After years of honing his skills on such characters as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Chuck Jones decided to turn his directorial skills towards his first feature film, The Phantom Tollbooth. Based on the popular 1961 children’s book, written by Norman Juster, the 1970 film combined live-action and animation to weave this fanciful tale, the first animated feature film ever released by Warner Brothers.
Milo is young and very bored lad living in San Francisco until a toy car and tollbooth mysteriously appear in his bedroom. Looking for a little excitement in his otherwise mundane existence, Milo decided to run the car through the tollbooth, and this act morphs him into a cartoon character and transports him into an animated world.
In his new surroundings, The Kingdom of Wisdom, Milo is befriended by Tock – a friendly watchdog who informs him of an ongoing war between the cities of Dictionopolis (where words reign supreme) and Digitopolis (where numbers are king.) Milo sets out to rescue the princesses, Rhyme and Reason from the Mountain of Ignorance, in an attempt to put an end to the war – and learns a few lessons along his journey.
Jones called upon some of the most legendary voice talents in the industry to lend a hand with The Phantom Tollbooth including Daws Butler, June Foray, and, of course, Mel Blanc. The role of Milo went to everyone’s favorite little Munster, Butch Patrick.
While the film remained mostly true to the original story, Juster was not particularly fond of the result and Warner Brothers closed their animation studio shortly after its release. Audiences weren’t quite sure what to make of all this educational stuff either but The Phantom Tollbooth retains a respectable following of fans to this day.
If you count yourself among them, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your memories of The Phantom Tollbooth with us in our comments section.