Butch Patrick in the 1970 film version of The Phantom Tollbooth
Photo: MGM Studios (Getty Images)

Norton Juster’s 1961 YA classic The Phantom Tollbooth is much beloved by a certain kind of precociously nerdy child, i.e., the sort of pedantic little asshole who’ll smile smugly at you when you ask if you “can” do something, and respond with a chipper “Don’t you mean ‘May’ instead?’” Juster’s tale of a boy who finds himself trapped in a realm of half-clock watchdogs, sentient idioms, and other Lewis-Carroll-esque nonsense creatures has been delighting these little monsters for generations, giving them all sorts of fuel with which to inflict their tiny, largely verbal revenges on all the kids who aren’t quietly chortling at the idea of a very short policeman named “Officer Shrift.”

Now, those kids (and the equally annoying adults that they inevitably grow up into, including the writer of this particular article) will receive a possibly poisoned Hollywood treat, as THR reports that Dreamworks is developing a film version of Juster’s whimsical classic. Carlos Saldanha (Rio, Ice Age) will direct the film, working from a script from Hidden Figures writer Ted Melfi, picking up where It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Matt Shakman’s recent attempt left off.

The Phantom Tollbooth has been adapted for film once before, in 1970, with The Munsters’ Butch Patrick in the starring role. Juster, for his part, hated it, declaring it “drivel,” and noting that “It was a film I never liked. I don’t think they did a good job on it. It’s been around for a long time. It was well reviewed, which also made me angry.” He’s still alive, too, so we can’t wait to see what he thinks of seeing his beloved Kingdom Of Wisdom rendered in round, cheerful Dreamworks CGI.

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