Polar Express, The: Two-Disc Widescreen Edition (2004)

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Released 15-Nov-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-You Look Familiar
Featurette-A Genuine Ticket To Ride
Featurette-True Inspirations: An Author's Adventure
Music Highlights-Josh Groban At The Greek
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Behind the Scenes Of "Believe"
Game-Polar Express Challenge
Featurette-Meet The Snow Angels
Trailer-THQ Game Demo
Deleted Scenes-Additional Song
DVD-ROM Extras
Easter Egg
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 95:46
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Robert Zemeckis
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Tom Hanks
Leslie Harter Zemeckis
Eddie Deezen
Nona Gaye
Peter Scolari
Brendan King
Andy Pellick
Josh Eli
Mark Mendonca
Rolandas Hendricks
Mark Goodman
Jon Scott
Gregory Gast
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Glen Ballard
Alan Silvestri


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Icelandic Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
Icelandic
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, World Book encyclopedia and Major League Baseball
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    What an amazing piece of cinematography this movie is. I literally stared in total amazement at the spectacular animation and brilliant computer generated graphics. This movie is without a doubt the best Christmas themed animation movie I have seen for quite some time. It is based on the book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and is directed by Robert Zemeckis of Who Framed Roger Rabbit fame.

     The story takes us into the world of a young boy who has begun to lose his belief in Santa. He questions his whole belief in the meaning and spirit of Christmas and in doing so he sparks off the adventure of a lifetime.

     We follow our intrepid adventurer as he boards the train The Polar Express where he soon makes friends with some of the other children already onboard. Of particular note is the friendship that he develops with a young girl and another younger boy named Billy. These three soon become friends and the story centres on their relationship with each other and their individual reasons for being aboard The Polar Express.

    This movie is about believing and what it means to believe in something, be it Santa, the trust of a friend, or oneself. I think children of all ages will be enthralled by this spectacular movie.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Although this was a good transfer, I found that on my 102" projection screen some faults were visible as I have outlined below.

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 which is close to the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The movie is 16x9 enhanced.

    I found the video to be a little soft in places but there was no hint of grain or low level noise.

    Stunning use of colour made for a vibrant and lively picture, with no colour bleeding present. This was a real joy to watch on the big screen.

     I did see some MPEG compression artefacts, and although they were not terribly offputting I think there should have been less of them. As for film to video artefacts or video artefacts, I am happy to say that there were none that I could see. I also tried to find problems typically associated with transfers of animated movies but I was not able to find any. This includes things like interlacing, usually the worst culprit in animated films.

    There are a number of subtitle languages available, however I only sampled the English subtitles which followed the spoken dialogue reasonably well.

    The layer change occurs at 58:51 and is cleverly hidden when the scene is focusing on the roof above the Santa sack full of toys.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    To say this is a brilliant audio transfer is not doing it justice. I was very impressed with this transfer.

    There are two audio tracks available on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s) and Icelandic Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s). I chose to listen to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s) track.

    The dialogue is clear and there was no problem with lip sync. My only complaint is that the dialogue in the initial scene tended to be a bit on the quiet side but otherwise I could find nothing to fault.

    The musical score for this movie is truly outstanding. It is beautifully composed and arranged to provide the right mood for the movie's scenes. It is a mixture of orchestral music along with brilliant songs written to support the action in the movie. Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri worked as a team to produce this spectacular soundtrack and they have really used their combined talents to bring us a real treat.

    The surrounds were used effectively throughout the movie to produce a very immersive sound field which is exactly what I desire when I watch a DVD. I love it when my home theatre is made to come alive and this was definitely achieved with this audio track.

    The subwoofer is used quite a lot in this film. I did not find it to be so boomy as to drown out the dialogue but rather it was matched effectively with the rest of the sound mix.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction (1st Disc)

    The menu introduction starts with an animation of a Polar Express ticket with the word BELIEVE being punched into it. This then quickly fades to be replaced by a race along the train tracks in a rollercoaster style ride to eventually seeing the Polar Express arriving at the North Pole whereupon we are transitioned to the main menu. This is presented in the 16x9 format.

Main Menu Audio & Animation (1st Disc)

     The main menu is animated; it displays a picture of the centre of the town at the north pole with the elves moving to give the Polar Express room to circle the Christmas tree. At the top of this is the title The Polar Express and along the bottom of the screen are the selection icons for Play Movie, Scene Selections, Theatrical Trailer, and Languages. Again this is presented in the 16x9 format.

Theatrical Trailer (2:16)

     The theatrical trailer is the original trailer as seen theatrically. It is presented in the same aspect ratio as the main movie (2.40:1). This trailer appears on Disc 1 of the two disc set with all the other extras appearing on Disc 2.

Main Menu Introduction (2nd Disc)

    In this introduction we are shown our three main characters sliding down the present chute and dropping onto a huge pile of presents. It is presented in 16x9 format.

Main Menu (2nd Disc)

    After the intro we are presented with the main menu in 16x9 format. It is animated showing the children playing on top of a huge pile of presents with the Polar Express theme music playing. We are also presented with the selection titles for the extra items in the order shown below.

Featurette-You Look Familiar (4:10)

     This featurette shows us how Tom Hanks played 5 of the main characters in the movie. I found it pretty interesting myself as although I picked four of the characters that Tom Hanks played I was surprised to learn that he also played the boy.

Featurette-A Genuine Ticket To Ride

    This featurette is basically how they made the movie. It explores the different measures used to capture the actors' movements and then the process to render these into the animated characters we see in the film. It also explores how the camerawork was achieved by the use of virtual cameras, how the costumes were put together, how the North Pole was created and why it was made to look the way it is in the movie. Lastly we are given an insight into how the music score was produced. This featurette is presented in 4x3 letterbox format and the run time for this feature is as below:

    Introduction - 1:58

    Performance Capture - 2:18

    Virtual Camera - 2:02

    Hair and Wardrobe - 2:23

    Creating The North Pole - 1:43

    Music - 2:59

    You can choose to view all the segments separately or one after the other (excluding the introduction).

Featurette-True Inspirations: An Author's Adventure (5:28)

    This featurette is primarily an introduction to Chris Van Allsburg and how he became an artist. This is presented in 4x3 format.

Music Highlights-Josh Groban At The Greek (4:33)

    As the title suggests this is a music video clip of Josh Groban performing the song Believe taken from the movie The Polar Express. This is presented in 4x3 letterbox format.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Behind the Scenes Of "Believe" (4:23)

   This little featurette is a look at how the song Believe was developed and is narrated by Glen Ballard and Josh Groban.

Game-Polar Express Challenge

    This is a rather lame and not terribly exciting game that makes use of the left and right buttons of your DVD player's remote control. You get to do things like control the Polar Express as it slides across the ice and then you get to help Santa deliver presents. It is presented in 4x3 format.

Featurette -Meet The Snow Angels (2:43)

    This is a little featurette in which we hear from the cast and crew as to what their childhood experiences of Christmas were all about. This is presented in 4x3 letterbox format.

Trailer-THQ Game Demo (0:31)

   This is basically an advertisement for the video game of The Polar Express. It is presented in 4x3 format.

Deleted Scenes-Additional Song (7:04)

    This deleted scene was cut from the movie as it was considered to hinder the flow of the storyline. It was cut even though it was the last performance by Michael Jeter. It has been included on this DVD in honour of Michael Jeter who passed away before the movie was completed. The animation for this scene has not been completed. It consists of a song by Smokey and Steamer, the two characters both played by Michael Jeter in the movie. It is presented in 4x3 letterbox format.

DVD-ROM Extras

    The DVD-ROM extras include a demo of The Polar Express game for PC. It took quite a while to install, certainly longer than I thought was normal. I am not a gamer, in fact I think the last time I played a PC game was back in the early 90s, so my comments on whether this was any good are only my opinion and others may think differently. I will say, however, that I found the game to be rather tedious and it seemed to take forever to actually get to a point where there was a need to actually interact with it. I also found the game graphics rather blocky and not particularly good.

    The demo game requires 386Mb of hard disk space and the minimum system requirements to play the game are:

       400MHz Pentium III or equivalent AMD processor
       128 MB RAM
       32 MB DirectX(R) 9.0b compatible AGP video card
       1.2 GB free hard drive space
       DirectX(R) 9.0b (included on disc)
       DirectX(R) 9.0b compatible 16-bit sound card
       Windows(R) 98/2000/XP/ME
       4x CD-ROM
       Keyboard, Mouse

    There is also a copy of Interactual Player that can be installed off this disc. Taken directly from the notes about this piece of software is the following:

      "InterActual player 2.0 is NOT a DVD decoder or player. It is an enhanced Interactive environment which requires a fully functional DirectShow compliant DVD decoder installed."

     Minimum System configuration for the InterActual player is:

     Intel Celeron/Pentium or AMD Duron/Athlon processor, 400 MHz
       Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP
       64MB of RAM (2000 and XP: 128MB of RAM)
       4MB Graphics Card, 800X600 resolution, 16 bit colour
       Direct Sound compatible Sound card
       4X DVD-ROM drive (UDMA enabled)
       Direct Show compliant DVD decoder software installed 
       Direct X 7.0
       Internet Explorer 5.0

    The only other thing in the DVD-ROM extras is a web link to the InterActual website.

Easter Eggs

    There are five Easter eggs to be found on the 2nd disc. I did not find them, and let's face it, it would not be much fun if I told you where to look anyway. Best of luck finding them. I know what they unlock but that is all I will say.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From what I have read about the R1 version of this DVD it would appear that we have exactly the same release. Given that our release is PAL it's likely we get the superior transfer although I will admit I have not actually seen the R1 and as such reserve the right to review this decision if contrary information subsequently comes to hand.

Summary

    A brilliant family movie, especially for those with children in the 5 to 12 age group. It might be a little scary in places for those children younger than 5 so it would be best if a parent was to watch it with them just in case it frightened them. Tom Hanks has once again delivered a great performance and it is a perfect movie to be shown in the lead up to Christmas.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Svensen (So you have nothing else to do but to read my bio)
Monday, January 09, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880DX upscaling player, Samsung DVD-HD747 player, Pioneer DV-535 player, Toshiba D-R1-S-TG , using DVI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE700 WXGA LCD Projector, 102" 16:9 Grandview motorised screen, Panasonic TH-42PV500A HD Plasma Display, Toshiba 83 cm 4:3 CRT. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderDenon AVR-2802. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete plus Sansui two channel amplifier driving Back Surrounds
Speakers Fronts, Centre, and Back Surrounds - Accusound Ref 8 speakers with 150W RMS accusound sub woofer, Surrounds - Sony

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Comments (Add)
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Depends on the Child - Gavin Bollard (bio - updated 9 Nov 2005)