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Phantom Tollbooth, The

USA



Original Air Date:
1970
Channel:
Theatrical
Prod. Co.:
Chuck Jones, Abe Levitow, and David Monahan
Genre:
Film
 

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Characters & Voices
Milo - Butch Patrick
Voices - Mel Blanc
Voices - Daws Butler
Voices - Candy Candido
Voices - Hans Conried
Voices - June Foray
Voices - Patti Gilbert
Voices - Shepard Menken
Voices - Cliff Norton
Voices - Larry Thor
Voices - Les Tremayne
 
(drawn animation, part live action)

To say The Phantom Tollbooth was Chuck Jones’ debut would be like saying Napoleon won the “Battle of Three Emperors” single-handedly. Sure they’re important, but in both cases you ignore all the short subjects.

Jones’ adaptation of Norman Juster’s famed children’s book was indeed his first feature film (and the first animated feature for MGM), but the animator had been mastering his craft for years with the likes of Bugs Bunny, Pepe Le Pew and Tom & Jerry.

Following Juster’s novel fairly closely, the film opens in live-action San Francisco, where a boy named Milo is flat-out bored. The youngster’s ennui is lifted by the appearance of a mysterious tollbooth and a toy car in his bedroom. Willing to try anything for a little excitement, Milo pays the toll and crosses the gate, in the process converting himself to animated form.

In this new cartoon world, Milo meets the friendly “watch dog” Tock and learns of a war between the word kingdom of Dictionopolis and the number kingdom of Digitopolis. To stop the battle, Milo goes on a quest to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason from the Mountain of Ignorance, hopefully learning a few lessons of his own along the way.

In making his first feature, Jones called on several of the voice talents that had helped make his cartoon shorts so memorable: June Foray, Daws Butler, Shepard Menken and Bugs Bunny himself, Mel Blanc. For the role of Milo, Jones cast Butch Patrick, best known as Eddie Munster on TV’s The Munsters.

The “educational” nature of the film made it a tougher pill to swallow than contemporary efforts by Disney and others, but at least The Phantom Tollbooth had its heart (and head) in the right place.
 
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In 1945, Brenda Starr, who had previously appeared only on Sundays, added a daily strip as well.