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Look, son, it's bad enough wasting time without killing it.


The Phantom Tollbooth
(1970)

Well, that didn't live up to childhood memories. This was Chuck Jones' only feature length film as director, based on a children's book by Norton Juster. A bored, precocious boy (Milo) travels to the Kingdom of Wisdom after the titular object appears in his bedroom. I remembered it to be strange and psychedelic, but mostly the film comprises twee moralising and forgettable songs. 


The scenario has a touch of The Wizard of Oz (character entering a strange world embarks on a quest and picks up travelling companions along the way), even a faint whiff of Pilgrim's Progress, but none of budget or inventiveness. The one great idea is beginning the film in live action and changing to (threadbare) animation once Milo goes through the tollbooth. 


The most memorable scene sees him cross back and forth through it, switching to an animated character each time he does so. There's some reasonably clever wordplay in the script, but the subtext of the battle between Dictionopolis and Digitopolis (who have banished Rhyme and Reason) seems to be that kids should get a good, balanced education in both 'riting and 'rithmetic. Occasional visual flourishes (Dali-esque melting time pieces, the wonderfully-voiced, constantly-seeping Doldrums) can't make up for the general stylistic blandness. Milo was played by Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster), which means he was about 16 playing 12.

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