Friday, May 27, 2016

The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)

Milo, a bored rich kid, sits on the phone talking about how bored he is with his bored friend, when he notices a giant present for him in the other room. He pulls a lever and it turns into a tollbooth. With nothing better to do, he climbs into a toy car and drives into an animated world of adventure.

There he learns how the kingdom of letters (Dictionopolis) is feuding with the kingdom of numbers (Digitopolis), He travels to the Castle in the Air to rescue the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason. Along the way he meets a watchdog named Tick Tock, a “Whether” Man, a Spelling Bee, Faintly Macabre the “Which”, and a Mathemagician. Get the theme here?

Butch Patrick, you know, Eddie Munster, plays young Milo. The animated world contains a who’s who of 50’s and 60’s voice over actors, including Daws Butler, Hans Conried, June Foray, and of course Mel Blanc.

Finally Chuck Jones got the chance to do a feature film, and because of studio financial troubles it took forever to be released and wasn’t promoted. It’s no surprise that it wasn’t a success. He never got another opportunity.

The Phantom Tollbooth combines life lessons, amusing wordplay, and adventure. Maybe it has so many elements that it becomes muddled. Various characters and situations would benefit from more development and screen time. I can imagine a half hour TV series exploring every nook and cranny of this imaginative world. A big Chuck Jones fan, I was very happy to find this film, and enjoyed it. But maybe from high expectations, or from troubled production, I’m left feeling it falls short of great. AMRU 3.5.
“Time is a gift, given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life.”

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