.

The train passes Herpolsheimer's, a real Grand Rapids department store.

When the Polar Express passes Herpolsheimer's, the kids cheer and rush to the train's windows.

This is the first indication of the film's setting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the department store existed in real life from 1865 to 1987.

When the Hero Boy was looking through his papers in his room, he also had a holiday card from the store featuring a photo with Santa.

The Conductor makes way too many paper cutouts the first time he punches the boy's ticket.

When the Conductor first makes a show of marking the Hero Boy's ticket, he punches out a "B" and an "E." Once he's done, it's easy to count that the letters are made up of 32 individual hole punches.

But based on the auditory and visual cues as he was dramatically punching out the letters, he made far more cuts than that.

Billy's address may have been inspired by the director's childhood home.

Zemeckis seemed to take inspiration from his own life when creating Billy's address, 11344 S Edbrooke Avenue, which the Conductor repeats a few times as the train pulls up to his house.

Although the film is set in Grand Rapids, the address is actually from Chicago's Roseland neighborhood, where Zemeckis reportedly grew up .

The hot-chocolate mugs have the same logo as the train.

The back of the Polar Express has a red circle with "PE" embossed in gold.

The hot-chocolate mugs that the children drink from also have the same gold "PE" logo.

The Hero Girl didn't actually leave her ticket on her seat.

One main source of conflict when the children are on the train comes after the Hero Girl leaves her ticket on her seat while bringing Billy a cup of hot chocolate .

Trying to be helpful, the Hero Boy attempts to run after her to give her the ticket, but in a series of unfortunate events, it flies away from the train and somehow lands back in their car's vent. When the Conductor returns and sees the Hero Girl doesn't have a ticket, he walks her to the front of the train via the roofs of the cars and inexplicably lets her drive.

But none of this should've happened in the first place because when the Hero Girl first gets out of her seat, the ticket clearly isn't there. It isn't until the Hero Boy turns around that the gold ticket appears to be left behind.

There seems to be a flux capacitor on the Polar Express.

Viewers who are paying very close attention during the scene in the locomotive car may spot what appears to be a flux capacitor in the background.

The fictional piece of technology, which allows for time travel, is originally from the "Back to the Future" series, so it's likely another nod to Zemeckis' past work.

But it may also help explain how the Polar Express seems to be running on its own time.

Smokey is wearing Christmas socks.

Smokey and Steamer work as the fireman and engineer on the Polar Express.

In the scene where they're scrambling for the fallen throttle pin, Smokey's pant bottoms lift for a moment, exposing his appropriately festive Christmas-tree socks.

As the Polar Express ascends the last mountain to the North Pole, the train cars physically bend around the curves.

When the Polar Express is making its final climb toward the North Pole, the train rides up a winding mountain track.

But instead of naturally bending at the joints where the train cars meet, the actual cars somehow curve around the mountainside.

The kids on the monitors in Santa's toy factory have names, but most of the main characters don't.

When the characters are in the toy factory, they see some elves monitoring the behavior of kids all over the world to see if they've been naughty or nice.

There's a massive collection of screens set up like a wall of security-camera footage, and each quadrant is labeled with a child's name.

But we never learn the names of the children on the Polar Express, except for Billy.

The conductor's pocket watch shows how he knew when they were running late.

If the flux capacitor wasn't enough evidence that the train doesn't run on any standard time system, the Conductor's pocket watch is a further indication.

Throughout the journey to the North Pole, he's very focused on getting there on time, and he's often shown checking his watch in a frantic manner.

Toward the end of the movie, the inside of his pocket watch is finally visible. But instead of having a regular clock face, the hands point to sections labeled "On Time," "Early," "Still," and "Late" with various subcategories.

The same faces are used on multiple elves.

Some of the North Pole scenes show all of Santa's elves gathered together.

There are hundreds of elves, but very few distinct elf faces. It appears as though a handful of faces were repeated to create the large crowd of elves.

Santa's face appears briefly in the reflection of the bell.

At the end of the film, when the narrator is explaining when different people in his life stopped believing in Santa Claus — and therefore can't hear the bell ring — a reflection of Santa briefly comes into view in the bell.

His image is recognizable from the iconic white beard and red-and-white hat.

The same actor voiced the Conductor, Santa, and a few other adult characters.

Tom Hanks voiced several of the main adult roles in "The Polar Express."

He was the narrator, the Conductor, the Hobo, the Scrooge marionette, the Hero Boy's father, and even Santa.

Read the original article on Insider

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How to watch 'The Polar Express': Streaming info, TV channel showtimes, cast

ghost of christmas past polar express

Want a glimpse of what happens at the North Pole ? Where Santa lives? Hop aboard "The Polar Express " for a magical tour of Santa Claus' home.

The 1994 holiday classic , which has also become a Christmas tradition , is about a boy who boards a mysterious train that whisks him to the North Pole on Christmas Eve after the whole town has gone to sleep.

At the North Pole, the young boy meets Santa, who offers him any gift he wants. The boy asks Santa for a bell from Santa's reindeer's harness. The bell gets lost on the way back home. However, come Christmas morning, the boy finds the bell under the Christmas tree.

Here's where you can catch the holiday classic on TV and on streaming.

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How to watch 'The Polar Express' on TV: Showtimes

The movie is scheduled to air on AMC nationwide throughout the month of December during AMC's annual “Best Christmas Ever” event , that celebrates the holiday season from Nov. 26 to Dec. 26.

The movie will air on the following dates and times between now and Christmas:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 20 at 10 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 21 at 10 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 24 at 3 p.m.
  • Monday, Dec. 25 at 12 p.m.

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How to watch 'The Polar Express' on streaming

You can stream "The Polar Express" on Max, Hulu and Max Amazon Channel.

Max plans start at $9.99 per month, while Hulu plans start at $7.99 per month.

Buy or rent 'The Polar Express'

The holiday classic is available to for rent on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Google Play and YouTube for $3.99.

It is also available for purchase on the same. You can buy it in high definition or 4K from $7.99.

Who is in 'The Polar Express' cast?

  • Tom Hanks as Hero Boy
  • Nona Gaye as Hero Girl
  • Peter Scolari as Billy the Lonely Boy
  • Eddie Deezen as Know-it-all
  • Michael Jeter as Smokey and Steamer
  • Chris Coppola as Gus the Toothless Boy and an Elf
  • Leslie Zemeckis as Sister Sarah and Hero Boy's mother
  • Dylan Cash as Boy on Train
  • Brendan King and Andy Pellick as Pastry Chefs
  • Julene Renee as Red Head Girl and an Elf
  • Charles Fleischer as Elf General
  • Steven Tyler as Elf Lieutenant and Elf Singer

'The Polar Express' trailer

Saman Shafiq is a trending news reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @saman_shafiq7.

Screen Rant

Is the polar express 2 happening everything we know.

Following The Polar Express's popularity surge, there has been a sudden interest in The Polar Express 2 release date, and here's everything we know.

  • Despite fan speculation and a fake poster, there is no confirmation or official statement regarding The Polar Express 2 release date.
  • The first film's mixed reviews and underperformance at the box office make a sequel a risky proposition for the studio.
  • The lack of source material and obstacles in creating an original story further complicate the development of The Polar Express 2.

The Polar Express , a 2004 American animated Christmas fantasy film, and its recent surge in popularity has led to speculation over the Polar Express 2 release date. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, who also co-wrote the screenplay with William Broyles Jr., the film is based on the 1985 children's book by Chris Van Allsburg. The Polar Express cast is led by Tom Hanks in multiple roles, and the film uses a blend of live-action and motion-capture computer animation. Its story unfolds on Christmas Eve in the 1950s, following a young boy who embarks on a magical train journey to the North Pole, delving into the heart of Christmas spirit and belief.

Upon release, The Polar Express garnered mixed reviews but was recognized for its technological innovation and was listed in the 2006 Guinness World Records as the first all-digital capture film. Despite initial critiques about its animation dipping into the uncanny valley, the film has been embraced over time, and is considered one of the best Christmas movies for kids . Renowned critic Roger Ebert lauded its unique, shivery tone, distinguishing it from typical holiday fare. The film's emotional resonance and distinctive animation style have cemented it as a cherished part of holiday movie traditions. Now, following a fake A.I. poster, there have been talks about The Polar Express 2 release date.

20 Best Quotes From The Polar Express

The polar express 2 is not confirmed.

Despite rumors and fan anticipation, there is no confirmation of The Polar Express 2 . Unfortunately, neither Hanks nor Zemeckis has ever commented on the prospect of a sequel . The movie made $316 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo ), which sounds like a great performance, but relative to the movie's $165 million budget, The Polar Express's box office gross is considered a major underperformance. The studio probably considers a sequel too much of a risk, especially given the divisive reception to the first film. This is further exemplified by Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol , another Christmas movie that used the same digital techniques as The Polar Express but was even more expensive.

Additionally, Van Allsburg never wrote a sequel to the original Polar Express book , and without being able to adapt any source material, creating an original story creates more obstacles for the Polar Express 2's development. A petition on Change.org urging Warner Bros. to create a sequel garnered 336 supporters but did not elicit any response from the studio either. As of now, Warner Bros has made no official statement regarding a sequel, leaving the future of The Polar Express 2 uncertain.

The Polar Express Cast Guide: Who Voices Each Character

The fake tom hanks polar express 2 poster explained.

The rumors around a sequel were further stirred in November 2023 by an AI-generated poster for a fictional movie titled The Christmas Express . The poster, featuring Tom Hanks as the iconic train conductor, suggested a live-action Polar Express rather than CG style and claimed a December 2023 release exclusive to the Max streaming service. The convincing yet fictitious poster, created by a Facebook satire page named YODA BBY ABY, went viral, being shared over 110,000 times with enthusiastic reactions from fans.

Small details made the poster even more convincing. A number of Warner Bros. movies were made exclusively for HBO Max, including another Christmas legacy sequel, 2022's A Christmas Story Christmas , which led many to believe in the sequel's existence. However, the poster was ultimately revealed to be fake. As it remains, The Polar Express 2 release date is nonexistent, just like the development of the movie.

IMAGES

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VIDEO

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COMMENTS

  1. character identification

    In short, the character is alternately the ghost of xmas past, a literal ghost (of someone who was riding the express before it was polar) and the holy ghost. polarexpress.wikia.com/wiki/Hobo - Valorum Feb 22, 2016 at 22:53

  2. Hobo

    Jim Hanks ( video game) Appeared in The Film "One other thing... Do you believe in ghosts?" — The Hobo talking with Hero Boy The Hobo (King) is a recurring character in The Polar Express film. He is a ghost/spirit of a man [1] who lives on top of the Polar Express and rides it whenever he feels like it for free.

  3. 15 Hidden Details You Missed In The Polar Express

    Updated Dec 16, 2023 The Polar Express is one of those Christmas movies we can't help but love. Let's take a trip with Tom hanks and check out the details you missed. Summary The Polar Express was the first feature film made entirely with motion-capture animation, which was a groundbreaking technology in 2004.

  4. 10 Creepy Characters In Beloved Christmas Movies

    By Zach Gass Published Dec 17, 2021 Whether intentional or not, there are just some certain Christmas characters that are creepy and strange instead of having classic Christmas charm. Buddy the Elf, Yukon Cornelius, the Miser Brothers, and Cousin Eddie are just a handful of beloved characters who became the faces of iconic Christmas movies.

  5. Can anyone explain to me the ghost aspect of The Polar Express?

    The Polar Express used to be my favorite Christmas movie, until it got replaced a couple years back by the Jim Carrey version of A Christmas Carol, which incidentally is directed by Robert Zemeckis who also directed The Polar Express.

  6. The Polar Express: All 7 of Tom Hanks's Characters

    As the ghost of the man who rides the Polar Express, he tests the Hero Boy's (Daryl Sabara and Josh Hutcherson) faith in Santa Claus. "Seeing is believing. Am I right?" he tells the Hero Boy...

  7. The Polar Express: a modern-day Christmas Carol?

    The ghost of Christmas past is represented by the hobo that rides on top of the train. He is old and worn, clearly having spent many years making many journeys to the north pole. He asks our main protagonist if he believes in ghosts, and makes a habit of spontaneously appearing and disappearing in the film, confirming that he himself is a ghost.

  8. The Polar Express Cast Guide: Who Voices Each Character

    The Polar Express features a talented cast of voice actors and motion capture performers, like Tom Hanks and Daryl Sabara. Hero Boy, played by Daryl Sabara, is the main character who embarks on a quest to the North Pole. Eddie Deezen plays Know-It-All, the nerdy child who is a memorable character throughout the film.

  9. Ghost of Christmas Past

    The Ghost of Christmas Past is a fictional character in Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol.The Ghost is one of three spirits that appear to miser Ebenezer Scrooge to offer him a chance of redemption.. Following a visit from the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, Scrooge receives nocturnal visits from three Ghosts of Christmas, each representing a different ...

  10. The Polar Express (2004)

    The Polar Express (2004) cast and crew credits, including actors, actresses, directors, writers and more. Menu. Movies. ... Christmas Movies a list of 32 titles created 25 Dec 2020 Everything I watched in December 2023 a list of 40 titles created 4 weeks ago ...

  11. 'Polar Express': Interesting and Unique Things You Never Saw

    A ghost. Snapchat. The letter "P" styled to look like a thumbtack pin. ... "The Polar Express" is a classic Christmas movie. Warner Bros. "The Polar Express" came out in 2004, but fans may have missed these sneaky details. There are ... like when the train is riding past a pack of wolves, there seem to be closer to 20 cars. Advertisement. The ...

  12. 16 Polar Express hidden details that prove the film really is ...

    It's a Christmas staple, the creme-de-la-creme of Christmas movies. Without fail, The Polar Express returns to our screens every year for a nostalgic viewing and that ridiculously satisfying hot ...

  13. The Hidden Messages In The Polar Express

    The Polar Express is a film that follows a young, cynical boy who finds himself struggling to believe in Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, a large train comes charging through his small town, stopping in front of his house. Strangely, no one else in his household is awoken by the loud train.

  14. The Hobo on Polar Express is the Ghost of the Original Santa Claus

    Made me instantly believe that 'he' the lead character is Father Christmas. Never lost the touch and a true believe of Christmas and the magic. Being tested, reviewed and put to the test to see his true intentions and virtues. Think about it, the Christmas spirit, Father Christmas and the man shining the light ahead (conductor).

  15. The Polar Express: Who Is The Ghost?

    Who is the mysterious man in the polar express? This video covers some interesting theories on his presence in the classic Christmas film.#polarexpress #thep...

  16. The Polar Express (2004)

    8 Play trailer 2:04 17 Videos 99+ Photos Animation Adventure Comedy On Christmas Eve, a young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express, while learning about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas. Director Robert Zemeckis Writers Chris Van Allsburg Robert Zemeckis William Broyles Jr. Stars Tom Hanks

  17. The Polar Express (film)

    The Polar Express is a 2004 American animated adventure fantasy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, who co-wrote the screenplay with William Broyles Jr., based on the 1985 children's book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg.It stars Tom Hanks (in multiple roles), Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, and Eddie Deezen.The film features human characters animated using live action and motion ...

  18. Uncovering the Hidden Meanings in 'The Polar Express' by Chris Van

    In 'The Polar Express' by Chris Van Allsburg, the bell is a powerful symbol that represents belief and the magic of Christmas. The bell is given to the protagonist as a gift from Santa Claus himself, but only those who truly believe in him can hear its ringing. The symbolism of the bell extends beyond just belief in Santa Claus.

  19. The Polar Express is actually the scariest Christmas movie

    Warner Bros. Let's talk about the homeless man camping on top of the train with his gloopy cups of joe. He's a ghost who puffs into snow whenever he feels like it or if he's pummelled by an...

  20. Why 'The Polar Express' is a creepy Christmas classic

    30th December 2017. 'The Polar Express' couldn't get more Christmassy. It features snow, a magical train, reindeer, children sliding down an enormous sack of presents, and tap dancers delivering hot chocolate whilst singing. Whilst one might not automatically associate the last of these with Christmas, it gives the film the feel-good vibe ...

  21. Polar Express Is More Horror Movie Than Christmas Classic

    By Kelsey Dickson. Published Dec 5, 2021. Despite its slow journey to Christmas classic, the 2004 film The Polar Express is a ride that's more thrills and chills than cheery goodness. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, 2004's The Polar Express has become a Christmas classic, despite early criticism. Audiences initially were put off by the uncanny ...

  22. 18 details you probably missed in 'The Polar Express'

    OK. "The Polar Express" is a classic Christmas movie. Warner Bros. "The Polar Express" came out in 2004, but fans may have missed these sneaky details. There are references to "Back to the Future ...

  23. Where to watch 'The Polar Express': Streaming info, TV showtimes

    How to watch 'The Polar Express' on streaming. You can stream "The Polar Express" on Max, Hulu and Max Amazon Channel. Max plans start at $9.99 per month, while Hulu plans start at $7.99 per month.

  24. Is The Polar Express 2 Happening? Everything We Know

    The rumors around a sequel were further stirred in November 2023 by an AI-generated poster for a fictional movie titled The Christmas Express.The poster, featuring Tom Hanks as the iconic train conductor, suggested a live-action Polar Express rather than CG style and claimed a December 2023 release exclusive to the Max streaming service. The convincing yet fictitious poster, created by a ...

  25. The Polar Express Is the Essence of Christmas

    But his parents, lacking belief, can't, which sums up pretty well what The Polar Express has to offer. For children, it helps keep the ever-present and very real spirit of Christmas alive. For adults, to whom the magic of Christmas has long since dissipated, it puts a little of that magic back in. One and a half hours worth, at least.