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Robert Zemeckis (born May 14, 1952) is an American filmmaker and screenwriter frequently credited as an innovator in visual effects. He directed, produced, and wrote the 2004 film adaptation The Polar Express. His wife, Leslie Zemeckis, also worked on the film.

References in the film

The film makes several references related to Robert Zemeckis.

  • 11344 Edbrooke Avenue, Billy's address in the film, was taken from the real life address of Zemeckis' childhood home, 11344 S Edbrooke Avenue on the south side of Roseland, one of the neighborhoods in Chicago. The house in the film itself is based on a real-life house on the same street two door's down, 11352 S Edbrooke Avenue.[1]
    • While the house in the film is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Grand Rapids no street called Edbrooke Avenue in real life.
  • Zemeckis wrote and directed all three films in the Back to the Future trilogy, which The Polar Express film makes several references to:
    • When Hero Boy pulls the emergency brake, the track level view of the locomotive's pilot coming to a halt right at the camera is similar to the same view in Back to the Future III when Carla overhears about Emmett "Doc" Brown's heartbreak and applies the emergency brake to stop the train.
    • After Hero Boy pulls the train whistle, he says, "I've wanted to do that my whole life," another reference to Back to the Future Part III when Emmett Brown says the same thing after pulling a train whistle.
    • When Smokey and Steamer try to catch the loose cotter pin, a flux capacitor from Back to the Future can be seen briefly.
  • The shots of Hero Girl's ticket floating in the air are a nod to the trademark shots of a feather doing the same in Forrest Gump, another Zemeckis film that also starts Tom Hanks.
  • The visuals for the North Pole city are based on the architecture of the Pullman Plant, a company in Chicago, Illinois, Zemeckis' home town, that made railroad cars. The clock tower is based on the Pullman Factory's clock tower.
  • In the scene at the surveillance room, an elf describes a bad little boy in New Jersey named Steven who is terrorizing his two little sisters. This line is a nod to Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis' friend and mentor, who grew up in New Jersey and has admitted to have frequently terrorized his two younger sisters.


  • Some of the actors in The Polar Express were also in other films directed by Robert Zemeckis:
    • Tom Hanks had previously been in Forrest Gump in 1994 and Cast Away in 2000.
    • Eddie Deezen played Richard "Ringo" Klaus in I Wanna Hold Your Hand in 1978.
  • In the 2009 film A Christmas Carol, which was also directed by Zemeckis, the character Ebenezer Scrooge was based off of the Ebenezer Scrooge puppet from The Polar Express.
  • He was born in the same year as Michael Jeter, Jesse Conde, Mark Goodman, Gary Goetzman, and Mandy Patinkin.
  • He directed the film, Back to the Future, which was released in 1985, the same year when the book The Polar Express was published.
  • He first read Van Allsburg's book in its year of release and has read it to his son Alexander every year through Alexander's childhood.[1]
  • In the upcoming 2022 film Pinocchio, which will be directed by Zemeckis, one of the puppets in the Abandoned toy car was based off of the Pinocchio puppet from The Polar Express.
    • This will also be the fourth time that Tom Hanks has worked with Robert Zemeckis.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cotta Vaz, Mark. Starkey, Steve. (November 4, 2004) The Art of the Polar Express, Chronicle Books. p. 7 & 46. ISBN 978-0811846592.

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