Taking Away 'Polar Express'steam Warner Bros. Checks Suburban Santa's List for Unlicensed Rides

Article excerpt

Byline: Eric Peterson epeterson@dailyherald.com By Eric Peterson epeterson@dailyherald.com

Many suburban park districts have made book- and movie-inspired "Polar Express" train rides an annual holiday tradition for local children, but for the most part they have been overlooking Warner Bros.' cut of the action.

Enforcing the licensing of the "Polar Express" name everywhere isn't the easiest of tasks for Warner Bros. Entertainment's anti-piracy department. But a comprehensive website of Northern Illinois Santa events compiled by one Streamwood-based Santa made it a lot easier to locate Chicago-area culprits this year.

Veteran Santa John Sullivan said it's an unintended consequence of his desire five years ago to create a comprehensive list of Santa appearances at [URL]santainchicago.com;http://www.santainchicago.com/[/URL] as a way of making his website distinctive.

Park districts listed on his site for "Polar Express" events have been recently receiving letters from Warner Bros. Entertainment asking them either to license future events through its agent at Colorado-based Rail Events Inc. or to make substantive changes to their programs.

Many of these park districts have been holding these events on nearby train lines for years, even before the website existed.

"Now Scrooge has come along," said Sullivan, who's been playing Santa for 23 years since serving as an understudy at Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles.

Sullivan said he got a call from Rail Events Inc. earlier this year asking him about his list of park district-run "Polar Express" events. His site lists 67 events with "Polar Express" in the name.

"They said they'd seen my website and they felt a lot of the people using the 'Polar Express' name didn't have the right to it," Sullivan said. "I'm kind of surprised by it because this is doing the book and the movie a lot of good. It's keeping them alive."

The Arlington Heights Park District is among the agencies that received a letter from Warner Bros. …