Documentary celebrates 50 years of The Phantom Tollbooth


Now an incredible 50 years old, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer is one of those books that pretty much everyone likes. (And that Chuck Jones film adaptation ain’t too shabby either.) You probably encountered it in grade school, or maybe a friend or relative whose life changed because of The Phantom Tollbooth lent it to you and then you fell in love with it. In honor of its half-century of awesomeness, some filmmakers are working on a documentary to celebrate the beloved book. (They have a Kickstarter going to help raise money to complete the film, and they’re already at 144% of their goal.)

For those unfamiliar with The Phantom Tollbooth, the story involves a listless little boy named Milo who is whisked off into a magical, pun-filled world where you can eat half-baked ideas, meet a floating boy who grows down (until his feet touch the ground) rather than growing up, and befriend a watchdog with an actual watch in him. Somehow, Milo must reconcile the Kingdom of Wisdom — the word realm of Dictionopolis and the number realm of Digitopolis — by locating Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason.

After the jump is a little trailer/snippet of footage from the documentary. More info about the project can be found at the documentary’s official website.

[Via io9]

As more and more of my friends are having kids, I’ve been giving them the gift of The Phantom Tollbooth if they don’t have their own old copy already.

The book reminds me, among other things, of a great date couple years ago. We walked around La Jolla all afternoon talking about old movies and writers and Bill Cosby records, and over dinner she and I talked about stuff we liked from our childhoods. When I brought up The Phantom Tollbooth, her eyes lit up and a her lips curled into a mischievous tilde. In the snappy, screwball delivery of a young Katherine Hepburn, she said, “Oh, you mean that lovely book with the watchdog named Tock who goes ‘tick-tick-tick-tick-tick’ and his brother Tick who goes ‘tock-tock-tock-tock-tock’?” Something in that moment made her even more attractive, even smarter, and I can still recall that machine gun click of her tongue and teeth as she mimicked the sounds of seconds passing. We drew a little closer as we finished the rest of that overpriced Indian food, the light through the restaurant window going from pink and orange to blue.

I share that odd anecdote because The Phantom Tollbooth is not just a book you can fall in love with — The Phantom Tollbooth is a book that you can fall in love to.

Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.