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In the classic The Polar Express (2004), there is a scene where the "Hero Boy" is confronted by a scary puppet of Ebenezer Scrooge. While he is deeply scared, it is later revealed that the puppet is not sentient and evil, but just the Hobo messing with him. Yet after this, the kid still runs away in a scary, horror sequence as the puppet keeps screaming at him. Why does the kid freak out and run away, despite the fact that it is merely the Hobo?

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It's not clearly told, but it's a kind of fear children have, not as common as many others, but yet...

Who hasn't seen a kid afraid of a parent making a scary (or even) funny face, and keeping that fear after it's over? It's not rational but many health professional have been studying it:

  1. Helping Kids Get Over their Fears
  2. Your Fear of Dolls is Totally Normal, According to a Psychologist
  3. Pediophobia: The Fear of Dolls

It's also discussed on parenting.se: Why is my toddler afraid of talking puppets?

To me, it's just a fear some kids have, and the one in the movie isn't that different from a kid having fears. Once you've been scared, no matter what happens next, you may still be afraid of the same thing, even if it looks nice. That fear of the scrooge may not be part of the plot/story, but just a "normal" behaviour for a kid.

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The fear had two separate components here. First, puppets are scary because of their uncanny features: resembling but not resembling humans, moving without being alive, etc. Even if they are known to be puppets , they can frighten. More importantly for the plot: the protagonist is fearful of the Scrooge puppet performance because Scrooge represents the protagonist’s own denial of Christmas. The protagonist fears he is like Scrooge.

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