Growing up, The Phantom Tollbooth was one of my favorite books. It captured my heart and imagination like few other books could outside of Roald Dahl’s bibliography. The 1961 children’s novel is a perfectly-suited fit for the big screen, but it, of course, doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges. Warner Bros. tried and failed to bring it to the screen with Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Free States of Jones) at the helm, but nothing ultimately came through. But that’s not stopping TriStar from taking another swing at the bat. They’ve just acquired the rights to Norton Juster’s timeless classic.
TriStar Pictures studio executive Nicole Brown acquired the rights from WB last week, as reported by The Tracking Board (via ScreenRant), and they’ve hired rising writer Michael Vukadinovich to tackle the screenplay. Vukadinovich’s first produced film, Rememory, is set to hit theaters soon, while his spec, The Three Misfortunes of Gepetto, found its way onto the Black List a few years back before the actual script itself landed on 2014’s Young & Hungry List. He’s also currently adapting Matthew Quick’s Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, which Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin have considered making his directorial debut.
There’s no director attached at this time. Donald De Line and Ed McDonnell are set to produce, however, and hopefully they’ll get more traction on this one than WB ever did. Of course, if it does come together, it won’t be the first time the book — illustrated by Jules Feiffer — made it onto the big screen. An animated version, directed by Chuck Jones, Abe Levitow and Dave Monahan, was made in 1970, although Juster largely dismissed that version.
Hopefully, the 87-year-old ultimately makes this one more than the last adaptation. This book has the serious potential to become something as beloved as Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz by general audiences.