Things In The Polar Express Only Adults Notice

The 2004 film The Polar Expressbased on the beloved children's book of the same name, quickly became a Christmas staple when it was released. Even those who aren't familiar with the movie have likely heard the Josh Groban song "Believe" which was featured in the film and gets a lot of air time during the holiday season. The film centers on a young boy, whose name is never revealed, as he boards the Polar Express on Christmas Eve for a journey to the North Pole that will change his life forever.

While The Polar Express is a children's movie, there's plenty going on in this film to entertain both children and adults. It's filled with magic, suspense, and adventure, making it an ideal family film. Of course, watching a movie as an adult is a much different experience from watching a movie as a child, so parents watching The Polar Express with their little ones at Christmas may notice a few things that go over the heads of children. Here's what only adults watching The Polar Express will notice. 

Why can't anyone else see the Polar Express?

It is established towards the end of The Polar Express that only those who truly believe in Santa Claus can hear his sleigh bells, although they can see them. While this magic might possibly also apply to the train itself and explain why no one else in the neighborhood hears the Polar Express when it pulls into a subdivision, it doesn't explain why no one else can see it. Surely there is someone looking out the window on Christmas Eve who sees this train appear out of nowhere. It's not exactly subtle when it chugs up and down the street. 

Even if they can't hear the incredibly loud locomotive, the Polar Express is still pretty big and imposing. It also gives off bright lights, illuminating the dimly lit street. So how is it possible that no one else notices the Polar Express except for the person who is meant to be getting on board? 

Getting on the Polar Express wasn't the smartest idea

A kid watching The Polar Express probably roots for the main character to hop on board the train for the magical adventure of a lifetime. As an adult watching it, however, you can't help but feel a twinge of fear for the boy and his obvious lack of self-preservation. Didn't his parents ever teach him about stranger danger? And yet, he not only talks to a stranger but agrees to get on a mysterious train with him.

This is a seriously dangerous thing to do, and it also conveys the message to kids watching The Polar Express that it's okay to take a ride with a complete stranger. Fortunately, the train conductor was really just trying to spread the magic of Christmas and had no nefarious plans in mind, but things could have gone so, so wrong. Hopefully, parents watching The Polar Express with their kids remind them of the dangers of accepting a ride from strangers. It might have turned out well in the movie, but real life isn't always so magical.

It seems unfair that Sarah didn't get to go on the Polar Express

Who decides who gets to go on the Polar Express? At first it seems like the trip is intended to restore the faith of kids who are starting to doubt the existence of Santa Claus like the main character. Yet it seems that the other kids on the train have no problem believing that Santa is real. As the heroine of the movie (who is also unnamed) informs the boy when he boards the Polar Express, they are on a magic train to the North Pole and there's definitely no doubt in the girl's mind that Santa exists. So how are kids chosen to board the Polar Express?

It seems remarkably unfair that the boy's little sister, Sarah, doesn't get to board the train with him. As we learn at the end of The Polar Express, she could have benefited from riding the train. While she believes in Santa as a little girl, she loses her faith in him as she grows up, while her brother never stops believing thanks to his journey on the Polar Express.

Have any of the parents in The Polar Express noticed that their kids are missing?

All of the kids on the Polar Express are having a blast. Why wouldn't they be? They get to stay up late, drink hot chocolate, and travel to the North Pole to meet Santa. It's basically every kid's dream. But how are their parents not frantic with worry? While it seems all of the kids snuck out of their houses, you'd think that at least one kid's mom or dad would still be awake and wondering where their kid could possibly be.

It seems like the Polar Express has been making this journey for years, which makes the fact that parents aren't keeping a close eye on their kids on Christmas Eve even more bizarre. Surely in all of these years some parents would have reported their kids disappearing on Christmas Eve, leading people to worry about Christmas Eve kidnappings. Or is the parents not noticing that their kids are missing part of the magic of The Polar Express?

Is Billy in The Polar Express okay?

To kids watching The Polar Express, and to kids who are riding on the Polar Express, Billy (one of the few characters to actually have a name in the film) probably just seems like a shy kid. If you watch the movie as an adult, though, it's hard not to feel a little concerned for him. Why is he so scared of other people? Why does he isolate himself on the train? Is Billy actually going through something?

It seems that Billy doesn't have a lot of friends and that he may have some sort of social anxiety. What is his home life like? Is Billy just shy, or is there something going on there that makes him retreat into himself? The Polar Express appears to takes place in the past, long before the invention of the internet and cell phones, so it's likely that Billy didn't have access to mental health services that could help him cope with his anxiety, which is a shame. If The Polar Express took place in the present day, Billy could benefit from therapy.

There are a lot of scary moments in The Polar Express

For a children's movie that is about the spirit of Christmas, The Polar Express has an awful lot of scary moments. Kids watching the film may be a little spooked out by its creepier scenes, but adults will probably be wondering why it was necessary to include such scary moments in the first place. The conductor of the Polar Express, for example, seems to be angry for half of the movie, even though it's revealed that he does have a good heart and loves children. So why does he always seem like he's on the verge of yelling?

Then there's the grifter who camps out on the roof of the Polar Express and scares children who cross his path. He later torments the main character with a puppet of Ebenezer Scrooge in one of the scariest scenes in The Polar Express. Why is The Polar Express so creepy?

Putting a kid in charge of the Polar Express is a bad idea

After it is revealed that the girl's ticket is missing, the conductor leads her away from the train car on the Polar Express that the other kids are in. The boy admits that he's the one who lost the ticket, but the girl is still hauled off. Fearful for her safety after the know-it-all boy (another character who isn't given a proper name) says she will certainly be thrown off the train, the boy goes to find her with the newly found missing ticket in hand. 

Instead of finding her thrown off the train, he sees that she has been put in charge of the entire train while the engineers, Steamer and Smokey, deal with a problem. The girl is maybe 10 or 11 years old at most — not old enough to drive a car, let alone an entire train. How is this safe? Who in their right mind would put a child in charge of a train, not to mention the lives of at least a dozen people? The Polar Express travels through some pretty dangerous territory, making the thought of a child being in charge even more terrifying.

Doesn't the boy in The Polar Express have any pockets?

In The Polar Express, one of the main character's robe pockets has a hole in it, but doesn't he still at least has one perfectly good pocket? Why doesn't he ever use it? Think of all the problems that could have been averted if he had only put the girl's ticket in his good pocket, instead of trying to jump from one train car to another with it clenched in one hand or between his teeth. If he had put it in that pocket, it would have never blown away.

Actually, why did he even think it was a good idea to hop train cars in the first place? Wouldn't it have been far more sensible to hold on to the ticket and give it to the girl after she returned? It honestly seems like the boy is just looking for an excuse to break the rules by going to another train car. His good deed is just an attempt at not getting into trouble for doing something he knows full well he isn't supposed to be doing.

Why are tickets even necessary for the Polar Express?

The conductor makes it pretty clear that having a train ticket for the Polar Express is incredibly important. Each kid has their ticket punched with part of a word at the beginning of their journey and the rest of the word (or words) is punched on the return trip. Each kid leaves the Polar Express with a piece of advice punched on their ticket which seems to be the sole purpose of the tickets.

It's not like they need proof of purchase since there doesn't seem to be any charge to ride the Polar Express. And the train shows up to each kid's house, so it's clear that the conductor knows who is supposed to be on the train and the right person boards. So why does he make such a big deal out of the girl's misplaced ticket? Surely he could have replaced the ticket, which magically appeared in the first place. Couldn't the conductor just wave his magic hole puncher and make a replacement train ticket appear?

How is Smokey's beard so long in The Polar Express?

When the Polar Express runs into a caribou crossing, it looks like those aboard won't make it to the North Pole in time to see Santa begin his Christmas Eve journey to deliver presents. They're on a very tight schedule, and the caribou just won't budge. They finally get moving again after the conductor pulls on engineer Smokey's beard. His very, very long beard. When his beard is pulled, Smokey lets out a shriek of pain that scares off the caribou. 

While this seems pretty mean to Smokey, it also brings up the question of how his beard is so long that it cascades down the front of the train like Rapunzel's hair. According to Beard Resource, the longest a beard can grow is around three feet, and it looks like Smokey's beard might be closer to four or five feet. Is this just one of those magical things in The Polar Express that can't be explained? Or is Smokey wearing beard extensions?

Why weren't the kids told to at least grab a coat before boarding the Polar Express?

The Polar Express goes all the way to the North Pole where, needless to say, it's pretty cold. Are the kids dressed for the harsh weather? Not at all. They all rolled out of bed and hopped on the train, remember, so everyone is in their pajamas, nightgowns, and robes. How many of them are even wearing socks?

Would it have delayed the train too much if the kids were told to grab a coat? Or, better yet, why couldn't the Polar Express have coats on board the train to distribute to the kids? And what about gloves, scarves, and earmuffs? How are the children supposed to survive the North Pole without being properly attired for the weather? According to Polar Discovery, subzero temperatures are the norm at the North Pole, so bundling up is of prime importance.

Does Christmas music play nonstop at the North Pole in The Polar Express?

When the Polar Express arrives at the North Pole, Christmas music is playing. It is, of course, Christmas Eve, so this is natural. But adults watching The Polar Express have to wonder if it's always Christmas at the North Pole. Does Christmas music play nonstop all year round? If so, surely that would be enough to drive Santa and his elves bonkers.

And is music always piped through every speaker? It seems like the Christmas music permeates every corner of the North Pole. Is there no escape from the relentless barrage of Christmas tunes? It's easy to see how the winter wonderland portrayed in The Polar Express could quickly become a nightmare of never-ending Christmas songs. What would happen if one of the elves wanted to listen to some country music or put on some Top 40 hits? 

Aren't the kids on the Polar Express going to exchange contact information?

After the Polar Express leaves the North Pole, the kids are all dropped off at their homes. Even though Billy had been very excited about finally having some good friends before they boarded the train for the return journey, he makes no attempt at exchanging contact info with his new pals. The Polar Express takes place in the past, so it's not like they can exchange Instagram profiles, but you'd think they'd at least exchange addresses or (landline) phone numbers.

One of the themes of The Polar Express is friendship, so it seems strange that all of the kids on the train are going their separate ways without even making a promise to keep in touch. Couldn't they at least be pen pals or something? The fact that it doesn't look like the kids of The Polar Express stay in touch makes for a bittersweet ending in what should be a happy holiday film.

Why don't the boy's parents in The Polar Express wonder where the bell came from?

At the end of The Polar Express, the magical sleigh bell Santa gave to the main character has vanished, having fallen out of the hole in the pocket of his robe. Santa is magic, though, so he makes sure that the boy gets the bell back on Christmas morning. It's sitting under the tree in a beautifully wrapped box.

The boy's parents no longer believe in Santa, so they don't hear the bell ring although the boy and his sister, Sarah, do. Their parents remark on what a shame it is that the boy's present doesn't work, but they never question where it came from. They obviously know that the present wasn't from them, so why aren't they curious about who sent their kid a seemingly defective bell for no apparent reason? 

Why, for that matter, haven't they wondered where all the presents from Santa that the kids have been receiving over the years came from? Aren't they even a little bit concerned that someone has clearly been breaking into their home every year and leaving presents under the tree?