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"Christmas just doesn't work out for me never has."
— Billy talking to Hero Boy and Hero Girl in the observation car.

Billy the Lonely Boy is the tritagonist of The Polar Express. He is a boy who has a rather dim view on life.

Role in the film

Billy lives close to Hero Boy at 11344 Edbrooke Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His family lives in poverty, as depicted in the film. His house is described as being "on the wrong side of the tracks"[1] to the other children's houses and his appearance is much simpler and poorer than his friends. Billy does not have much faith in Christmas because his parents lack the money to buy him presents, which is why he is resistant to part with his gift, as it is his first and he does not want to lose it. His house is more run down than the other houses in the neighborhood and his Christmas tree is more sparse and smaller than that of Hero Boy. He is reluctant to make friends as he feels intimidated by the others' wealth and afraid of what they will think of him if they realize his family is poor.

On the Polar Express

One Christmas Eve, the Polar Express stops in front of Billy's house. Billy initially decides to stay behind, but he changes his mind and runs after the train. However, he cannot keep up, so Hero Boy pulls the emergency brake to stop the train. He gets on and sits in the observation car, away from all the other children. The Conductor, unaware of this, gets angry at Hero Boy until he Hero Girl show Billy taking a seat. When the waiters serve hot chocolate, Hero Girl and the Conductor bring some to Billy, who did not get any, which causes Hero Boy to lose Hero Girl's ticket while trying to bring it to her.

The Conductor must have punched Billy's ticket sometime during the trip, possibly while he and Hero Girl were bringing him hot chocolate, but this does not happen on-screen. As seen before the return trip, he punched out "ON" on the right side.

When Hero Boy is trying to return Hero Girl her ticket, he passes by Billy in the observation car and asks where she and the Conductor went, but Billy does not respond and instead, looks up at the window. Hero Boy sees a shadow and, thinking it might be them, goes to climb onto the train.

Later, Billy meets Hero Boy again when he and Hero Girl sing "When Christmas Comes to Town." Afterward, they all watch the northern lights form when the Conductor comes to tell them they have crossed the Arctic Circle, then shows the lights of the North Pole in the distance.

At the North Pole

While all the other children go to meet Santa, Billy chooses to stay behind, but Hero Girl and Hero Boy go back on the train to get him to come. Unfortunately, Hero Boy accidentally steps on the coupler cut level, which causes the car to uncouple from the train and roll down a hill. Once the car stops on a turntable after Hero Boy turns the brake wheel, the three set out to get back to the North Pole Square. At some point, Billy starts hearing the silver bells along with Hero Girl. They go through the surveillance room where they overhear an elf report on the last present being wrapped going to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Next, the elves take the pneumatic to the Square, which the children use too, but end up at the wrapping hall instead.

At the wrapping hall, the children walk across the conveyer belts through a tunnel into the sorting room where they find the last present. They read the mailing information, which has Billy's name and address on it. Billy grabs it with the other two following, and they all end up on top of a pile of presents. Billy wants to open his present early, but Hero Girl finds a note saying, "Do not open until Christmas." The presents are wrapped in a bag by a pair of zeppelins and carried to the Square. On the way, Billy's leg is pulled, so Hero Boy and Hero Girl help pull him free. It turns out to be Know-It-All, who says he was checking out his presents to make sure he will get everything he wants. When they arrive at the Square, the children are rescued from the bag by the elves. Know-It-All, Hero Girl, and Hero Boy slide down the bag, but Billy is hesitant to let his present go until one of the elves assures him it will be safe.

Upon Santa's arrival, Billy is able to see him, unlike Hero Boy, whose view is blocked by the elves stacking in front of him. Before announcing who will receive the first gift of Christmas, Santa congratulates Billy for having made new friends, saying that friendship is the best gift of all. While watching Santa fly away in his sleigh, Billy questions if the events are just a dream, to which Hero Boy says no.

Return trip

Billy's ticket gets punched for the return trip. When he first looks at it, it reads, "DEPEND ON", but it changes to "RELY ON" and "COUNT ON" after each time he flips it. The Conductor calls it, "some special ticket." He asks Billy if he can trust the Polar Express to take him home, to which Billy says yes, "me and my friends," showing that Billy has finally accepted that he has friends in Hero Boy and Hero Girl.

Billy sits with the other children this time, next to Know-It-All. Before getting dropped off, Know-It-All asks where he is going before he tells him they are at his house. Billy also thanks Hero Boy for stopping the train for him. After getting back to his house, he comes back out holding up his present up and calling out from his front porch that Santa has been to his house.

It is never revealed in the film what Billy's present was.

Other appearances

The Polar Express: The Video Game

In the game, the train misses Billy's house, so Hero Boy goes to pull the emergency brake, but the Scrooge puppet is blocking his way. Hero Boy defeats him by kicking beach balls at him. Later, shortly before the train arrives at the North Pole, Hero Girl and the Conductor go to give Billy some hot chocolate.

While stuck on the runaway observation car, Billy, Hero Boy, and Hero Girl use the car's brake wheel to tilt the car to the side and avoid hitting anything. Finally, the car stops on a turntable and the children get off to find their way back to the Square. They ride the pneumatic, using the controls to hits the switches that open the correct gates. At the sorting room, Billy sees his present on conveyor belt and follows it, leaving behind the other two. They reunite after Hero Boy and Hero Girl follow the tunnels and conveyor belts through the sorting room. However, they end up at the bottom of the pile of presents. They climb the pile, thinking there might be an exit at the top. When they make it, the presents are carried by zeppelins in a bag to the Square. Billy and the other children are taken on board the zeppelins where the Elf Captain puts Hero Boy in charge of driving while he goes to help the other elves. When he gets back, the children go back to the bag where the elves rescue them.

Behind the scenes

Billy is one of many characters not to come from the book. Early concept art by Robin Richesson depicted him with a beanie hat, which he does not wear in the film. His nightshirt was made to look faded to contrast the bright colors of the other children's pajamas and convey the idea that he is poor.[1]

Billy's animation was done through motion-capture, like most human characters in the film, mostly provided by Peter Scolari with some of it done by Hayden McFarland. However, some keyframe-animation was done to perfect his movements.[2] For example, whenever Billy ran, Scolari's adult-sized motion-capture came out too slow for a child and was sped up by about 12%.[3] Jimmy Bennett did the voice for Billy except for when he sang "When Christmas Comes to Town" in which it was done by Matthew Hall.

In other languages

Language Name Voice actor(s)
Chinese 孤獨男孩比利 Lin Mei Hsiu (singing voice)
Danish Den ensomme dreng Julian Kellerman
Finnish Billy – Yksinäinen poika Akira Takaki
French Billy Martin Falu
German Einsamer Junge Julius Hasper
Hebrew בילי הבודד גל שמי
Italian Bambino Solitario Alex Polidori
Japanese ロンリー・ボーイ Yūto Uemura
Korean 외톨이(빌리) Kim Jeong-ah
Polish Bartek Miłosz Woźniak
Portuguese Rapaz Solitário (Billy) André Raimundo (Portugal; speaking voice)
Romanian Billy Olivia Fodor
Russian Mal'chik Billi Anton Frolkin
Spanish Billy el Niño Solitario Rodrigo García (Latin America; speaking voice)
Alejandro Orozco (Latin America; singing voice)
José Antonio Torrabadella (Spain; speaking voice)
Marc Prat Conesa (Spain; singing voice)
Swedish Billy Carl-Magnus Liljedahl

Trivia

  • Billy is the only passenger on the train, and one of the few characters, identified by name in the film. Despite this, he is listed as "Lonely Boy" in the credits.
  • Billy's address comes from that of Robert Zemeckis' childhood home, 11344 S Edbrooke Avenue on the south side of the Chicago neighborhood of Roseland. The house itself is inspired by a real-life house two doors down, 11352 S Edbrooke Avenue.[1]
    • The real-life city of Grand Rapids, Michigan does not have a street called Edbrooke Avenue.

Quotes

  • "Christmas just doesn't work out for me. Never has."
  • "I hear it too."
  • "My name is Billy!"
  • "That's my address!"
  • "I think I know what it is! I wanted one of these my whole life!"
  • "But, I..."
  • "AAH! Something's got me! It's got my leg!"
  • "I can't!"
  • "It's still got me!"
  • "I see him! He's over there!"
  • "Absolutely. Me... and my friends."
  • "Thanks for stopping the train for me."
  • "Look, look! Santa got here!"

Gallery

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cotta Vaz, Mark. Starkey, Steve. (November 4, 2004) The Art of the Polar Express, Chronicle Books. p. 35 & 46. ISBN 978-0811846592.
  2. Schaub, David (November 23, 2004). "'The Polar Express' Diary: Part 1 -- Testing and Prepping". Animation World Network.
  3. Schaub, David (February 22, 2005). "'The Polar Express' Diary: Part 3 -- The MoCap/Anim Process". Animation World Network.
Characters
Children Hero Boy (Chris) Hero Girl (Holly) Know-It-All Billy the Lonely Boy Sister Sarah Gus the Toothless Boy Boy on Train Red Head Girl Little Boy Young Boy Steven Unnamed Kids
Adults Conductor Hobo Smokey and Steamer Santa Claus Pastry Chefs Waiters Hero Boy's parents
Elves Elves Acrobatic Elves Elf General Elf Lieutenant Elf Singer
Animals Caribou Santa Claus' reindeer Other animals
Toys Ebenezer Scrooge puppet Scrooge's friends
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