Way back in 2003, The Walt Disney Company opened a multiplayer online game, based on the cartoon world of Roger Rabbit: Toontown Online. You probably remember those days, watching commercials of a student, throwing a “black hole” onto the ground, teleporting from place to place, always ending with the catchy slogan, “Are YOU toon enough?”
Toontown Online was a world of mischief and fun, where you would play as a toon, going around pie throwing, water squirting, or even piano dropping to defeat the corporate robots, the Cogs. Protecting your little utopia of color and imagination, from the evils the gray and dull life of the Cogs.
When I was in fourth grade, Toontown Online was first introduced to me by some of my friends, and we almost used it as a hangout, but virtually. I continued to love playing Toontown Online, beyond my years in elementary school as my outlet for leisure. I would spend hours upon hours, especially over the summer, creating a perfect toon, “King Oswald Twinkletoon.”
To much dismay, on Aug. 20, 2013, Disney declared that Toontown Online would be endings its operations entirely on Sept. 30. A month following this announcement, it rattled the multitude of players associated with the game, including myself. This gaming world, for many of us through time, was not just a game, but a huge community and its shutdown devasted people, from younger fans and gamers to more mature players as well. An online petition was even created on Change.org, with over 21,000 supporters. Despite this robust effort, it wasn’t enough to change Disney’s decision.
Disney wanted to focus on investment in more free-access games, particularly mobile apps and Club Penguin. Toontown Online and other Disney’s virtual worlds required paid membership; all were shut down for this reason. Though Toontown Online was 9.95 dollars per month, Club Penguin was also limited without a paid membership. The only thing is that Club Penguin had more features than Toontown without membership, with much less community contribution and teamwork involved, and lacking the three-dimensional world feel. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy playing Club Penguin, but hands down, Toontown Online, is the better game all around, and though I am disappointed, I guess Disney was doing the right thing. At least, I hope so.
After half a year or so of the shutdown of Toontown Online, I somehow stumbled across something – Toontown Rewritten. Right away I tried to sign up, only to find out it was still in beta, with a horrid “waiting line,” for three days at a time. You would get lucky to happen to be available to play, but usually, chances were slim.
I decided to wait, as months passed and more servers would open, decreasing wait time. And finally. It is incredible how closely accurate Toontown Rewritten was to the original Toontown Online, but with free access, guaranteed. Various changes were understandable, such as omitting Disney characters, such as Mickey, or Minnie, and others from the game, the recreators probably trying to avoid copyright infringement. However, what struck me the most, and still bothers me, are some changes to the background soundtrack, melodies, harmonies, and instrumentation My ear isn’t perfect, but this was extremely bothersome. But of course, with this game being brought back, a sacrifice can be allowed here and there.
To my surprise, Toontown Rewritten was built by a group of 24 high school and college age students. And the helm is a 16 year old, Joey Ziolkowski – now that’s something for a college admissions essay. I know I would never be able to pull such a feat off, and learning this makes this recreation seem even more incredible.
The creators of Toontown Online do not mind, impressing them with such an unexpected project to arise to this quality. Ziolkowski and his team are building off of what Disney made great already, but they plan to branch off with their creativity, a brilliant idea indeed. Now it makes me wonder what we can achieve with our own talents, and with our team of friends. But for now, as I log back into play, think and put your thoughts to work. “Are YOU toon enough?”