The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)

THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH (1970)
Article 3084 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-26-2009
Posting Date: 1-23-2010
Directed by Chuck Jones, Abe Levitow and Dave Monahan
Featuring the voices of Butch Patrick, Mel Blanc, Daws Butler
Country: USA
What it is: Animated children’s story

A bored young boy travels into another world, and undertakes a mission to reunite a divided kingdom by rescuing the princesses of Rhyme and Reason.

Though three directors are listed, the primary director of this one is Chuck Jones, one of the true geniuses of animation. Still, it’s important when judging this work of his to keep several things in consideration.

1) The vast majority of his finest work consisted of movies that lasted about seven minutes long.

2) It was as an animator and a director that he excelled, not as a writer or a producer, and he works in those capacities on this film.

3) Since most of the theatrical animation studios had closed up by this point, he most likely didn’t have access to the same experienced team that he had with him during his Warner Brothers days. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of his help was from people who were specializing in the kind of limited animation that had become the mainstay of TV animation.

4) Two of his crucial associates at Warner Brothers (writer Michael Maltese and musical director Carl Stalling, both of whom contributed mightily to the quality of his shorts) are not involved with this production.

To his credit, he does garner a strong group of voices; Daws Butler, Hans Conried, June Foray, Shepard Menken and the wonderful Mel Blanc are on hand to lend their talents. And there are moments here and there where one can sense the hand of Chuck Jones at the helm. Still, the story is a disappointment; it’s something of an uninspired cross between “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Wizard of Oz” with some occasionally tiresome lapses into lesson-teaching. The songs are particularly weak, as well. It’s not awful, by any means, but it’s too sporadic in its good moments to be truly effective.

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