Funded! This project was successfully funded on September 19, 2013.

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A documentary about the classic children's book, its creators, and the lasting impact over half a century and beyond.

“So many things are possible, just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.” - King Azaz & The Mathemagician, The Phantom Tollbooth

What’s it about?

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. 

Author Norton Juster and Illustrator Jules Feiffer at lunch in Brooklyn Heights
Author Norton Juster and Illustrator Jules Feiffer at lunch in Brooklyn Heights

The film introduces viewers to the hilarious world of The Phantom Tollbooth, along with some of the novel’s more serious themes - starting with its opening scene featuring actor David Hyde Pierce narrating a stop-animation created for the documentary. Discover Norton Juster’s word play, watch Jules Feiffer draw Tollbooth protagonist 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.

For more details about the film, visit www.phantomtollboothdoc.com

Where are we now, and why we need you

We have finished making the documentary and are excited about a fall release – but need your help to get there! Just having the finished edit isn’t enough to be able to get the film out in the world and to YOU. We are looking for finishing funds to cover:

  • Final post-production & mastering 
  • Legal fees, licensing & insurance 
  • Marketing & distribution  

In the process of making this film, we learned that there is so much more to releasing a film than just filming and editing. The generosity of our original Kickstarter backers allowed us to fund production and most post-production.

A big thank you to our previous Kickstarter backers whose support helped us to complete interviews with author Norton Juster, illustrator Jules Feiffer, actor David Hyde Pierce, author/illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik and others. Because of you, we were able to create original hand-made stop motion sequences (thousands of frames!) by Eleanor Stewart and include music from Devendra Banhart, The Penguin Café Orchestra and Bill Harley.

Some of the cast in the documentary!
Some of the cast in the documentary!

Now we need your help to get the film out to the rest of the world!

How You Can Help

  • Pledge your support with a Kickstarter donation. Check out the new rewards: Our personal favorites are a personalized limerick with your name written into it by Norton Juster, and a signed copy of the 50th Anniversary Edition of The Phantom Tollbooth. 
  • Spread the word! Share the trailer and the link to this Kickstarter campaign with your real and virtual friends. Send it to teachers you know, friends who love books, people with kids, people whose lives have been changed by The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Connect with us on FacebookTwitter and Tumblr.

Why we made this film

The crew at the house in Brooklyn Heights where The Phantom Tollbooth was created
The crew at the house in Brooklyn Heights where The Phantom Tollbooth was created

The project started out as a self-funded labor of love - going to see Norton Juster on the weekends and editing at night. The more we told people about the project, the more Phantom Tollbooth fans came out of the woodwork - sending us pictures of their Tock tattoos, their son named Milo, or telling us a story about the first time they read the book and how it changed their life. It was these responses, from people like YOU, that encouraged us to keep going and dedicate as much of our time and resources as possible.  

And with the help of our Kickstarter backers, friends, family, and Phantom Tollbooth lovers around the world, the film soon evolved into a full-time production and we are so thrilled to be so close to completion. 

We have been so grateful throughout this process for the continued support. With the passion that comes along with lovers of The Phantom Tollbooth, this film has truly felt like a collaborative project between the crew, the cast, and our backers – and we are proud to have it be independent and funded by YOU.

Director Hannah Jayanti & Norton Juster
Director Hannah Jayanti & Norton Juster

Thank you! And see you in the lands beyond!

- Hannah Jayanti (Director) & Janice L. Kaplan (Producer)

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

It’s been a long and complex process to finish the film… and worth every minute of it! As you will see from our previous Kickstarter campaign, we anticipated a much earlier release and a much smaller budget (sound familiar to other filmmakers??). A common problem, but one that we hope we have dealt with as openly and with as much consideration to our backers as possible.

We have been committed from the start to keeping our costs to a minimum - investing our own personal funds in making this film, and saving the Kickstarter money for our talented crew rather than ourselves. As we near the final stretch, we recognize in order to make, market and distribute the best film possible, and to cross our legal “t’s” and dot our legal “i’s,” we need additional funds.

For example, in order to be able to present the story at all, we had to hire a lawyer to work with us on fair use and copyright. And in order to show the film publicly, we need to get E&O Insurance. And in order for us to reach Phantom Tollbooth fans far and wide, new and old, we need funds for marketing and distribution.

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  • Pledge $8 or more
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    14 backers

    GREETINGS! SALUTATIONS! WELCOME! GOOD AFTERNOON! HELLO! Not to mention thank you! Which is exactly what we will do on the film’s website.

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    178 backers

    ONE GENUINE TURNPIKE TOLLBOOTH. No we’re not going to send you a tollbooth (Norton points out they are sadly becoming extinct) but we will provide you with a HIGH-RES DOWNLOAD of the film + website thank you.

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    57 backers Limited (13 left of 70)

    CHARABANC! Let silly words from the book roll off your tongue. In return, we will send you a personalized certificate from the film’s director + high-res download + website thank you.

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    89 backers

    TICK TOCK. You’ll be counting the minutes (tick, tock, tick, tock) until you receive your very own DVD of the film + high-res download + website thank you.

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    96 backers Limited (2 left of 98)

    SPLENDID, SPLENDID, SPLENDID. What a splendid reward; a signed limited edition poster from the film, signed by Norton Juster + DVD + high-res download + website thank you.

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    24 backers All gone!

    THE ODIOUS OGRE. Celebrate the remarkable 50-year collaboration between Norton and Jules with a signed copy of the book that brought them back together again + DVD + high-res download + website thank you.

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    14 backers Limited (1 left of 15)

    ON THE TIP OF THE TONGUE. The most mouth-watering reward: enjoy a copy of Norton Juster’s personal recipe for eggplant parmesan (as seen in the film) signed by the author himself (in tomato sauce?) + DVD + high-res download + website thank you.

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    50 backers All gone!

    THERE’S JUST SO MUCH TO DO RIGHT HERE. Curl up right where you are and enjoy a copy of the 50th anniversary edition of the book signed and personalized by Norton Juster + DVD + high-res download + website thank you.

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    1 backer All gone!

    BRING YOUR FAVORITE SCENE OR CHARACTERS TO LIFE with a limited, customizable, handmade BOOK-SCULPTURE of your favorite scene or characters in The Phantom Tollbooth + DVD + high-res download + website thank you.

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    4 backers Limited (6 left of 10)

    IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING. But we’ll say it anyway: Enjoy your name written into a personalized limerick by Norton Juster + DVD + high-res download + website thank you.

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    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    BEYOND EXPECTATIONS. Treat your friends or family to an unforgettable lunch for 4 with Norton Juster at the Brooklyn Heights’ Queen Restaurant, as featured in the film. (Note: You provide transportation to and from Brooklyn Heights. Lunch will be provided as part of the Kickstarter reward and must occur on a mutually agreeable date) + a signed copy of The Phantom Tollbooth 50th anniversary edition of the book + DVD + high-res download + website thank you.

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Funding period

- (30 days)