The Phantom Tollbooth (film)

The Phantom Tollbooth

Theatrical Poster
Directed by
Produced by Chuck Jones
Screenplay by
Based on The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster
Music by Dean Elliott
Cinematography Lester Shorr
Edited by William Faris
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • November 7, 1970 (1970-11-07)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Phantom Tollbooth, also known as The Adventures of Milo in the Phantom Tollbooth, is a 1970 live-action/animated film based on Norton Juster's 1961 children's book The Phantom Tollbooth. This film was produced by Chuck Jones at MGM Animation/Visual Arts and stars Butch Patrick as Milo with the voice talents of Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, Candy Candido, Hans Conried, June Foray, Patti Gilbert, Shepard Menken, Cliff Norton, Larry Thor, and Les Tremayne. Jones also directed the film, save for the live action bookends directed by fellow Warner Bros. Cartoons alum Dave Monahan. The film was released to theaters by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on November 7, 1970, and was the last MGM feature film release to include both live-action and animated segments. MGM's United Artists subsidiary would release its first fully animated film The Secret of NIMH in 1982.

Completed by 1968, the film was held up for release by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer until late 1970 due to internal problems. The animation studio closed soon after the film's release, with MGM leaving the animation business for good. Juster had no input into the adaptation, and has expressed his hatred for the film in an interview: "It was a film I never liked. I don't think they did a good job on it. It's been around for a long time. It was well reviewed, which also made me angry."[1]


Milo, a bored, lonely boy who lives in a San Francisco apartment block, is surprised by the sudden arrival of a large, gift-wrapped package. Inside is a tollbooth, which turns out to be a gateway into a magical parallel universe. As Milo passes through the tollbooth, the character moves from live action to animation, and his toy car transports him to the enchanted Kingdom of Wisdom in the Lands Beyond, and the cities of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis.

Accompanied by Tock, a "watchdog" who actually has a large pocketwatch in his body, Milo has a series of adventures in places like the Mountains of Ignorance, the Doldrums, Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, and the Castle in the Air. Together they must rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason, who are being held captive in the Castle in the Air, and restore order to the Kingdom of Wisdom. The many eccentric characters they meet include the Whether Man, the Humbug, the Spelling Bee, the noisy Dr. Kakofonous A. Dischord, King Azaz the Unabridged, the Mathemagician, the Senses Taker, and Officer Short Shrift as well as demons like Demon of Insincerity, the Terrible Trivium, and the Gelatinous Giant.



Home release

The film was released in VHS, Betamax, CED, and LaserDisc formats in 1980s by MGM/UA Home Video. In 2011 it was released in a remastered DVD edition by Warner Archive Collection.[2] The DVD is matted in similar manner as the Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry collection.


Music by Lee Pockriss; lyrics by Norman Gimbel unless otherwise noted.[3]

Differences between the book and the film

The following characters appear in the book and not in the film:

The only original character in the film is the Hideous Two-Faced Hypocrite.


The film was not a box office hit.[4] Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 100% of eight surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 7.2/10.[5] Time Out Paris wrote that the story has "too many lessons" but "some very nice ideas".[6] TV Guide rated it 3/4 stars and described it as "a charming film that combines some fairly sophisticated ideas [...] with cute and likable characters that are sure to grab a child's attention".[7] Tom Hutchinson of the Radio Times rated it 4/5 stars and wrote that the film has "wonderful ideas", but they are "likely to be a bit above the heads of very young children".[8]


In February 2010, director Gary Ross began development of a remake of The Phantom Tollbooth for Warner Bros., the current owner of the film. Alex Tse wrote the first draft.[9]

See also


  1. Stone, RoseEtta. "An Interview with Norton Juster, Author of The Phantom Tollbooth". Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children's Books: The Purple Crayon. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  2. "The Phantom Tollbooth". Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 "The Phantom Tollbooth Soundtracks". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  4. Natale, Richard (23 February 2002). "Chuck Jones, 89, dies". Variety. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  5. "The Phantom Tollbooth (1969)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  6. "The Phantom Tollbooth". Time Out Paris. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  7. "The Phantom Tollbooth". TV Guide. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  8. Hutchinson, Tom. "The Phantom Tollbooth". Radio Times. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  9. Billington, Alex (February 17, 2010). "Gary Ross Bringing Phantom Tollbooth Back to the Big Screen". First Showing, LLC. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
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