I enjoy most animations but the film Polar Express just made me so uncomfortable that I couldn't get past the first 10 minutes. It's just plain creepy. I have no issues with Shrek, Toy Story, Robots Sharks Tale and other animations. But this film just made me feel out of place.

  • I agree, creepy, we were just talking about this tonight
    – user7309
    Dec 25, 2013 at 2:52
  • Might be we know many many children that will never have a Christmas, so why is Santa made to be so believable? I still believe, even though I'm a grandma. This film made me feel uncomfortable also. Who knows why?
    – user8174
    Feb 22, 2014 at 3:14
  • The attempted realism was creepy indeed but what I thought was even creepier is 1) the vinyl record was playing Christmas music at the elves homes, as if Christmas was faked or something bad was going to happen, 2) when the elf said "Trust me", he used a tone that in reality we would have thought to not trust him, 3) Santa was glowing and speaking in a creepy way. And what about the guy on top of the train? I certainly wouldn't want my child to trust anything from that guy, yet he was a good guy. Just a creepy movie. May 29, 2015 at 5:29

3 Answers 3


It may be that you have fallen for the classic effect called the Uncanny Valley.

The reason those humans seem creepy to you is that they indeed look pretty much like real humans and not like exaggerated caricatures of humans usually seen in other animated movies. This first sounds rather paradox, but when looking at arbitrary animated creatures (like toys, talking animals or even artistically distorted humans) you don't care if they don't behave exactly like humans. But because the figures in the Polar Express look so much like real humans you realize even slight divergence from human behaviour much more. So the more realistic and human-like a figure looks, the more you expect it to behave exactly like a real human, and if it then doesn't, it feels kind of creepy to you.

This is kind of a subconcious process. You first see some pretty well visualized humans and instinctively think they are humans but then you realize they behave somehow strangely and inhuman and that difference in realism between visual appearance and animated behaviour is what makes you feel creepy. The linked Wikipedia article may provide some more theoretical insight into this effect (in fact it even lists the Polar Express as an example).

  • Thats a big Bingo, thanks, they even mentioned Polar Express in the article. As there were previous animations made were people felt this I'm suprised they still make them Or maybe me being older has something to do with it.
    – user4371
    Mar 20, 2013 at 0:26
  • @Doogfar I guess they just thought they could get it realistic enough using motion capture techniques. Haven't seen it, though. But for example I for myself didn't have any problem with the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, maybe because its humans looked nearly perfectly realistic in contrast to the still slightly artistic humans from the Polar Express (or it may be just me not being that sensitive to the uncanny ;)).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Mar 20, 2013 at 0:36
  • Final Fantasy also freaked me but Bewulf didn't
    – user4371
    Mar 20, 2013 at 0:42

That may be the case because Polar Express is made using motion capture Technique, Which is not used in Shrek, Toy story etc. Motion capture techniques are generally used to present real emotions or live movements. Or may be the case that its animation is not made that playful as Toy Story or Shrek to make it more realistic. In general, Polar Express got good appreciation with mixed reviews but it received a cult following.

So it made this way on purpose and I think it's done to make it feel realistic.

  • 1
    Yes that's the reason, thanks for that, as evidenced by this youtube youtube.com/watch?v=nhvu6o0yyAo where I can see the actor and the motion capture result. Yet the question is, why does it make me feel queezy. I know its not only me as others have commented on this as well.
    – user4371
    Mar 20, 2013 at 0:09

Uhm. How about some of the action was a little terrifying for kids and some adults. (The close calls falling off the train, the Eller coaster ride, the breaking ice,etc) not to mention the creepy,prison escapee type elves.

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