The boy burns himself on his radiator and then avoids making the same mistake.
The Hero Boy looks out his bedroom window when he first hears something outside his house.
As he leans closer to the window, he burns himself on the radiator underneath it.
The moment happens quickly, but he adjusts how he’s standing after that to avoid burning himself again.
Reflections in the movie are very detailed.
Throughout the movie, realistic details stand out, like visible stitching on clothing and the way different materials move.
Additionally, when the Hero Boy watches his parents talk to his sister through the keyhole in his room, the keyhole is reflected on his eye as he backs away.
Later in the film, there are also several reflection details in the metal platters during the hot-chocolate scene.
The magazine the boy pulls out of his drawer is a near-identical replica of a real issue from December 1956.
Although there isn’t a ton of information concerning exactly when the film takes place, the Hero Boy has a copy of a Saturday Evening Post magazine from December 29, 1956.
Since the film takes place on Christmas Eve, it’s safe to say that it’s at least set in 1957.
The magazine cover is based on a real issue, and many of the details are accurate, but there are slight differences in the look of the Santa costume.
At the beginning, it’s clear there are five cars on the Polar Express, but in later scenes, the train is much longer.
When the Polar Express pulls up in front of the Hero Boy’s house, you can clearly count the five cars of the train.
Those five cars are visible at other points throughout the film as well. But in some scenes, like when the train is riding past a pack of wolves, there seem to be closer to 20 cars.
The train passes Herpolsheimer’s, a real Grand Rapids department store.
When the Polar Express passes Herpolsheimer’s, the kids cheer and rush to the train’s windows.
This is the first indication of the film’s setting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the department store existed in real life from 1865 to 1987.
When the Hero Boy was looking through his papers in his room, he also had a holiday card from the store featuring a photo with Santa.
The Conductor makes way too many paper cutouts the first time he punches the boy’s ticket.
When the Conductor first makes a show of marking the Hero Boy’s ticket, he punches out a “B” and an “E.” Once he’s done, it’s easy to count that the letters are made up of 32 individual hole punches.
But based on the auditory and visual cues as he was dramatically punching out the letters, he made far more cuts than that.
Billy’s address may have been inspired by the director’s childhood home.
Zemeckis seemed to take inspiration from his own life when creating Billy’s address, 11344 S Edbrooke Avenue, which the Conductor repeats a few times as the train pulls up to his house.
Although the film is set in Grand Rapids, the address is actually from Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood, where Zemeckis reportedly grew up.
The hot-chocolate mugs have the same logo as the train.
The back of the Polar Express has a red circle with “PE” embossed in gold.
The hot-chocolate mugs that the children drink from also have the same gold “PE” logo.
The Hero Girl didn’t actually leave her ticket on her seat.
One main source of conflict when the children are on the train comes after the Hero Girl leaves her ticket on her seat while bringing Billy a cup of hot chocolate.
Trying to be helpful, the Hero Boy attempts to run after her to give her the ticket, but in a series of unfortunate events, it flies away from the train and somehow lands back in their car’s vent. When the Conductor returns and sees the Hero Girl doesn’t have a ticket, he walks her to the front of the train via the roofs of the cars and inexplicably lets her drive.
But none of this should’ve happened in the first place because when the Hero Girl first gets out of her seat, the ticket clearly isn’t there. It isn’t until the Hero Boy turns around that the gold ticket appears to be left behind.
There seems to be a flux capacitor on the Polar Express.
Viewers who are paying very close attention during the scene in the locomotive car may spot what appears to be a flux capacitor in the background.
The fictional piece of technology, which allows for time travel, is originally from the “Back to the Future” series, so it’s likely another nod to Zemeckis’ past work.
But it may also help explain how the Polar Express seems to be running on its own time.
Smokey is wearing Christmas socks.
Smokey and Steamer work as the fireman and engineer on the Polar Express.
In the scene where they’re scrambling for the fallen throttle pin, Smokey’s pant bottoms lift for a moment, exposing his appropriately festive Christmas-tree socks.
As the Polar Express ascends the last mountain to the North Pole, the train cars physically bend around the curves.
When the Polar Express is making its final climb toward the North Pole, the train rides up a winding mountain track.
But instead of naturally bending at the joints where the train cars meet, the actual cars somehow curve around the mountainside.
The kids on the monitors in Santa’s toy factory have names, but most of the main characters don’t.
When the characters are in the toy factory, they see some elves monitoring the behavior of kids all over the world to see if they’ve been naughty or nice.
There’s a massive collection of screens set up like a wall of security-camera footage, and each quadrant is labeled with a child’s name.
But we never learn the names of the children on the Polar Express, except for Billy.
The conductor’s pocket watch shows how he knew when they were running late.
If the flux capacitor wasn’t enough evidence that the train doesn’t run on any standard time system, the Conductor’s pocket watch is a further indication.
Throughout the journey to the North Pole, he’s very focused on getting there on time, and he’s often shown checking his watch in a frantic manner.
Toward the end of the movie, the inside of his pocket watch is finally visible. But instead of having a regular clock face, the hands point to sections labeled “On Time,” “Early,” “Still,” and “Late” with various subcategories.
The same actor voiced the Conductor, Santa, and a few other adult characters.
Tom Hanks voiced several of the main adult roles in “The Polar Express.”
He was the narrator, the Conductor, the Hobo, the Scrooge marionette, the Hero Boy’s father, and even Santa.