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Santa Claus is a kind old man that gives presents to children every Christmas Eve that they open on Christmas Day. He also picks one of the children who rode the Polar Express to the North Pole to receive the first gift of Christmas, which can be anything of their choice.

Role in the book

Shortly after the children get off the Polar Express, Santa shows up and everyone cheers. He goes to the children and chooses Hero Boy to receive the first gift of Christmas. Hero Boy, sitting on Santa's knee in his sleigh, asks for one of the silver bells from the sleigh, since he enjoys the beautiful sound they make, so Santa asks an elf to cut off one of the bells. The elf tosses it to him and he holds it up, declaring it the first gift of Christmas. At that moment, the clock strikes midnight, so Hero Boy is given the bell and exits the sleigh, then Santa flies off to give presents to children all over the world.

Sometime during the journey, he finds the silver bell in his sleigh, which had fallen through the hole in Hero Boy's pocket. He puts the bell in a present box with a note explaining what happened and advising Hero Boy to fix that hole in his pocket.

Role in the film

At the North Pole Square, the children, Conductor, and elves wait for Santa's arrival. When he arrives, the elves stack on each other, preventing Hero Boy from seeing him. When the reindeer cheer, one of their silver bells comes loose and lands in front of Hero Boy. He picks it up and, after telling himself, "I believe," rings it and hears its sound. Santa overhears and Hero Boy gives the bell to him, saying he believes it is his. After that, he talks to the children, telling Know-It-All to be patient waiting for the announcement and show some humility, then congratulating Hero Girl for her confidence and Christmas spirit and Billy for making new friends.

Santa announces Hero Boy as the one to receive the first gift. In the sleigh, Hero Boy whispers into Santa's ear that he wants the silver bell. Santa holds up the bell and declares it the first gift of Christmas, then gives it to Hero Boy, saying it is as good of a symbol of Christmas as himself and advising him to keep it in a safe place. Next, the clock strikes midnight, so Hero Boy leaves the sleigh and Santa goes to make his deliveries.

Later, he finds the silver bell in his sleigh and puts it in a present box (with the same design as Billy's present) with a note advising Hero Boy to fix the hole in his pocket. He delivers Billy's present sometime before Billy is dropped off at his house, but does not arrive at Hero Boy's house before Hero Boy.

Santa is mentioned in the songs, "When Christmas Comes to Town", "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town", "Silver Bells", and "Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)".

Behind the scenes

Chris Van Allsburg based the appearance of Santa Claus in his book on writer David Macaulay.[2]

Tom Hanks' first brought the book to the attention Robert Zemeckis in 1999 in hopes of playing the Conductor and Santa Claus.[3][4]

Santa Claus' animation in the film was done through motion-capture, like most human characters in the film, provided by Tom Hanks, who also did the voice. However, some keyframe-animation done to perfect his movements.[5] While playing the role, he intended his portrayal of Santa to be mostly how the public generally perceives him, but with a bit of mistery.[3] Hanks would help imagine himself as his characters by wearing different shoes for each role, including a specific pair of boots for Santa, as the actors did not wear costumes on set.[3] Whenever Santa would interact with another one of Hanks' characters, a stand-in who did not wear motion-capture suit would fill in, then Tom would switch to the other character.[6]

While designing Santa's outfit, Joanna Johnston was inspired by people of the Great North.[3]

International languages

Language Name Voice actor(s)
Chinese 聖誕老人 徐健春
Danish Julemanden Nis Bank-Mikkelsen
Dutch De Kerstman Frans Limburg
Finnish Joulupukki Sasu Moilanen
French Le Père Noël Jean-Philippe Puymartin
German Weihnachtsmann Roland Hemmo
Hebrew סנטה קלאוס Ohad Shahar
Hungarian A Mikulás János Bácskai
Italian Babbo Natale Francesco Pannofino
Japanese サンタクロース Toshiaki Karasawa
Korean 산타클로스 Um Sang-hyun
Polish Święty Mikołaj Adam Ferency
Portuguese Pai Natal Diogo Infante (Portugal)
Romanian Moș Crăciun Ion Abrudan
Russian Santa Klaus Aleksandr Filippenko
Spanish Papá Noel Armando Rendíz (Latin America)
Jordi Brau (Spain)
Swedish Jultomten Roger Storm


  • "Young man, patience. And a smidgen of humility might also serve you well."
  • "Lucky lad. There's no greater gift than friendship."
  • "Let's have this young fellow right here."
  • "Now, what would you like for Christmas?"
  • "Yes. Indeed. Yes, indeed!"
  • "The first gift of Christmas!"
  • "This bell is a wonder symbol of the spirit of Christmas as am I. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart."
  • "Better keep that in a safe place."
  • "Found this on the seat of my sleigh. Better fix that hole in your pocket. -Mr. C."


  • Santa's appearance in the film differs from that in the book.
    • His beard is a bit shorter and less curly in the book.
    • His coat and hat in the book have less fur.



  1. "PE-Full-Kit.pdf" (PDF). p. 27
  2. "A Conversation with Chris Van Allsburg by Anita Silvey".
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Cotta Vaz, Mark. Starkey, Steve. (November 4, 2004) The Art of the Polar Express, Chronicle Books. p. 8-10, 28, 133-134. ISBN 978-0811846592.
  4. "Riding the Polar Express" Wired.
  5. Schaub, David (February 15, 2005). "'The Polar Express' Diary: Part 2 -- Performance Capture & the MoCap/Anim Process". Animation World Network.
  6. Behind The Scenes with Tom Hanks (timestamp 3:14)

External links

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