Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Polar Express

book jacket
       The Polar Express is a 1985 children's book written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, a former professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. The book is now widely considered to be a classic Christmas story for young children. It was praised for its detailed illustrations and calm, relaxing storyline. In 1986, it was awarded the Caldecott Medal for children's literature. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." It was one of the "Top 100 Picture Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.
       As the story starts off, a young boy, who used to adore Christmas, hears a train whistle roar. To his astonishment, he finds the train is waiting for him. He sees a conductor who then proceeds to look up at his window. He runs downstairs and goes outside. The conductor explains the train is called the Polar Express, and is journeying to the North Pole. The boy then boards the train, which is filled with chocolate and candy, as well as many other children in their pajamas.
       As the train reaches the North Pole, the boy and the other children see thousands of Christmas elves gathered at the center of town waiting to send Santa Claus on his way. The boy is handpicked by Santa to receive the first gift of Christmas. Realizing that he could choose anything in the world, the boy asks for one bell from one of the reindeer's harnesses. The boy places the bell in the pocket of his robe and all the children watch as Santa takes off into the night for his annual deliveries.
       Later, on the train ride home, the boy discovers that the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. The boy arrives home and goes to his bedroom as the train pulls away. On Christmas morning, his sister finds a small package for the boy under the tree, behind all of the other gifts. The boy opens the box and discovers that it is the bell, delivered by Santa who found it on the seat of his sleigh. When the boy rings the bell, both he and his sister marvel at the beautiful sound. His parents, however, are unable to hear the bell and remark that it must be broken. The book ends with a famous quote, also promoted to the film based on it:
'At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.'
       The Polar Express is also a 2004 motion capture computer-animated fantasy film based on the children's book of the same title by Chris Van Allsburg. Written, produced, and directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film featured human characters animated using live action performance capture technique, with the exception of the waiters who dispense hot chocolate on the train, because their feats were impossible for live actors to achieve. The 21st century technology used incorporated the movements of live actors into three-dimensional animation. The film stars Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, and Eddie Deezen, with Tom Hanks in six distinct roles. The film also included a performance by Tinashe at age 9, who later gained exposure as a pop singer in 2010, as the CGI-model for female protagonist. The film was produced by Castle Rock Entertainment in association with Shangri-La Entertainment, ImageMovers, Playtone and Golden Mean, for Warner Bros. Pictures. The visual effects and performance capture were done at Sony Pictures Imageworks. The studio first released the $165 million film in both conventional and IMAX 3D theaters on November 10, 2004. The Polar Express is listed in the Guinness World Book of Records in 2006 as the first all-digital capture film. Read more . . . 


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