Tick Tock! ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ Movie Will Fill Your Head With Fantasy

Since the early ‘60s, Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth has transformed the everyday mundane into the extraordinary for three million children worldwide and counting, a number that is about to grow exponentially as TriStar Pictures — a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment — is adapting the beloved book into a whimsical wonder for the big screen.

The Phantom Tollbooth book cover and '70s movie
The Phantom Tollbooth book cover and ’70s movie

What’s It About?

The story is one filled with fantasy and adventure, puns and idioms, artistry and magic, plucking the idea of boredom and catapulting it into the Kingdom of Wisdom via a magical tollbooth our protagonist Milo got in the post.

Milo was bored a lot, you see; when he was at home, he wished he were at school and when he was at school he wished he were at home, so when he unexpectedly receives the magic tollbooth he has nothing better to do than hop in his toy car and drive through it.

The Phantom Tollbooth illustrations
The Phantom Tollbooth illustrations

Transported to the once prosperous, now troubled, land of the Kingdom of Wisdom, Milo then quests to rescue two princesses named Rhyme and Reason from their prison in the Castle in the Air — a venture which takes him through lands and wordplay, jumping into Conclusions and driving down a road called Expectations for example, meeting Tock, the watchdog with an actual watch in his guts, and literally eating his own words.

In a nutshell, The Phantom Tollbooth a brilliant tale brimming with punage that’ll send word-nerds into fits of giggles, not to mention the killer illustrations penned by Juster’s flatmate, Jules Feiffer.

It’s not the first time its educational glory has been adapted for the big screen, either. In 1970, the American animator Chuck Jones (Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies) made it into a musical film — that Juster hated, unsurprisingly, seeing as he had zero input into the adaptation — for MGM Studios. Check out the original trailer below:

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According to reports the project will be written by Michael Vukadinovich (The Three Misfortunes of Geppetto), produced by Donald De Line (The Italian Job) for De Line Pictures and Ed McDonnel (Prisoners) of Mapel Shade Films — and, as that’s all the news we have for the time being. But we’ve taken it upon ourselves to do a little fan casting.

Who Could Star In The Phantom Tollbooth?

Milo — Finn Wolfhard


About the character: Milo is a little boy who, at the beginning, is totally bored by basically everything in his life — a routine that changes after making a trip through the mysterious and magic tollbooth.

Where you know Finn Wolfhard from: He plays the gang leader Mike Wheeler in this year’s Netflix phenomenon, Stranger Things.

Tock — Bill Murray


About the character: The literal watchdog, Tock is a loyal, brave advisor to Milo; a dog with an actual, loudly-ticking watch in his stomach and little patience for time wasters.

Where you know Bill Murray from: Ghostbusters, The Jungle Book, Lost in Translation, Groundhog Day and roughly a million Wes Anderson movies.

The Humbug — Joe Gilgun


About the character: By pretending to be a know-it-all, The Humbug often comes across as a fool. He’s ignorant about most subjects and only ends up tagging along with Milo and Tock after brown-nosing up to King Azaz.

Where you know Joe Gilgun from: Gilgun’s played a variety of chatterbox characters in UK shows including This Is England and Misfits, and currently stars in AMC’s Preacher.

King Azaz — Peter Dinklage


About the character: He’s the ruler of the realm of letters and words, spending his days arguing with his brother (The Mathemagician) over which subject carries the most importance.

Where you know Peter Dinklage from: Nip/Tuck, The Chronicles of Narnia, Ice Age and, obviously, as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones.

Rhyme and Reason — Bonnie Wright & Natalie Dormer


About the characters: Adopted by the King of Wisdom, these two princesses were raised alongside King Azaz and the Mathemagician until the day they were asked to determine the importance of words versus numbers. When they conclude that each is equally valuable, they’re imprisoned within the Castle in the Air.

Where you know Bonnie & Natalie from: These two Hollywood stars have both appeared in major franchises; Bonnie Wright starred as Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter movies, and Natalie Dormer played Margaery Tyrell in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Who would you love to star in The Phantom Tollbooth?

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Staff Writer at MP. Lover of bad puns, nostalgic feels and all things Winona.