||Director Robert Zemeckis revolutionized the art of animated film in 1998's WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT by dropping cartoon characters into the same frame with flesh-and-blood actors. In THE POLAR EXPRESS, live action and animation have merged seamlessly, resulting in sparkling super-realism. A landmark technique Zemeckis and his Sony Pictures Imageworks team call "Performance Capture" perfectly suits the tenor of this wondrous children's Christmas story by Chris Van Allsburg. A disillusioned little boy, just old enough to doubt the existence of Santa Claus, has the adventure of a lifetime one fateful Christmas Eve. Clad in his pajamas, he climbs aboard a magic train to the North Pole, driven by a kindly train conductor (voiced by Tom Hanks who starred in both of Zemeckis's Academy-Award winning films FORREST GUMP and CASTAWAY). Among myriad jaw-dropping moments, the train plummets brakeless through crystalline mountains in a simulated roller coaster ride. Going off the rails, skidding sideways, and snaking violently across a frozen lake, the train arrives at the North Pole (a vast, glowing city of brick buildings). At that moment, the car carrying the kids detaches and they're sent tumbling down never-ending chutes and slides until they land in the middle of Santa's Workshop. With its fascinating tale and impressive technical frolics, THE POLAR EXPRESS is destined to become both a holiday classic and a new turning point in the art of animated cinema.