The Toontastic Triumphs of ToonTown

The Toontastic Triumphs of ToonTown

Daniel Molster, WLMC Station Manager

“Ever wonder what it’d be like to live life as a toon?” Well, your chance has existed for almost a whopping 20 years now! Since 2003, the MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online Game) ToonTown has existed in some format or another. Whether it was Disney’s ToonTown Online or ToonTown Rewritten, the game has existed in a variety of variants throughout its almost 20 year run. 

The game, developed by Jesse Schell launched in 2003 with the assistance of Disney’s Imagineering department and the Disney Interactive Media Group (who later would disband after the game’s closure in 2013). Disney Interactive Media Group managed the servers, marketing, customer support, and generally anything and everything under the sun. The only thing that Disney did not control was the game development itself and the creative direction, this was left to Schell Games (Jesse Schell’s game production company) and Disney’s Imagineering department.  

In a nutshell, in Disney’s ToonTown Online players created their own characters (“Toons”) and took them through their daily lives meeting friends, loving their pets, earning jellybeans (toon currency), and enjoying the carefree lifestyle of a cartoon character. However, Disney introduced one critical component that made this game not a kid’s game: there was a story involving evil corporate business loving robots… “The Cogs”. Not only were The Cogs evil, but you also actually had to battle them to move forward within the game and much of that relied on teamwork and strategizing which was unexpected for a game operated by Disney. The Cogs even had a terrifying backstory, Scrooge McDuck activated the head of all Cogs by mistake and the Cog created millions of clones and variants, sending them to take over and destroy ToonTown. Scrooge McDuck was never heard from again after the incident- talk about a freaky way to start off the game… it makes you wonder if there is a happy ending?! 

Disney continued to operate ToonTown Online until 2013. Just one month after celebrating its 10th anniversary, the game finally closed. A huge slap in the face to millions of players across the world who had spent countless hours, energy, and money to pay for their subscriptions to the virtual world. The same day, Disney Interactive Media Group also closed all remaining virtual worlds it operated, except for Club Penguin which would close roughly one year later due to the backlash and negative publicity from the other Disney closures the year prior.  

It seemed like all hope was lost, but then the light shined again. Just one month after the closure of ToonTown Online, some handy individuals with Jesse Schell’s permission and guidance reopened ToonTown with a new name: ToonTown Rewritten. The game acted as a prequel to ToonTown Online during its alpha testing phase as no Cogs invaded ToonTown until the end of the alpha testing period. Within six months of the alpha testing ending, the game relaunched with an open beta testing period. This meant that players who did not get to access the alpha period were now able to play a version that was more flushed out and reminiscent of the original game as opposed to the limited access given during the alpha testing period.  

In 9 years, the game’s popularity has not died down. With over 2 million registered accounts and an active player base of over 10,000 users per day it’s no surprise that ToonTown has survived for almost 20 years. Is the story the most exciting? Not necessarily. Is the gameplay complicated? No. Is it the most technically advanced game on the market? Absolutely not. At the end of the day ToonTown Rewritten is far from perfect, but even the original ToonTown Online had many flaws. I think what’s amazing is that people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and skill sets can login to this game and feel like they belong (in addition to having a toontastic time busting those Cogs!). ToonTown is a game that has always celebrated diversity and taken risks, the Cogs were originally invented as a stab at The Walt Disney Company executives and their many corporate underlings. The game was revolutionary, is revolutionary, and will continue to be revolutionary for many years to come.

TOONS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!  Play ToonTown Rewritten for FREE @:  


Image Sources:  

In-Game Screenshot taken by Myself