Normally sequels come out come out just a few years after their predecessors, but every now and then a follow-up to a major movie will arrive decades later. Examples from recent years include Blade Runner 2049 being released 35 years after Blade Runner, and next year’s Beetlejuice 2 arriving 38 years after Beetlejuice. Well, evidently we can now count The Polar Express 2 in this group, as it’s currently being “worked out,” and I’m truly baffled by this news.
Based on the same-named book by Chris Van Allsburg published in 1985, The Polar Express film adaptation came out in 2004, with Robert Zemeckis both directing and co-writing the script with William Broyles Jr. There are some cool behind-the-scenes facts about The Polar Express, and nowadays it’s considered one of the best animated Christmas movies. Surprisingly though, producer Gary Goetzman has revealed that he and Tom Hanks, who played multiple roles in The Polar Express, have been mulling making a sequel. Here’s what he had to say about that and other potential sequels on his mind:
Listen, I'd love to. I'd love to do a sequel of Where The Wild Things Are. There's a lot of the things that we've done, if it established itself, branded itself, those movies, studios want another one. That's the way it goes. I'm up for Mamma Mia 3, man. That would be a ball to do right about now. But it becomes, there's so much involved with, 'Who's artistic property would that be? Would that be?' It's just not like, 'Hey, let's go do another free sailing! So, they all take time and that's okay because we don't mind things going slowly. But that is trying to be worked out now, for sure, Polar 2. Yes.
Goetzman shared this information while speaking with Comicbook about Masters of the Air, the World War II miniseries debuting to Apple TV+ subscribers later this month. Clearly The Polar Express 2 is far from being a done deal, but it sounds like at least a little progress has been made on that front. So I have just one question: why?
First off, one of the main reasons The Polar Express still stands out after all this time was it was made through a combination of live-action performances and motion capture computer animation. It was a major feat of filmmaking when the movie came out in 2004, but let’s be honest, the animation hasn’t really held up after two decades. There’s way too much uncanny valley on display (maybe it even scared you as a kid), and while motion capture has certainly come a long way since then, is a Polar Express sequel the kind of project that’s worth displaying such strides?
More importantly though, The Polar Express isn’t the kind of story that lends itself organically to a sequel. At the end of the movie, the main protagonist, played by Daryl Samara, wakes up Christmas morning and discovers the bell he lost at the North Pole has been left for him as a gift, securing his belief in Santa Claus for the rest of his life while others would eventually stop hearing its chime. Where else can things go from here? Would we follow along with the protagonist’s son? If so, how would that kid’s journey heavily differ from what his father went through?
This boils down to me wondering why The Polar Express 2 needs to be made beyond it just being of interest to Gary Goetzman and Tom Hanks. To be sure, if those two are keen on making it happen and can surmount those particular obstacles the producer alluded to, then I’m sure the sequel could see the light of day within the coming years. But The Polar Express has already cemented itself as a classic Christmas movie in many households, and I doubt that a sequel can come close to anywhere close to reaching the same level of acclaim.
Still, if The Polar Express 2 does officially get greenlit someday, we’ll let you know about it. Meanwhile, look through the 2024 release schedule to learn what Christmas movies are set to arrive later this year.