Is The Polar Express Scary?

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The Polar Express (2004) is a Christmas classic, and is one of two computer-animated movies set over the festive period from director Robert Zemeckis, with the other being A Christmas Carol (2009).

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The Polar Express

But as many audiences feel that the animated characters that populate the film look a little "uncanny valley", is The Polar Express creepy? Well, let's find out, or should we say "all aboard!"

Upon its release in 2004, The Polar Express underperformed at the box office, grossing only $286 million against a budget of $165 - $170 million. However, re-releases helped the film to reach $314 million at the global box office.

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The Polar Express

The Polar Express is based on the 1985 children's book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. It takes place at Christmas Eve, when a young boy, who's struggling to believe in Father Christmas, joins many other children aboard a train known as the Polar Express, which is bound for the North Pole.

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Themes of innocence and belief are very present throughout the film, with the main character, who is credited as Hero Boy, conflicted about his beliefs about Father Christmas, while others around him are either already true believers or at the other end of the spectrum - disenfranchised with the season.

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The Polar Express

Throughout the film, the characters experience a whimsical adventure as the train makes its way through snowy peaks and across ice flats and through herds of caribou, before ultimately arriving at the magical North Pole.

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The film stars Tom Hanks in a number of roles - he plays the main character's father, an Ebenezer Scrooge puppet, the Conductor, Santa Claus, and a ghost who lives on top of the train who is credited as Hobo.

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The Polar Express

However, while the film is an incredibly festive affair, which captures the atmosphere of those Christmas Eve twilight hours like no other, many people feel that the use of computer animation renders its characters creepy.

There's certainly an unrefined quality to the use of CGI in The Polar Express, and it's clear that perhaps the technology wasn't quite as ready as it could have been. However, over time this imperfection has lent to the film's charm.

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The Polar Express
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Part of that charm is surrealism, and not only that, but the animation allows the characters to do things that real-life actors simply can't.

That's not to suggest that The Polar Express wouldn't work in live-action, but, while we can't quite put our finger on it, the fact that it's told through computer animation gives it a quality we don't think live action cinema could capture quite as well.

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The Polar Express
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As per Warner Bros., here's the official synopsis for The Polar Express:

Get up, get on, and get ready for the ride of your life! It's Christmas Eve, and you're about to roller-coaster up and down mountains, slip-slide over icefields, teeter across mile-high bridges and be served hot chocolate by singing waiters more astonishing than any one can imagine.

You're on The Polar Express!

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Tom Hanks stars in and Robert Zemeckis directs this instant holiday classic filmed in dazzling performance capture animation that makes every moment magical. “Seeing is believing,” says a mysterious hobo who rides the rails with you. You'll see wonders and you'll believe all aboooooard!

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