On Christmas Eve in the late 1950s a young boy questions his belief in Santa Claus when he hears what sounds like a train outside. He investigates and discovers a locomotive named the "Polar Express." The conductor (Tom Hanks) tells him that the train is headed to the North Pole. At first initially refuses to board, but as the train leaves he gets on.Once aboard, the boy encounters other children, including a young girl (Nona Gaye) and a know-it-all (Eddie Deezen). The train stops again at another house for a young boy named Billy (Peter Scolari). Just like the protagonist, Billy at first refuses to get on, but as the train starts to leave he attempts to get on. However, he is not able to make it. The boy applies the emergency brake so Billy to board the train. When the children are given hot chocolate the girl hides some under her seat for Billy, she is caught trying to get to the car that Billy is in by the conductor, who then helps her make safe passage. The boy discovers that she left her ticket on the seat, which has not been punched. He attempts to give the girl the ticket but loses it in the wind while passing to the next carriage. The girl comes back to find her ticket missing and the boy guiltily tells the conductor that he actually lost it.Having no choice, the conductor takes the girl up to the train's roof. The protagonist finds that the ticket has miraculously flown back into the train, grabs it and climbs onto the train's roof to give the ticket to the girl but arrives to see the light of the conductor's lantern vanish in the darkness. He hikes across the train's roof until he meets a hobo, who claims to be the owner of The Polar Express and king of the North Pole. He pours him some coffee and the boy expresses his doubt that Santa exists. With that, the hobo replies that "seeing is believing." Afterwards, he helps him pursue the conductor and girl. They are forced to frantically ski down the train as it is driving to enter Flat Top Tunnel which the hobo claims has "only one inch of clearance on the roof". The boy hops in the engine as the hobo magically vanishes in the air.The boy finds that the girl is actually driving the train. She explains that Steamer, the engineer and Smokey, the fireman, are trying to fix the train's headlight, so the conductor is letting her control it in the meantime. Just as the light is fixed, they are advised to stop when a massive herd of caribou block the tracks. They restart their trip when the conductor gets the caribou to move by pulling Smokey's beard, making him communicate with the caribou. As a result, the train is able to continue but unfortunately, the conductor, boy, and girl are stuck in the front of the engine. The cotter pin of the throttle's mechanism slips off, causing the train to accelerate dangerously, forcing all three to hope for survival as the train descends Glacier Gulch. The train, after going down the gulch, lands on a 20-mile lake that has frozen over the railroad due to a flood. The ice begins to crack due to the lost cotter pin rolling off the train and piercing the ice. The conductor has the train slowed down after Smokey uses a back-up cotter pin which he was using as his hairpin to re-attach the throttle, but when seeing the cracking ice behind them, the conductor orders the train to full-speed and they make it back on the railroad just before the ice completely cracks apart.The train soon makes it to the North Pole in time where the children and several Christmas elves go to see Santa. However, both the protagonist and the girl find Billy alone in the observation car as he does not want to see Santa. While the two run back in an attempt to get him to come along with them, the protagonist accidentally steps on the uncoupling lever and the observation car speeds backwards. The three of them travel from section to section of the North Pole Industrial area to get back to the city square, with guidance from the girl who hears the bell sounds. They first visit the Control Center, then the Wrapping hall and finally a warehouse before they are airlifted via airship.Before long, they return to the city square and Santa appears. While his sleigh is being prepared, one of the bells falls off a harness during the saddling of the reindeer. The boy picks it up and shakes it after having remembered that the girl and Billy could hear a bell earlier when he could not. As before, he cannot hear it. The boy then says he believes in the spirit of Christmas and finally hears the bell. The boy is handpicked by Santa Claus to receive "The First Gift of Christmas". The boy then learns that he could choose anything in the world. The boy places the bell in his pocket, and all the children watch as Santa takes off for his yearly deliveries.As the children prepare to head home, the conductor takes their tickets and punches an individual message for each of them; the know-it-all should "learn", Billy should "depend", "count", "rely on" others, the girl should "lead", and the protagonist should "believe", respectively. Once on the train the boy discovers the bell is missing because of a hole in his pocket. He is saddened by the loss of his bell. But when Billy is dropped off home, his happiness returns as he sees Billy holding up his present at his doorway, meaning Santa has visited his house already. The protagonist then reaches home and the conductor wishes him a Merry Christmas, the kids look at him one final time, and the hobo appears on the train roof and waves goodbye to the boy just before vanishes again one final time.On Christmas morning, the protagonist's sister Sarah finds a small present hidden behind the Christmas tree after all the others have been unwrapped. The boy opens the present and discovers that it is the bell, which Santa had found on the seat of his sleigh (as said from the note). When the boy rings the bell, both he and Sarah marvel at its beautiful sound. However, their parents neither believe in Santa Claus nor the spirit of Christmas and do not hear it and remark it to be broken. In the film's last line, the boy, narrating decades later, recites the book's final line:"At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe."
- Ash Ketchum, Misty, Brock, Pikachu, Togepi, Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Petrie, Spike, SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star, Bloom, Stella, Flora, Musa, Tecna, Layla, Roxy, Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, Zazu, Terk, Tantor, Baloo, Bagheera, King Louie, the Vultures (Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy, and Dizzy), Jiminy Cricket, Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria, the Penguins of Madagascar (Skipper, Kolwalski, Rico, and Private), Genie, Louis, Roger Rabbit, Danny, Sawyer, Rex, Dweeb, Woog, Esla, Rapunzel, Pascal, Flynn Rider, Maximus, Jean-Bob, Speed, Puffin, Chanticleer, Wilbur the Albatross, Owen, Lindsay, Beth, Strawberry Shortcake and her friends, Danny Phantom, Sam Manson, Tucker Foley, Jazz Fenton, Danny, Sawyer, Jean-Bob, Speed, Puffin, Rex, Dweeb, Woog, Elsa, Rapunzel, Pascal, Flynn Rider, Maximus, Chanticleer, Wilbur the Albatross, Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, Junior Asparagus, Hercules, Megara, Philoctetes, Pegasus, Alice, Pocahontas, Meeko, Flit, Princess Aurora, Prince Phillip, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Rosetta, Silvermist, Idressa, Fawn, Oliver, Dodger, Lucky, Cadpig, Rolly, Spot the Chicken, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Tommy Pickles, Chuckie Finster, Simon, Theodore, Brittany, Huckle, Lowly, Woody Woodpecker, Ord, Cassie, Arthur Read Bobby, Cindy, Oliver, Millicent, Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Matthew, Dwayne, Steve, DJ, Stephanie, Michelle, Alex and Nicky, Teddy, Aaron, Denise, Derek, Harry, Rusty, Walter, Casper, Wendy, Kevin McCallister, CeCe, Rocky, Davis, Kelly, Lynn, Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm, Davey, Goliath, Tommy, Dil, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, Kimi, Angelica, Susie, Savannah, Nichole, Z, Doggie Howser, Cake, Miracle, Amy, Benjamin, Alex, Leah, Buffy, Jodi, Little Carbon Soldiers, Vada, Ryan, Noak, Thomas J., Mary Ann, Kaia, Jane, Gina, Teddy Bear, Jack B. Nibble, Little Bo Peep, Baa, Baa Sheep, Mary Quite Contrary, Eep Mouse, Gobo, Red, Mokey, Wembly, Boober, The Doozers, Pablo, Tyron, Tasha, Uniqua, Austin, Flynn, Gunther, Tinka, Leo Little, Carly, Sam, Freddie, Spencer, Kimmy Gibbler, Shirley Temple, Gibby, Daniel Cook, Emily Yeung, Gabriella, Gerald, May, Sid, Alvin, Simon, Theodore, Brittany, Jeanette, Elanor, Millie, Geo, Bot, Caillou, Leo, Sarah, Rosie, Clemintine, Julie, Andre, Jason, Jeffory, Jonus, Emma, Xavier, Billy, Gilbert, The All That Gang, Hannah Montana, Miley Stewart, Lilly, Lola, Oliver Oken, Mike Standley III, Jackson, Robby, Rico Suave, Malcolm, Mallory, Resse, Renee, Dewey, Daisy, Chyna Parks, Olive Doyle, Fletcher Quimby, Lexi Reed, Cameron Parks, Becky O'Shea, Junior Floyd, Jake Berman, Rudy Zolteck, Tad Simpson, Hanon, Murphy, Marcus, Timmy Moore, Nubie, Johnny Vennaro, Briggs, Patterson, Priscilla O'Shea, Debbis O'Shea, Calvin Cambridge, Murph, Ox, Marlon, Reg Stevens, Spanky, Stymie, Froggy, Porky, Buckwheat, Uh-Huh, Waldo, Mary-Anne, Jane Twin #1 & 2, Darla, Alfalfa, Tessie, Sharkboy, Lavagirl, Max, Linus, Marrisa, Nigel, Kyle, Mike, Mark, Jessica, Kimberly, Sarah, Jake, Henry, Lorraine, Cooper, Dylan Schenk, Quinn, Aldo, Ethan, Marrisa, Bina, Ely, Otter, Lau, Mick, Christina Beardsley, Harry Beardsley, Michael Beardsley, Kelly Beardsley, Phoebe, Naoko North, Joni North, Jimi North, Paisley Houndstooth, Darryl Parks, Roxanne Parks, Becky Murtaugh, Kenneth Murtaugh, Elliott Murtaugh, Daniel Murtaugh, Lisa Murtaugh, Robin Murtaugh, Bindi, Rosie, Matilda, Lavender, Bruce, Arena, Ben Hilton, Jamie, Max, Becca, Nicky, Jeannie, The Flash/Tony, Crispin, Dylan, Duncan, Sean, Tony's Brother, Juel, Erin, Twist, Kiki, Marina, Shout, Dragon, Alligator, Ostrich, Beaver, Cat, Mailmouse, Dennis Mitchell, Joey, Gina, Margaret, Gunther, Hector, Jessica, Lisa, Keith Watson, Marcus Barnes, Susan Evers, Sharon McKendrick, Sharon Ferris, Susan Carey, Hallie Parker, Annie James, Kady Jay Kyle, Franklin Aloyisious Mumford & Friends, Peter Pan, Wendy Darling, John Darling, Michael Darling, Slightly, Nibs, Curly, Twin #1 & 2, Tiger Lily, Tootles, Messenger Boy, Young Wendy, Young Skeeter, Madeline, Aggie, Victoria, Chantel, Lucinda, Serena, Sylvette, Veronica, Lolo, Julie, Beatrice, Taylor, Jackson C., Madeline Riggs, Morgan Riggs, Derek Venturi, Casey MacDonald, Richelle, Reese Ambler, Rydell, Becky, Kimberly, Dylan and their friends, Lizzie MacDonald, Edwin Venturi, Marti Venturi, Vicki, Truman French, Tina Kathleen Miller, Ramona, Beezus, Cory Baxter, Newton Livingston III, Meena Paroom, Sophia Martinez, Haley, Nat Wolff, Alex Wolff, Thomas, David, Qaasim, Cooper Pillot, Jesse Draper, Tanner Boyle, Ahmad Abdul Rahim, Amanda Wurlitzer, Engelberg, Jose Agilar, Regi Tower, Miguel Agilar, Kelly Leak, Ogilvie, John, Peter, Quinn, Jimmy Feldman, Rudi Stein, Tony Thompson, Rudolph Sackville-Bagg, Anna Sackville-Bagg, Gregory Sackville-Bagg, Timmy Lupus, Eric, Charlie, Nicole, Dena, Jared, Riley, Stacy, Kenny, Lauren, Anthony, Robin, Ana, Haylie, Ryan, Connie, Gloria, Flip, Devyn, Mickey, Richie, Annie, Jamal Jenkins, Lenni Frazier, Alex Fernández, Gaby Fernández, Tina Nguyen, Rob Baker, Héctor Carrero, Casey Austin, CeCe Jenkins, Greg, DJ, Malcolm, Daniel Cook, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, Kenny McCormick, Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria, King Julien, Maurice, Mort, Terk, Tantor, Taran, Princess Eilonwy, Fflewddur Fflam, Gurgi, Orddu, Orgoch, and Orwen, Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, Abu, Genie, Iago, Brer Rabbit, Jesse Greenwood, Elvis, Randolph Johnson, Nadine, Fievel Mousekewitz, Tiger, Tony Toponi, Tanya Mousekewitz, Yasha Mousekewitz, Papa Mousekewitz, Mama Mouskewitz, Ariel, Flounder, Sebastian, The Goonies (Mikey Walsh, Brand Walsh, Mouth Devereaux, Data Wang, Chunk Cohen, Andy Carmichael, Stef Steinbrenner, and Sloth Fratelli), Baloo, Bagheera, King Louie, Manny, Sid, Diego, Charlie Barkin, Itchy Itchiford, Sasha, Fu Dog, Kenai, Koda, Rutt and Tuke, Roger Rabbit, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey and Louie, Webby, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Resse, Ryndall, Robin Hood, Little John, Wilbur the Albatross, Mrs. Brisby, Jeremy the Crow, Jean-Bob, Speed, Puffin, Ttark, Woody Woodpecker, Slimer, Stay Puft, Toaster, Lampy, Radio, Blanky, Kirby, Jimmy Neutron, Carl Wheezer, Sheen, Cindy Vortex, Libby, The Muppets (Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Rowlf the Dog, Scooter, The Eletric Mayhem, Rizzo the Rat, and Walter), Fred Flintstone, Wilma Flintstone, Pebbles Flintstone, Dino, Barney Rubble, Betty Rubble, Bamm-Bamm Rubble, George Jetson, Jane Jetson, Judy Jetson, Elroy Jetson, Astro, Rosie the Robot, Mr. Spacely, Yogi Bear, Boo-Boo Bear, Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, Wally Gator, Magilla Gorilla, Top Cat, Peter Potamus, Scooby-Doo, Shaggy Rogers, Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, Scrappy-Doo, Rex, Woog, Elsa, Dweeb, Jack Skellington, Blake Foster's Adventures Team, and the rest of the characters are back will guest star in this film.