Game of Thrones director Matt Shakman will helm TriStar's The Phantom Tollbooth adaptation. Michael Vukadinovich gets script credit, with Wreck-it-Ralph 2 writer-director Phil Johnston doing the most recent draft. Norton Juster wrote the original novel with pictures by Jules Pfeiffer. The book first came to screens in 1970 as a cartoon feature from Chuck Jones, with voices by Mel Blanc.
Published in 1961, The Phantom Tollbooth tells the story of Milo, a bored kid who's shaken from his apathy when the titular tollbooth appears in his room. Milo discovers that by entering the tollbooth, he can travel to the magical realm the Lands Beyond. There he becomes involved in a conflict between two kingdoms, and must use his wits to free two kidnapped princesses.
After helming two episodes of Game of Thrones, Matt Shakman will use his experience at directing fantasy to bring Phantom Tollbooth to life (via Deadline). Shakman had other offers on the table but chose this project. The film will be hybrid and animation of live action, owing to the story's wealth of fantasy characters. Donald De Line and Ed McDonnell will produce. The film began at Warner Bros. and the studio still holds an option to co-produce.
Matt Shakman makes his feature film debut on Phantom Tollbooth after helming scores of TV episodes. His most notable credits include two Game of Thrones Season 7 episodes, "Eastwatch" and "The Spoils of War." The latter episode in particular was packed with action and special effects, helping establish Shakman's ability to handle complex visual storytelling. Shakman can also do comedy, having directed 44 episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Shakman's wide range of TV credits also includes episodes of Mad Men, House, New Girl and The Good Wife. He will direct the pilot of Olive Forever, a comedy about a high school cat burglar coming soon to USA.
Norton Juster's original classic The Phantom Tollbooth ranked #21 on School Library Journal's list of the greatest children's novels. Written by Juster after receiving a grant, the book endeavors to teach kids lessons about the need for education. Milo uses things he's learned in school to help him rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason. The story's two kingdoms, Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, are in dispute because one favors words and the other numbers. Much of the book's appeal owes to its Alice in Wonderland-type characters, including Tock the giant dog. Juster also favors Lewis Carroll-style word-play.
TriStar no doubt sees The Phantom Tollbooth as an eye-popping, kid-friendly fantasy similar to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. The studio will be fantasy-heavy going forward, with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair and Untitled Labyrinth Sequel slated.