“The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations” is a documentary that playfully explores the creation, creators, lasting impact and enduring relevance of one of the most universally beloved children’s books of our time. Through interviews, animation and archival materials, the documentary traces the friendship between author Norton Juster and Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Jules Feiffer, and the wit and wisdom of the novel over half a century.
From its opening sequence featuring actor David Hyde Pierce narrating an animated sequence created for the documentary, the film introduces viewers to the hilarious novel along with its more serious themes. Discover Norton Juster’s word play, watch Jules Feiffer draw Milo for the camera, and hear children’s author and illustrator Eric Carle reflect on the creative process and New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik share what makes the book a classic.
Historian Leonard Marcus, author of The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, places the book – which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011 – within a historical, cultural and literacy context. Conceived in Brooklyn during the Cold War 1950s, The Phantom Tollbooth is about much more than a bored little boy who finds a mysterious tollbooth in his room and goes Beyond Expectations to the Lands Beyond before rescuing two princesses named Rhyme and Reason. The film reveals that the book is about the value of learning, the state of children’s literature, the creative journey and the importance of books.