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Hero Boy's house (referred to as The Boy's House on the film's official website) is a residence house in Grand Rapids, Michigan where Hero Boy lives with his sister Sarah, his mother, and his father. The Polar Express makes a stop in front of the house one Christmas Eve to pick up Hero Boy.

Role in the Book

At the start of the story, Hero Boy is sleeping quietly in his bed one Christmas Eve, listening for the sound of the bells from Santa's sleigh. He is suddenly awoken by sounds of a steam train pulling up in front of his house. After a Conductor steps outside and looks at his window, he puts on his robe and slippers and goes outside. He is greeted by the Conductor, who tells him the train is called the Polar Express and going to the North Pole. In response, Hero Boy puts out his hand and the Conductor pulls him aboard.

Near the end, the Polar Express stops in front of Hero Boy's house again to drop him off. Hero Boy, who had lost the silver bell Santa gave him at the North Pole, walks sadly back home. He waves goodbye from his front door while the Conductor wishes him a Merry Christmas, but has to repeat himself as Hero Boy did not hear the first time.

Hero Boy and Sarah open their presents the next morning. Sarah finds a small present with Hero Boy's name on it, and inside is the silver bell, along with a note saying the bell landed on the floor in Santa's sleigh (after it had fallen through the hole in Hero Boy’s robe while he was at the North Pole). Hero Boy shakes the bell, which makes a beautiful sound he and Sarah both enjoy, but their parents cannot hear it at all since they do not believe in the spirit of Christmas.

Role in the Film

Before the trip

Like in the book, the story starts with Hero Boy sleeping on Christmas Eve listening for Santa's sleigh bells. He wakes up after hearing bells, but finds nothing out his window. He hears them again coming from outside his room and goes downstairs to find no presents under the tree, a plate of uneaten cookies, and a full glass of milk. Suddenly, a shadow resembling Santa appears, but it turns out to be his father with Sarah, so he runs back to his room. From his room, he watches his parents tuck Sarah into bed. Sarah tells them about some things Hero Boy told her regarding Santa's nonexistence, but they assure her that he was joking and say Santa will come if she goes to sleep.

Hero Boy goes to his drawer and takes out a picture of a girl at Herpolsheimer's sitting on the lap of a department store Santa and pulling his fake beard, a piece of newspaper with a story about department store Santas going on strike, and a magazine. He looks up "North Pole" in an encyclopedia, which says that the North Pole is "stark, barren, devoid of life", then goes to bed.

Hero Boy is woken again by his room shaking. He hears the sounds of a train and sees flashing lights pass by outside his window, so he goes outside. Sure enough, a train had stopped right in front of his house. A Conductor steps outside one of the cars and Hero Boy walks up to him. He introduces the train and explains how Hero Boy has been showing a disbelief in Santa recently. Hero Boy turns the trip down, but immediately changes his mind and jumps onto the train just as it leaves.

After the trip

Right before Hero Boy goes home, he says goodbye to his new friends he made on the trip, Hero Girl and Know-It-All, who feel sorry for him losing the silver bell at the North Pole. Just as the train leaves, Hero Boy waves goodbye to the Conductor from his house, who shouts, "Merry Christmas!" The Hobo, who was on top of the train, waves goodbye too before vanishing one last time. On the way back to his room, he finds Santa has still not arrived yet.

The next morning, Sarah excitedly wakes up Hero Boy, telling him Santa has been to their house, then goes to wake up her parents. Later, Hero Boy and Sarah go downstairs to open presents. Sarah finds one small present behind the tree, which has the silver bell he lost and the note. Hero Boy and Sarah enjoy its sound, but when their mother shakes it, she cannot hear it. Their father shakes it too, but he cannot hear a sound either and thinks it is broken. The two children are later called by their mother and Hero Boy puts the bell on the table before going.

Behind the scenes

Chris Van Allsburg based the house on his real-life childhood home.[1]

The makers of the film recreated Hero Boy's room as it appeared in the first illustration of the book. However, only part of the room is shown along with only parts of other rooms in other illustrations, so the filmmakers had to imagine how the rest of the house would look like. Production designer Rick Carter visited both Van Allsburg and Robert Zemeckis' old neighborhoods to get inspiration, even going inside Chris' house.[1]

Trivia

  • In both the book and the film, Fritz the Dog appears as a puppet in Hero Boy's house in his room on top of his bedpost.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Cotta Vaz, Mark. Starkey, Steve. (November 4, 2004) The Art of the Polar Express, Chronicle Books. p. 13 & 19. ISBN 978-0811846592.
Locations
Grand Rapids, MI Grand Rapids, Michigan Hero Boy's house Herpolsheimer's 11344 Edbrooke Avenue
The Journey Forest Flat Top Tunnel Glacier Gulch Ice Lake Corkscrew Mountain North Pole Bridge
North Pole North Pole North Pole Square Surveillance room Wrapping hall Sorting room
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