The Polar Express: A Nostalgic Journey
This 2004 animated Christmas movie was an instant classic. Tom Hank’s voice was used for six of the characters. It was the first all-digital capture film. It has high quality animation. The film cost about $165 million to make. Its worldwide box office gross was over $307 million. Its three Oscar nominations were related to sound.[i] Josh Groban sings the movie's signature song, "Believe".
The movie is rated G in the United States and Australia. The United Kingdom rating is U.
[i] Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song, “Believe”. Best Achievement in Sound Mixing. Best Achievement in Sound Editing.
The movie opens in a single-family house in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The year isn’t specific but appears about 1950. A young boy (Daryl Sabara) has reached the age where he is questioning if Santa Clause is real. His father (Tom Hanks) can tell by his behavior the boy won’t believe in Santa next year. In the middle of the night there is a loud clatter. The boy looks out the window and sees a large train. He puts on his robe and rushes outside. The conductor (Tom Hanks) tells him the train is the Polar Express and he is on the passenger manifest. The boy balks at getting on the train but he jumps on as the train is rolling away.
On the train he sits near a girl (Nona Gaye) who is enjoying the ride and a “Know-It-All” boy (Eddie Deezen). The train stops for the last passenger, Billy (Peter Scolari). Billy is a lonely boy from a poor neighborhood.
Most of the scenes on the ride to the North Pole are in or around the train. The one exception is a lost Polar Express ticket. The ticket goes on a journey through a northern winter forest and returns to the train.
On the train there is a zany hot chocolate service. The service is to the song “Hot Chocolate” sung by Tom Hanks. While walking on the top of the train the boy meets a Hobo (Tom Hanks). The Hobo is a ghost who appears and disappears throughout the train ride. The train ride is a harrowing journey until the train reaches the Arctic Circle.
The train pulls into the North Pole as the elves are headed to the town square to see Santa Clause off on his Christmas ride. The area looks like a mid-20th century factory complex. A mishap on the train sends the boy, the girl, and Billy off on a harrowing ride to a deserted roundhouse. Their journey back is frightening, creepy, exciting, and wonderous. The girl learned confidence and Billy learned trust. The boy slowly regaines his belief in Santa Clause.
The elves have New York accents. The Elf General (Charles Fleischer) uses the Yiddish expression “mashugana”.[i] The elves use modern style parachutes. They also bungie jump. Land diving is a traditional rite of passage on the island of Pentecost in the South Pacific. Modern bungie jumping began at the end of the 1970s. Considering the setting nothing appears anachronistic. The elf celebration begins with a long-haired elf (Steven Tyler) singing “Rockin’ on Top of the World”[ii], a rock and roll song, while balancing on a unicycle.
[i] Many Yiddish terms are commonly used in New York City.
[ii] “Rockin’ on Top of the World”, is one of the movie’s original songs.
Classic Songs Used
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, by Frank Sinatra
White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Winter Wonderland by The Andrews Sisters
Here Comes Santa Claus by Bing Crosby & The Andres Sisters
Silver Bells by Kate Smith
Deck the Halls by Marrio Lanza
It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas by Perry Como & The Fontain Sisters
Frosty The Snowman by Red Foley
There is, comical and not too scary, action for the young children, and a Santa Claus appearance. For adults there is the high-quality animation and a nostalgia appeal. There is the idyllic view of Christmas of a simpler time. It appears to be the same era as the Christmas classic, "A Christmas Story". People in between these certain ages may find the story childish and schmaltzy.
The Polar Express
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Robert Sacchi