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A Creepy Christmas Cartoon Character Comes to Life

“Oh my God! You’re the girl from ‘The Polar Express,’” a tourist yelled at Nia Wilkerson.

Dressed in a pink nightgown, Ms. Wilkerson was dancing in front of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan for a TikTok video.

Over the course of the next two hours on Monday afternoon, dozens more people stopped and stared. Many of them filmed her from afar or asked to take selfies with her.

“Wait, are you really the girl from the movie?” a passer-by asked.

The answer to that question is no. Ms. Wilkerson, a senior at St. John’s University in Queens, was 3 years old in 2004, when “The Polar Express” was released.

The movie, a box office hit directed by Robert Zemeckis that was based on a children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, has long drawn criticism because of its brand of motion-capture animation, which gives its characters an eerie, zombified look.

Hero Girl in a scene from “The Polar Express,” a 2004 movie made with motion-capture animation that has been criticized for the odd look of its characters.

Ms. Wilkerson, 22, said that ever since she was an elementary school student in Woodbridge, Va., people had been telling her she looks like Hero Girl, a character in the film who is also known as Holly. Later, a high school crush pointed out the resemblance.

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