The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)

phantom tollbooth poster 1970 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Chuck Jones art

Too deep for kids, too light for adults

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Phantom Tollbooth

Studio:  MGM

Genre(s):  Animated/Family/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  November 7, 1970

MPAA Rating: G


Does my EZ Pass work on this tollbooth?

Milo (Butch Patrick) lives in his home in San Francisco heading to and from school and talking to his friend Ralph.  When a special delivery of a magical tollbooth arrives at his home without warning, Milo finds himself sucked into a magical world.  Teamed with Tock (the watchdog) and the Humbug, Milo finds he must reach the Castle in the Sky and liberate Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason save the Kingdom of Wisdom.

Directed by Chuck Jones, Abe Levitow and Dave Monahan, The Phantom Tollbooth adapts the classic 1961 children’s novel by Norton Juster.  The movie featured art by Looney Tunes’ artist Chuck Jones who also served as director and faced release problems 1968 release date.  The movie floundered at the box office, but received mostly positive reviews from critics.


Suddenly Tock and Milo learned the importance of seatbelts as they flew through the windshield…

I never read The Phantom Tollbooth.  It is the type of book I liked growing up as a kid, but for some reason I never sat down with it.  The film for years wasn’t readily available.  Coming across the movie, I decided to check it out…but I found I didn’t love it.

The movie is marked and produced like a children’s film, but it doesn’t feel like a child would enjoy it very much.  The movie’s script mostly plays with puns and many of them would go over the heads of kids.  As an adult, the puns are bit childish and not as entertaining as a film for adults.

The movie “stars” Butch Patrick known for Eddie Munster of The Munsters.  The movie features live action bookend sequences.  Butch Patrick provides the voice for his animated character and the movie features vocal work by Mel Blanc.  It creates a weird feel since many of the characters look like Looney Tunes characters and Blanc’s standard Looney Tunes voices.


Hey princesses…do you validate parking?

The art for the film is quite strong due to the Looney Tunes connection.  I could imagine nowadays the movie being drawn much more surreal in style, but the art does work here.  The pacing and design however remind me more of Jones’ work on How the Grinch Stole Christmas more than his Looney Tunes work.

The Phantom Tollbooth isn’t my favorite movie, but it has moments.  I don’t see children loving this movie, but I would recommend the novel which has shown its staying power.  I wish that it had been more of a mix between reality and animation (along the lines of Mary Poppins or Bedknobs and Broomsticks).  The Phantom Tollbooth is fun, but it could have been better.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

One Comment on "The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)"

  1. gideon December 16, 2016 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    the book was really good and the movie was too. Five stars.

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