The Phantom Tollbooth

Movie review by
Paul Trandahl, Common Sense Media
The Phantom Tollbooth Movie Poster Image
Clever artistry fails to convey the book's depth.
  • G
  • 1970
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages
Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there is some mild peril to the main characters, but nothing of concern. The film addresses the importance of learning.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRebecca S. November 6, 2017

Great Book!!

As a kid, this book was one of my favorites. It educates young readers and makes learning fun.
Adult Written bywhovian852 April 9, 2008

Good movie

I remember loving this book as kid, in fact might be one of the greatest books ever. Anyway the movie was very good to.
Teen, 13 years old Written bylinkfan321 June 10, 2014


Some people said the book that this movie was based on was not really a children's book.
This is not really a children's movie.
It's not that it... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 8, 2012

The Phantom Tollbooth

This was OK, but I liked the play that was based on the book better. There was really nothing wrong, but it might go over the heads of kids younger than 5. Over... Continue reading

What's the story?

In this animated adventure, young Milo, always bored, discovers a magic box in his room. It contains a tollbooth, through which he's able to enter the Kingdom of Wisdom, a wildly surreal landscape. Milo's soon visiting places with names like The Doldrums, Dictionopolis, and Digitopolis. He discovers that a feud between the King of Words, and the King of Numbers has brought ruin onto this once great land of Wisdom. Milo decides to help reconcile the two kingdoms, and rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason, who were banished long ago to the Castle in the Air. To do this he must come to an understanding of how words and numbers work together and then face down the Demons of Ignorance, who are guarding the castle. He succeeds in bringing harmony back to the Kingdom of Wisdom and acquires a newfound appreciation for the value of language and mathematics.

Is it any good?

Although it fails to make an emotional impact, verbal cleverness and impressive imagery make PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH worthwhile for those seeking more challenging entertainment. Based on a highly recommended book by Norman Juster, this feature-length cartoon offers a startling change of pace. Directed by animation legend Chuck Jones, the story does not involve a quest for love or identity, nor is it an animated retelling of a classic fairy tale. Instead it strives to depict the beauty of knowledge. Plunging its young hero into an Alice in Wonderland-like dreamscape is only partially successful, however.

The biggest problem is a meandering first half. Nevertheless, the movie has its rewards for the patient viewer. Its visualizations of various states of minds are fun to watch as Milo encounters the Lethargians, and faces down the Demons of Ignorance, all with clever names. Much of the film is a feast for the eyes. Maurice Noble, Chuck Jones's frequent collaborator at Warner Brothers, designed the stylized environment of the Kingdom of Wisdom. His conceptions of the bizarre landscapes are stunning. All in all, this is a worthwhile film with a very good message: Knowledge makes the world a better place. While probably too cerebral for younger children, older kids and even teens should enjoy it, and they may learn something in the bargain.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the book differs from the cartoon. If you saw the cartoon first, how did it influence how you imagined the book? If you read the book first, did the cartoon live up how you imagined the characters, the settings, and the action of the book?

Movie details

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