The Phantom Tollbooth Movie Poster Image

The Phantom Tollbooth



Clever artistry fails to convey the book's depth.
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1970
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Parents say

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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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:November 7, 1970
DVD/Streaming release date:October 23, 1991
Cast:Butch Patrick, Daws Butler, Mel Blanc
Director:Chuck Jones
Studio:Warner Bros.
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Book characters
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:G
MPAA explanation:General Audiences

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Kid, 11 years old April 2, 2009

for all ages

this movie is nothing like the book and there is nothing bad about it
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 is inappropriate or anything like that. It is a great movie that is fun for PRETTY MUCH the whole family. Emphasis on, "PRETTY MUCH." The concepts and messages are something younger kids are probably not going to get their head wrapped arround, but older kids are just fine. It is a musical, but, unlike most musicals kind of for kids, the songs aren't annoying as heck. They're actually pretty good, especially Milo (the main character)'s theme song which plays at the beginning and ending of the movie. One thing to note: I have a younger sister with epilepsy. She has seizures at flashing lights and cow mooing. Yes. Cow mooing. This movie has a good dose of flashing lights and images, so if you or a loved one has epilepsy, (poop now I sound all formal here) it's probably a good idea not to watch this. Unless you want to have seizures. Then go ahead. There's also an already-mentioned book, a play, and an expert of the entire play in one-of-those-literature-textbooks-by-the-dolphin-people that you could check out instead. But, be warned, the play is pretty different from the movie in terms of how the plot plays out. 5/5, ON 8, and EW. That seems good enough. :-D
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 9 years old April 9, 2008


Wow. The slowest, what was it, seemed like SIX HOURS! When I had to read the book I just skimmed, and asked my friend about it cause after the 3rd chapter I burned the book. Yep, I did. They say boredom stresses you, and my brain was cramping up every 2 words. No battles, no action, no no no no no no interesting things at all. Sheer boredom. GREAT TO WATCH IF YOU ARE HAVING TROUBLE SLEEPING!