The Polar Express
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Challenges:2 menu challenges that kids can play.
Deleted Scenes:Additional Song: The never-before-heard "Smokey and Steamer" song.
Featurette:You Look Familiar: Hear about Tom Hanks' 5 unique roles, how each character was different, and what it took for him to bring each one to life.
Interviews:True Inspiration An Author's Adventure: Chris Van Allsburg discusses his artistic background and how he conceived the idea for The Polar Express book.
Music Video:Josh Groban Music Video: Josh Groban at the Greek performing the Academy Award nominated original song Believe. Also go behind-the-scenes!
Other:A Genuine Ticket to Ride: Behind-the-scenes secrets on Performance Capture, Virtual Cameras, Hair and Wardrobe, Creating the North Pole, and Music
Destined to become a holiday perennial, The Polar Express also heralded a brave new world of all-digital filmmaking. Critics and audiences were divided between those who hailed it as an instant classic that captures the visual splendor and evocative innocence of Chris Van Allsburg's popular children's book, and those who felt that the innovative use of "performance capture"--to accurately translate live performances into all-digital characters--was an eerie and not-quite-lifelike distraction from the story's epic-scale North Pole adventure. In any case it's a benign, kind-hearted celebration of the yuletide spirit, especially for kids who have almost grown out of their need to believe in Santa Claus. Tom Hanks is the nominal "star" who performs five different computer-generated characters, but it's the visuals that steal this show, as director Robert Zemeckis indulges his tireless pursuit of technological innovation. No matter how you respond to the many wonders on display, it's clear that The Polar Express represents a significant milestone in the digital revolution of cinema. If it also fills you with the joy of Christmas (in spite of its Nuremberg-like rally of frantic elves), so much the better. --Jeff Shannon
The most intriguing feature on the two-disc DVD is probably the six-minute sequence featuring a new song performed by the two engine-room characters, Smokey and Steamer. The animation is crude and the song is nothing special, but it does preserve the dual performances of Michael Jeter (he played both characters), who passed away during filming. One of the striking aspects of The Polar Express is its use of motion-capture technology to turn real actors into animated characters, and that is examined in a significant portion of the five-part 11-minute featurette, in the "look at" Tom Hanks's multiple performances, and in an Easter egg that offers a side-by-side comparison of the actors in their motion-capture suits with the finished film in the "Hot Chocolate" number. There's also a live performance of Josh Groban singing "Believe" followed by an interview segment with him and composer Alan Silvestri, author Chris Van Allsburg providing a five-minute capsulization of his career, a PC game demo, and a kids' set-top game. The version of the film on DVD is the standard theatrical version, not the 3-D version seen in IMAX theaters. --David Horiuchi
The World of The Polar Express
The book by Chris Van Allsburg
The Magic Journey (Polar Express the Movie) (book)
Stills from Polar Express (click for larger image)
- Never-before-seen Smokey and Steamer song
- You Look Familiar: The Many "Polar Faces" of Tom Hanks
- True Inspirations: An Author's Adventure: Profiling Chris Van Allsburg
- Josh Groban at the Greek performing the Academy Award nominated original song "Believe."
- Behind the scenes of "Believe": bringing a hit song to life in the recording studio
- Polar Express challenge
- Meet the Snow Angels: the moviemakers' Christmas memories
- THQ PC game demo with two playable levels
- Theatrical trailer
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in blustery Christmas snow,
in beautiful, life-like imagery,
away away to the North Pole,
with all the excited children on Christmas Eve,
complete with Hot Chocolate.
It pains me to sit here knowing what I am about to write.
Warner Bros. was extremely gracious to send me a handful
of screeners to review knowing that I would be promoting
the good word of 3D on this forum. However, when there
seems to be a problem with their initial batch of Blu-ray
releases I can't morally sit here and praise them to the
Their Imax release of Under The Sea looks terrific.
However, their Imax release of Space Station 3D is
lacking 3D in the first 3 minutes. Now, The Polar Express
is exhibiting its own set of problems. I sort of wonder
if anyone is doing some quality control here.
I'll get into all this in a moment....
I had to chuckle when I decided I was going to review
this title. It took me back a few years to our last Home
Theater Forum meet. The studio sent us an advance copy
of their initial 3D DVD release of The Polar Express and we
were showing it off in our demo room at the hotel. Here
we were, a ragtag group of enthusiasts with cardboard
glasses on our faces admiring the cheesy 3D.
Boy, we have come a long way in a few short years.
Potentially, The Polar Express could have been a
flagship animated feature release for the studio on
the 3D format. Originally filmed for Imax with
motion capture technology, The Polar Express
translates beautifully to Blu-ray. This was my
very first time watching the movie ever and I
was completely mesmerized by the film's charming
story and utterly stunning, realistic animation.
Transfer quality is as good as it gets. I love
the film's warm, natural color palette consisting
primarily of blue and gold. Everything looks
The quality of the 3D separation is quite good
and very effective. I have three favorite scenes
where I found the 3D effect to be most effective.
The first involves a floating train ticket. Then
there's an exciting train descent into Glacier Gulch.
Finally, the entire Christmas Town square sequence
looks outstanding with all its brightly lit colors and
There really aren't any "In Yo' Face" 3D moments.
Most of the material stays within the confines of
the screen with the exception of some minor screen
protruding from the fender of the train or the cap
of the train's hobo.
So here we have this immaculate, gorgeous holiday
eye-fest that would have looked perfect on 3D if not
for the fact that it is marred with ghosting problems.
It doesn't take long to notice the problem. The first
scene where the young boy is lying in bed you see
double imaging within his face. When this same boy
steps onto the Polar Express, takes his seat and meets
the black girl, you can see double imaging going on
within her facial features. Some behind-the-head shots
reveal ghosting in the ears and along the hairline.
Watch the scene where the kids are being pulled up
inside Santa's sack and see how the ropes are
double-imaged. In fact, there are moments that
I actually experienced eye strain from the amount
of ghosting and occasional blurriness.
The DTS-HD audio lovingly conveys Alan Silvestri's
score which is mostly prominent in the front channels.
This is a very bass-heavy audio track. The oncoming
sound of The Polar Express literally shook my floor.
Like all of Warner's new 3D releases, The Polar
Express arrives in beautiful lenticular packaging.
Ultimately, I am disappointed. This is such a beautiful
film and as much as the 3D enhanced my initial experience
with it, the ghosting issues became a big distraction.
I am sitting here hoping that someone can prove me
wrong on all the ghosting problems I see with this title.
The last thing I want to do is slam the studio for a title
like this. However, up until now I have been seeing some
great 3D content with none of these problems. I even
switched out my glasses for another pair just in case it
was a hardware issue.
I pretty much purchased this movie just to add another 3D title to my movie collection. So needless to say I had it for quite a while before ever viewing it. However after viewing this movie, We wish we had watched it sooner! Our entire family found the movie very well done. The story line was whimsical and at times a real treat. I would consider this to be a great movie for the entire family, including the very young ones. Also, this movie would be enjoyable any time of the year!
The 3D aspect was done very well. I have seen better but this by no means was poor. There where a few times when the 3D was a little underwhelming and I may have noticed a slight ghosting here and there but all in all a pretty decent 3D rendering is what you can expect. Please keep on mind that not all 3D Televisions are made the same and some 3D TV's just aren't very good at displaying 3D. Luckily we have a good 3D TV that shows a great 3D image. So when a 3D movie is played on our television, it is a very special treat as we can expect it to play just about as good as most any theatre can provide us. I have a vast 3D collection and have viewed most of them, so you can trust my advice when I say that this 3D movie is one of the better ones available.
I will sum this review up with this advice. If you are at all on the fence about whether you should buy this movie or not, I would suggest you do, and enjoy it.
I know we sure did!