Books on Film: The Polar Express

Electric train are a modern symbol of Christmas, so what could be more seasonal than a story about a train that takes kids to the North Pole on Christmas Eve? I'm talking about The Polar Express, of course, and if you've got a TV in December you've probably seen it. But have you read the book? 

The Book

Chris Van Allsberg wrote and illustrated The Polar Express, which was published in 1985. It's won several awards and it's a highly popular holiday book among kids and parents. If you've seen the movie, you already have a idea of what the illustrations look like. 

The story in the book introduces us to a young boy who does not believe in Santa Claus. This begins to change when the Polar Express arrives on his front lawn, all set to take him to the North Pole.

The Film

The Polar Express finally became a film in 2004. The project had big names attached to it early (Tom Hanks, Robert Zemeckis), so it was pretty much a guaranteed hit. Live action capture was used to make the animated characters look and move more realistically. The realism of The Polar Express sets it apart from many other animated holiday films.

The film centers on a young boy who is just on the crux of no longer believing in Santa Claus. As he goes to bed on Christmas Eve, he questions whether or not Santa actually exists. Before he drifts off to sleep, the peaceful night is the sound of a train.

It's the Polar Express, a train that takes children to the North Pole. Our hero waffles, but eventually he does jump onto the train. There is a lot of adventure, and he meets several other children, before the journey is complete. And when he does get to the North Pole, does he meet Santa Claus? You'll have to watch the film to find out.

What Got Adapted?

The Polar Express is a short children's book and frankly there isn't enough material for a feature-length film. So lots of stuff got added to the film that builds upon the original story. The know-it-all kid (voiced by Corey Feldman), the hobo ghost, the little girl and several other characters are added out of whole cloth. 

Entire scenes were added to the film to create more story. The roller coaster moment, the rebellious journey through the North Pole, and all the ticket-punching business was fabricated for the sake of the movie.

The original book is beautifully illustrated and the short story will delight kids of all ages. The film has beautiful animation and Tom Hanks voices no less than 6 roles, so you want to see that for sure. Enjoy them both, and happy holidays! 

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