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The Phantom Tollbooth, also known as The Adventures of Milo in the Phantom Tollbooth, is a 1970 American live-action/animated film based on Norton Juster's 1961 children's book The Phantom Tollbooth.
Milo, a bored boy who lives in a San Francisco apartment block, is surprised by a large, gift-wrapped package that has appeared in his room. The package turns out to be a tollbooth which is a gateway into a magical parallel universe. As Milo uses the tollbooth's toy car to pass through the tollbooth, the character moves from live action to animation, and after getting accustomed to this he drives further, and is transported to the enchanted Kingdom of Wisdom in the Lands Beyond and the states of Dictionopolis (Kingdom of Words) and Digitopolis (Kingdom of Mathematics).
Accompanied by Tock, a "watchdog" who actually has a large pocketwatch in his body, Milo has a series of adventures in places like the Doldrums, Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, the Mountains of Ignorance and the Castle in the Air. Together they must rescue the Princesses of Sweet Rhyme and Pure 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 and Officer Short Shrift as well as demons like the Senses Taker, the Terrible Trivium, the Demon of Insincerity, and the Gelatinous Giant.
Why It Rocks
- Like MGM Animation/Visual Arts short films and TV specials, The film has pretty faithful animation to look at it.
- Cute and likable characters.
- Nice voice acting.
- Cool writing.
- Good songs.
- Well-written plot.
The film was not a box office hit. 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. Time Out Paris wrote that the story has "too many lessons" but "some very nice ideas". 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". 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".
- This film was actually made in 1967-8 but due to MGM's financial problems and frequently changing management, the film was not heavily promoted. When it was finally released in 1970, the studio only exhibited it for matinees on weekends for two weeks, and it was not a box office success.
- A demo recording of the song, "Noise, Noise, Beautiful Noise" (with different voices and musical arrangement) was used in two experimental pieces of computer animation, done on the ANIMAC system in 1968: "Beautiful Noise" and "The Dynne".
- CASTLE THUNDER: Heard at every mention of the Castle in the Air earlier in the movie and when the last five Demons of Ignorance merge to create the monster.
- The author of the book, upon which this film is based, Norton Juster, did not like this picture and was even angry that it received positive reviews. He had no input into the adaptation, and many characters that were in the book were not included in the film.
- MGM's first full-length animated film, and the last film the studio released to include live action and animation. MGM's animation studio closed soon after this film's release.