10 Things You Might Not Know About THE POLAR EXPRESS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About THE POLAR EXPRESS

Sometimes the most real things in the world are the things Geek Dave can't see...

1. The 2004 cinematic version of The Polar Express is based on the book of the same name written by Chris Van Alsburg. Three of his titles have been adapted for the big screen, this one, Jumanji and Zathura. Not a bad track record, eh?

2. Tom Hanks optioned the book in 1999 with the hopes of playing the conductor and Santa Claus. One of the conditions of the sale was that the resulting film not be animated. However, when director Robert Zemeckis came on board he felt that a live-action version was unfeasible, claiming that it...
"would look awful, and it would be impossible – it would cost $1 billion instead of $160 million."
Zemeckis re-negotiated with Alsburg, explaining how he felt that a live-action version would rob the audience of the art style of the book which he felt was "so much a part of the emotion of the story". In order to keep Alsburg's vision, the film would be produced using motion capturing equipment. Although the technology had been used successfully in movies over the preceding few years, from the character's of Jar-Jar Binks and Golum to 2001's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (which was made primarily with motion capture technology), The Polar Express would be the first full length feature film to be filmed entirely in motion capture.

3. Tom Hanks ended up playing five roles in the film including that of Hero Boy (whose voice would later be dubbed in by Daryl Sabara), Hero Boy's father, Conductor, Hobo, Scrooge puppet, Santa Claus, and the Narrator. Initially Zemeckis considered having him play every role but after trying this, Hanks grew exhausted and they whittled down the number.

4. As well as Daryl Sabara providing the voice, a third actor was employed for additional motion-capture work on Hero Boy. That would be a young Josh Hutcherson.

5. 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. There is only one person aboard the Polar Express, passenger or crew member, who is identified by name. That is Billy.

6. The buildings at the North Pole refer to a number of buildings related to American railroading history. The buildings in the square at the city's center are loosely based on the Pullman Factory in Chicago's Pullman neighborhood. 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.

7. The locomotive featured in the film is an American 2-8-4 Berkshire type steam locomotive, with a cowcatcher, modeled after the Pere Marquette 1225, which had spent many years on static display near Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan on the campus of Michigan State University, where Chris Van Allsburg recalled playing on the engine when attending football games as a child.

In July 2002, Warner Bros. approached the engine's owner, the Steam Railroading Institute, to study the engine for use in the film. The engine is modeled from the PM #1225's drawings and the sounds from recordings made of the 1225 operating under steam.

8. In a little nod to that engine, a close examination of the ticket numbers reveals that they all contain the number 1225. Of course, pure coincidence but 12-25 also refers to the date of Christmas, December 25th.

9. Robert Zemeckis drops a couple of references to a previous film of his throughout The Polar Express. 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.

Also, when Hero Boy pulls the train whistle, he says "I've wanted to do that my whole life". In Back to the Future Part III, Doc Brown does and says the same.

10. If you've ever wanted to experience The Polar Express' journey to the North Pole then a 4D film was made and distributed at several theme parks around the world. Debuting November 2007 at SeaWorld Orlando, The Polar Express Experience was a motion simulator ride based on the film. The attraction was a temporary replacement for their Wild Arctic attraction, with the building housing the attraction also temporarily re-themed to a railroad station and ride vehicles painted to resemble Polar Express passenger cars. Guests could feel the motion of the locomotive as well as the swinging of the train on ice and feeling of ice crumbling beneath them on Glacier Gulch.

It's a wild ride, but the locomotive still reaches it's destination at five minutes to midnight. Just in time for Christmas!

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