|~ The Conductor|
The Conductor is the tritagonist of The Polar Express book and movie. He is the leader of the titular train express of the same name.
He was both portrayed in motion capture and voiced by Tom Hanks, who also voiced Woody from the Toy Story franchise in the movie, and Jim Hanks in the video game.
One night, the conductor came out of the coach express and called out the boy to all aboard.
Role in the Book
After the Polar Express stops in front of Hero Boy's house, the Conductor steps out and looks at his window, prompting him to come outside. The Conductor tells him that the train is here to take him to the North Pole, so Hero Boy holds out his hand and the Conductor pulls him on board.
Later, the children see lights in the distance, which the Conductor says is the North Pole. The train soon arrives, but the children see no elves. The Conductor explains that they are gathering at the Square in the center of the city to watch Santa Claus give the first gift of Christmas to one of the children. After the train stops at the Square, the Conductor leads the children outside and through the crowd of elves. He also helps Hero Boy onto Santa's sleigh when he gets chosen to receive the first gift.
When Hero Boy gets dropped off, the Conductor wishes him a Merry Christmas, but Hero Boy could not hear him from his house, so the Conductor cups his hands around his mouth and shouts it just as the train leaves.
Throughout the entire book, the Conductor only appears in the second illustration in which he is looking out the passenger car at Hero Boy, yet he is barely visible, with only his head seen, because the illustration shows an entire view of the train.
Role in the Film
The Conductor plays a much larger role in the film than in the book, mostly due to its much longer story.
On the Polar Express
The Conductor is first seen stepping out of the train after Hero Boy runs outside, calling out, "All aboard!" Hero Boy walks over to him, who explains that the train is here to take him to the North Pole due to his recent signs of disbelief in the Christmas spirit. Hero Boy turns it down, but decides just as the train is leaving to jump on.
Later, the Conductor punches the children's Magic Ticket|tickets. He first goes to Hero Boy, who looked confused, so he suggests checking his pocket. When he finds only a hole, the Conductor suggests the other pocket, where he finds a shiny golden ticket, much to his surprise, and hands it to the Conductor, who punches a "B" on one end and an "E" on the other. He punches "LE" for Know-It-All, who calls the Conductor a show off with his ticket-punching skills.
The train soon stops at 11344 Edbrooke Avenue to pick up Billy. The Conductor invites him to get on the train in the same manner as he did with Hero Boy. Billy turns it down, but changes his mind and runs after the train just as it leaves. However, it is moving too fast, so Hero Boy pulls the emergency brake, stopping the train. Just then, an angry Conductor storms in and berates Hero Boy for pulling the brake, thinking he was either messing around or trying to cause delays, until Hero Girl steps in to explain the situation. The Conductor sees Billy taking a seat in the observation car and lets Hero Boy off with a reminder of the train's tight schedule. The Conductor must have punched Billy's ticket at some point during the journey probably when he and Hero Girl were bringing him hot chocolate, but such a scene is not shown in the film. The word "ON" is seen on the ticket before the Conductor punches it again for the return journey.
When the train is on its way again, the Conductor asks over the intercom if any of the children want refreshments. Everyone raises their hands in excitement, so a group of waiters and chefs come in and serve them hot chocolate while, along with the Conductor, singing "Hot Chocolate." After they leave, the Conductor assists Hero Girl to the observation car when she goes to give Billy the hot chocolate she saved for him, since, according to Know-It-All, she would be violating railroad safety regulations had she crossed moving cars without a grown up.
Later, the Conductor realizes he forgot to punch Hero Girl's ticket, but Hero Girl cannot find it, due to Hero Boy losing it while trying to give it back to her, so he takes her to the back to the train, onto the roof and to the cab of the locomotive. Hero Boy, with the help of the Hobo, gets to the cab too, then applies the train's brakes when Smokey and Steamer, who were at the front of the locomotive fixing its headlamp, call out to stop the train. Once again, the Conductor gets angry with Hero Boy until Hero Girl shows him the herd of caribou blocking the track. While the three go to the front of the train, Hero Boy slips and grabs onto Smokey's beard to break his fall, causing Smokey to scream in pain. Everyone realizes that the caribou can understand the screaming, so the Conductor continues to pull on Smokey's beard to try communicating with them. Finally, the caribou move off the tracks, allowing the train to continue.
Hero Boy, Hero Girl, and the Conductor stay at the front of the locomotive. Hero Boy notes how fast they are going, so the Conductor asks Hero Girl to call out to the engineer to slow down, but they were too busy trying to fix a jammed throttle to pay any attention. The Conductor, realizing that they were approaching Glacier Gulch, the steepest downhill grade in the world, at a speed much too great, fastens Hero Boy and Hero Girl onto the safety bar and warns them to hold tightly.
After the gulch, the train slides onto the Ice Lake. Smokey and Steamer stop the train using the hairpin from Smokey's hair to fix the throttle, but the old pin pierces the ice, causing it to crack. The Conductor tells Smokey and Steamer to get the train off the lake. They find the tracks at the other side and head towards them with the Conductor navigating. The cracking ice soon reaches them, but the train lands on the rails underneath and makes it off the lake. Meanwhile, Hero Boy gives Hero Girl's ticket back and the Conductor punches "LE" out of it, the same thing Know-It-All got.
The Conductor leads Hero Boy and Hero Girl back to the passenger cars by going through the abandoned toy car. He tells them that Santa came up with an idea in which the train collects toys from around the world that have been mistreated and takes them to the North Pole where they are refurbished.
At the North Pole
While Hero Boy, Hero Girl and Billy were watching the Northern Lights from the observation car, the Conductor comes by to tell them that they have crossed the Arctic Circle (66° 33′) and points at some lights in the distance, which he compares to "the lights of a strange ocean liner sailing on a frozen sea" and says it is the North Pole. When they arrive there, the Conductor cries with tears of joy, since they are five minutes early, but the children are confused as to why there are no elves outside. The Conductor explains that they are gathering at the Square where Santa will give one of the children the first gift of Christmas. Soon, the train stops at the Square and the Conductor and the children get off. Hero Boy and Hero Girl tell the Conductor about Billy staying behind in the observation car. The Conductor says he can choose to do so, but Hero Boy and Hero Girl go to try to convince him to come anyway.
The Conductor later greets Hero Boy, Hero Girl, Know-It-All, and Billy back after they get rescued from the bag of presents. He also helps Hero Boy off the sleigh after Hero Boy is given the silver bell, then watches Santa fly away to make his annual deliveries.
After Santa leaves, the children line up at the passenger cars to get their tickets punched again by the Conductor for the return trip, each time resulting in a word or phrase that contains the letters punched earlier. Know-It-All's ticket reads "LEARN," though he initially reads it as "LEAN" since one of his fingers was covering the R until he points out Know-It-All's mistake. Billy's ticket reads "DEPEND ON", but it magically changes to "RELY ON" and "COUNT ON" each time he flips it over. The Conductor calls it "some special ticket". Hero Girl gets "LEAD" (leed), though she initially pronounces it as the metal lead (led) (like lead balloon). Hero Boy's ticket, which the Conductor punched behind his back, reads "BELIEVE", but the Conductor interrupts him before he reads it out loud, saying he does not need to know.
When the train stops in front of Billy and Hero Boy's houses, the Conductor helps them get off the train with a step stool while advising them to watch their step. After Hero Boy gets back to his house, the Conductor wishes him a Merry Christmas, but Hero Boy does not hear, so the Conductor cups his hands around his mouth and shouts it just as the train leaves.
The Polar Express: The Video Game
While the other children go to look for their missing tickets, Hero Girl distracts the Conductor to make sure no one gets thrown off the train. After the caribou crossing, he was about to have Hero Girl leave the train when Hero Boy remembers that he still has her ticket and hands it back to her. Later, the Conductor invites the children to the dining car for refreshments. He asks Hero Boy to fill in for a missing waiter, which he agrees to do. After that, the Conductor's appearances are limited to scenes from the film.
- "All aboard!"
- "Well, you coming?"
- "Why to the North Pole of course! This is The Polar Express!"
- "Tickets! Tickets, please!"
- "Next stop, 11344 Edbrooke."
- "Who in the blazes applied that emergency brake?!"
- "You! In case you didn't know, that cord is for emergency purposes only! And in case you weren't aware, tonight is Christmas Eve, and in case you haven't noticed, this train is on a very tight schedule! Now, young man, Christmas may not be important to some people, but it is very important to the rest of us!"
- "Well... Let me remind you we are on a very tight schedule. And I've never been late before, and I am certainly not going to be late tonight! Now, everybody, take your seats, please!... Thank you."
- "Your attention please, are there any Polar Express passengers in need of refreshment?"
- "Ah! These tickets... are not... transferable!"
- "There could be no Christmas, without The Polar Express arriving on time! Am I the only one who understands that?!! You! I should have known. Young man, are you bound to determine that this train never reaches the North Pole?!"
- "Caribou crossing!"
- "We are in some, serious jelly!"
- "Problem solved, all ahead slow!"
- Well, considering the fact that we have lost communication with the engineer, we're standing totally exposed on the front of the locomotive, the train appears to be accelerating uncontrollably, and we are rapidly approaching Glacier Gulch, which just happens to be the steepest downhill grade in the world, I suggest we all hold on TIGHTLY!!!"
- "Jiminy Christmas! The ice has frozen over the tracks!"
- "What in the name of Mike?!"
- "Get us the blazes out of here!"
- "Turn the sled around!"
- "Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see."
- "Hey, you three! We just crossed it. Latitude 66 degrees 33 minutes, the Arctic Circle. And do you see those lights in the distance? They look like the lights of a strange ocean liner sailing on a frozen sea. There... is the North Pole."
- "We made it! With five minutes to spare! We made it! Ha, ha!"
- "He will choose one of you."
- "They are gathering in the center of the city. That is where Santa will give the first gift of Christmas. He will choose... one of you."
- "I may be just an old railroader and know nothing about lighter-than-air craft, but from my layman's perspective, you need more altitude!"
- "'LEAN' is spelled with four letters; I believe I punched five."
- "I believe it also is pronounced 'LEAD.' (leed) As in 'leader,' 'leadership.' 'Lead the way.' Follow you anywhere, ma'am."
- "Watch your step, please."
- "The thing about trains... it doesn't matter where they're going. What matters is deciding to get on."
- "MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!"