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Village Says Studio Nixed Naming Holiday Event ‘Polar Express’

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Talk about a big Bah, Humbug.

A giant Hollywood movie studio is putting the hammer down on Christmas events that use the name “Polar Express.”

It’s happening in Deerfield after the village got a letter from Warner Bros.–telling them that using the phrase is damaging to their business.

“It really made me upset,” said Jennifer Warren. “It’s a holiday tradition and I hate to see people take that away from children.”

Warren is outraged that Warner Bros. is telling park districts and organizations to stop using the “Polar Express” name for their holiday family train rides and events.

“Polar Express” is not just the name of a book, but a Warner Bros. movie too.

The rides are a tradition for Warren’s 4-year-old son, Anthony.

“I was really sad,” she said. “I felt like they are being a big Grinch!”

The Deerfield Park District has been hosting “Polar Express” train rides since 1998.

This year is going to be different. It’s going to be called Candy Cane Train.

“Yes it is,” said Ginny Wiemerslage of the Deerfield Park District. “We changed the name upon request from Warner Brothers.”

For more than a decade, children have boarded a Metra train at the Deerfield stop and headed downtown.

On the way, they meet Frosty, Mrs. Claus and Santa.

Speaking of Santa, John Sullivan runs the website santainchicago.com.

His site has a page listing all of the “Polar Express” events in Chicago.

Sullivan says more than 60 local places use the “Polar Express” name for their events.

Nationwide, he says there are probably thousands more.

“It’s about money,” Sullivan said.

“This is wrong. They should have really thought this through. They picked the worst time of the year to do this.”

For its part, Warner Bros. said in a statement that it wants to work with event planners to reach a deal that would allow them to use the “Polar Express” name.

“We cherish the fact that fans and families around the country consider both The Polar Express film and book a part of their holiday tradition. Through our partner, Rail Events, we are able to extend this holiday experience with themed train rides based on the film and story. We are hopeful that we will be able to work with the park districts to transition their events to our official partner. In the spirit of the season, we are happy to allow this year’s previously planned events to move forward full steam ahead.”

That would likely involve paying licensing fees–something that many public organizations would not be able to afford.

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