The Polar Express is a 2004 American computer-animated Christmas fantasy adventure film directed by Robert Zemeckis, who co-wrote the screenplay with William Broyles Jr., based on the 1985 children’s picture book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. It stars Tom Hanks in multiple distinct roles, with Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, and Eddie Deezen in supporting roles. The film features human characters animated using live-action and motion-capture computer-animated animation. It tells the story of a young boy who, on Christmas Eve, sees a mysterious train bound for the North Pole stop outside his window and is invited aboard by its conductor. The boy joins several other children as they embark on a journey to visit Santa Claus preparing for Christmas.
The Polar Express was released in the Chicago International Film Festival on October 13, 2004 and the United States on November 10, 2004, by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, but originally underperformed at the box office, grossing $286 million against a record-breaking $165–170 million budget, the biggest sum for an animated feature at the time. However, later re-releases helped propel the film’s gross to $314 million worldwide. The film was later listed in the 2006 Guinness World Records as the first all-digital capture film. The film also marks Michael Jeter’s last acting role before his death, and the film was thus dedicated to his memory.
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