The Polar Express has become one of the most popular children’s Christmas movies since it was first released in 2004 – with many flocking to see what they believed to be Disney’s next big hit.
However, there’s a lot of confusion and misconceptions about who produced The Polar Express and why its origins get lost in translation so often!
In this guide, we’ll dive into the history of The Polar Express, its connection (or lack of) to Disney, and why there’s so much confusion about who actually made this movie.
Questions We’ll Answer About The Polar Express:
- Is The Polar Express A Disney Movie?
- Why Is The Polar Express Believed To Be A Disney Movie?
Is The Polar Express a Disney Movie?
The short answer to whether Polar Express is a Disney movie is no, but it’s easy to see why there’s so much confusion around who produced and owns this film.
The Walt Disney Studios or any of the smaller studios they own had no hand in producing or distributing The Polar Express. Warner Brothers Pictures, one of Disney’s biggest competitors, is the studio that owns and produced The Polar Express film.
There are a few unique reasons why The Polar Express is mistakenly considered a Disney movie, which we’ve outlined in the next section!
Why Is The Polar Express Believed To Be A Disney Movie?
However, the confusion surrounding The Polar Express’s Disney affiliation arises from several factors:
Theme Park Rides: The Polar Express makes for a great theme park ride concept, and one theme park operator did, in fact, create an attraction based on the film… but not Disney!
SeaWorld actually created a seasonal Polar Express Experience attraction to capitalize on the film’s success. When you think of theme parks and rides, you typically associate those two things with Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Hence, the existence of a Polar Express theme park attraction definitely feeds the misconception that Disney owns the film.
The Polar Experience attraction ran every winter for nearly ten years at SeaWorld but has not returned to any of their parks since 2015.
However, there is a The Polar Express Train Ride experience that still takes place every winter throughout many cities in the United States!
Animation Style: The Polar Express used tons of motion-capture technology to animate the film, and even though it was released years before the live-action adaptions of The Jungle Book or The Lion King (which also used motion-capture technology) the similar styles make many believe the films are connected.
The Polar Express was one of the first animated films to lean heavily on motion capture technology and, indeed, may have paved the way for The Jungle Book and The Lion King, but the films are entirely unrelated!
Tom Hanks: It might sound silly, but Tom Hanks’ involvement with The Polar Express does add to the confusion of whether Disney owns the film or not.
Tom Hanks, who plays the conductor in the film, is known for playing some of the most iconic roles in Disney history, including Woody from Toy Story and even Walt Disney himself in Saving Mr. Banks. He most recently starred as Geppetto in Disney’s live-action remake of Pinocchio.
With Tom Hanks being so often cast in Disney films, hearing his voice in The Polar Express does create the (incorrect) association with Disney!
Holiday Magic: Along with princesses, Mickey Mouse, and fairytales, one thing Disney is most iconically known for is magic.
Almost every classic Disney film, including many of their recent holiday-themed films, is full of different magical elements to add a little Disney touch to the movies.
The Polar Express, of course, is loaded with critical elements that rely on magic and similar themes of needing to “believe,” just like you’d see in a Disney film.
While nearly every sign, from its cast to its presence in theme parks, indicates The Polar Express is a Disney film… it’s owned by one of Disney’s most prominent competitors!
Learn More About Disney and Warner Brothers’ Movies!
The Polar Express photos are the copyright of, and used courtesy of, Warner Brothers Pictures.