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The Polar Express in our magazines

THE MOVIE: The Polar Express

(Performance Capture actors) Tom Hanks • Nona Gaye • Peter Scolari
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis

A young boy doubts the existence of Santa Claus, until an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole shows him that the wonders of life never fade for those who believe. Cutting-edge technology called Performance Capture, the next generation of motion capture, allows the actors’ performances to drive the emotions and moments of the digital characters. Based on the award-winning children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg

U.S. RELEASE: November 10 2004, Nationwide
• Rated: G


“The book, all 29 pages of it, is a haunting, very effective story. I’ve been reading it to my kids since it was published. There is something quite stunning about Chris Van Allsburg’s paintings; they’re impressionistic versions of this child’s house, and what it was like to be on a train, and all the aspects of the adventure that they go on. It was always a very tactile feeling that I got from reading the book. It’s a very elegant, simple, but complicated, sophisticated story about what Christmas means to each and every one of us.”

“I didn’t think this would make a very good live-action movie. One, it would cost billions of dollars to make; two, you would be throwing away what I thought was the essence of the book, which were those paintings. The paintings are where the emotion comes from, in my opinion, and without those paintings you’re throwing half the book away. The third problem would be hanging a giant movie like this on some kid actor, and you’ve got to hope you’ve got the next Haley Joel Osment.”

NONA GAYE on acting out the roles:
“It was incredible because we were done so quickly. We’d do a few takes and Bob would figure out which one was right, and it was done. I was not used to that at all. Usually there’s lighting and trying to figure things out and change things, and set up for the next scene, and we didn’t have to do that. So it was a lot of fun. We had a great time doing it.”

“We returned to a type of acting that acting in films does not allow you to do. It was exactly like rehearsing a play in the round. You don’t have to worry about lights, angles, cameras, over the shoulder coverage. We essentially did a great series of 10 to 15 minutes plays in which we did it all in real time, and when we were done Bob had everything that he needed. So, as far as being an actor goes, it was a blast.”

“In the movie, Santa Claus says to the boy, ‘I’m a symbol of the spirit of the holiday.’ That’s the whole belief thing. When the symbols of the spirit start to become confused with reality that’s when you get into problems. That’s what I feel about it. That’s why I think the spirit of the holiday is what all the trappings are ultimately about.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Visit the official The Polar Express site
Images above © Warner Brothers Pictures
Feature © 2004 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #650, November 2004 cover

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