The Polar Express Experience is a Motion Simulation ride based on the film which debuted in November 2007 at SeaWorld Orlando as a temporary replacement for the Wild Arctic attraction and closed on January 1, 2008. After then, it re-opened annually during the Christmas season until 2015. The building which housed the attraction was also re-themed into a railroad station with ride vehicles resembling the passenger cars.
Scenes from the film are projected on a screen to tell the film's plot. Guests feel the motion of the locomotive, including it swinging as it glides across the Ice Lake and falling as the ice cracks beneath. After the ride, guests walk to the North Pole (usually at Base Station Wild Arctica) where they can meet Santa Claus. The big Christmas tree is also seen.
The 4D film, distributed by SimEx-Iwerks, has been shown at other amusement parks around the world, including the cincinatti Zoo and Botanical Garden, Dollywood, the Vancouver Aquarium from 2009 to 2010, and Warner Bros. Movie World in 2010 and 2011.
Differences from the film
Due to being cut to ten minutes, several scenes from the film are cut or rearranged for the attraction:
- A lot of the soundtrack is rearranged.
- Some changes make the attraction more similar to the book:
- Billy, Know-It-All, the Hobo and the caribou are absent.
- The train approaches Hero Boy's house shortly after the narrator reads the opening line.
- The Conductor telling Hero Boy why the train stopped for him is omitted.
- The scenes in the abandoned toy car and with "When Christmas Comes to Town" are cut.
- The processional at the Square starts as soon as the train arrives.
- After Hero Boy gets on the train, it cuts straight to the Conductor punching his ticket.
- The train stopping at Billy's house and Hero Boy pulling the emergency brake is cut, but the train is still unexplainedly shown stopped at one point with the Conductor getting angry about being late.
- Parts of the journey of Hero Girl's ticket are shown, but not it being blown out of Hero Boy's hand or returning to the train.
- Hero Boy is on the roof of the train is removed, though the train is still shown going through Flat Top Tunnel)
- While Smokey and Steamer fix the locomotive's headlamp, Smokey catches site of Glacier Gulch instead of the caribou.
- Since the caribou scene is cut, it is unexplained why the Conductor, Hero Boy and Hero Girl are at the front of the locomotive.
- The timing of how the scenes are edited makes it appear the Conductor, Hero Boy, Hero Girl, Smokey, and Steamer are all at the front of the locomotive at the same time, leaving no one to drive the train.
- Since Smokey and Steamer are at the front of the locomotive, the Conductor does not mention having lost communication with the engineer.
- Smokey and Steamer seemed to have returned to the engine room sometime on Glacier Gulch or the Ice Lake.
- The cotter pin never gets loose from the throttle, so Steamer is able to stop the train right when they end up on the Ice Lake. However, the ice still cracks despite there being no pin to pierce it.
- The Conductor does not say, "Jiminy Christmas, the ice is frozen over the tracks!"
- Hero Girl's ticket is briefly seen while the train is exiting the Ice Lake, but it is not shown blowing out of Hero Boy's slipper with he and Hero Girl trying to catch it.
- When the train arrives at the North Pole, the children do not ask about the lack of elves.
- Santa declares the silver bell the first gift of Christmas right after Hero Boy picks it up from the ground and hands it to him.
- The attraction ends with the narrator reading the closing line while the train is leaving the North Pole, meaning the events occurring after that are removed.