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"I make that herd to be at least a hundred thousand, maybe even a million. It's gonna be hours before they clear this track."
— Steamer commenting on the size of the herd.

The caribou are animals who appear in the 2004 film, The Polar Express.

Role in the film

While Smokey and Steamer are fixing the locomotive's headlight, they see lights ahead and call out to Hero Girl, who was driving the locomotive, to stop the train. She and Hero Boy, who was with her in the engine room, get the message, but they have trouble agreeing on which lever is the brake. Hero Boy eventually pulls the one Hero Girl initially claimed was the brake, which stops the train just in time to avoid crashing into a large caribou crossing.

Steamer estimates the herd to consist of a hundred thousand to a million caribou and will take a long time to clear the track. The Conductor, Hero Girl, and Hero Boy head to the front of the train when Hero Boy slips and grabs onto Smokey's beard to break his fall. This causes Smokey to scream in pain, which the caribou are able to understand, so the Conductor continues pulling his beard to communicate with them. They soon manage to get the caribou to clear the track, allowing the train to continue.

Other appearances

The Polar Express Train Adventure

While maneuvering the train through the town, caribou sometimes appear on the track and the player must stop or slow down the train to avoid hitting them and losing a life.


  • The caribou are part of many characters who appear in the film, but not in the book.
  • The sounds the caribou make in the film are actually the sounds of elk.
  • Caribou are of the same species as reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, the animals of Santa's sleigh.
  • Like Smokey and Steamer, the Scrooge puppet, and other animals in the film, the caribou were keyframe-animated as opposed to motion-captured.[1]



  1. Schaub, David (November 23, 2004). "'The Polar Express' Diary: Part 1 -- Testing and Prepping". Animation World Network.
Children Hero Boy (Chris) Hero Girl (Holly) Know-It-All Billy the Lonely Boy Sister Sarah Gus the Toothless Boy Boy on Train Blonde Girl (Heather) 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 Wolves Other animals
Toys Ebenezer Scrooge puppet Scrooge's friends