The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)

Officer Short Shrift (l) and Milo (r) from "The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)"

My purpose of presenting this blog is to inform followers of good animated films; Movies I consider classic examples of animation or rarities from the mainstream of today’s animated fare. I feel it would not serve a full purpose if I did not occasionally present movies I consider poor samples as well, helping to alert followers to movies that I feel they probably wouldn’t enjoy (and the reason or reasons why). My first such posting for a movie I consider a bad example would have to go to The Phantom Tollbooth, released in 1970 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and produced by Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny fame.

Being an avid Bugs Bunny fan as well as all the familiar characters from Looney Tunes, I found it surprising to find such a mediocre piece in this film. The movie is based on a 1961 children’s book by Norton Juster and combines music and live action in a story about a young boy named Milo. Milo comes home bored from school one day to find a large package in his room that contains a magical portal to another world. The premise of the story has been compared to Alice in Wonderland with numerous puns and visual plays on words. Compared to the mild (and sometimes not so mild) slapstick humor of Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, characters like Officer Short Shrift (voice of Mel Blanc) held little humor and seemed to be played with a little too much  innocence. I would have enjoyed seeing some anticipation in the characters movements. I am not opposed to music in animated films (i.e. Cats Don’t Dance was an excellent example of an animated musical) but the tunes in the Phantom Tollbooth tried a bit too hard to mach the forced, pithy dialogue.


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