By Bixyl Shuftan
So how was the game played? Holocluck told me, "You're a happy go lucky
cartoon animal in Toontown, but humanoid robots called Cogs are trying
to take over. They are based on corporate stereotypes and they are
turning shops into office buildings etc. The toons fight back using
silly slapstick gags. The cogs retaliate with corporate clichés and
office supplies. It,s intended for all ages, and like a classic cartoon
people of all generations each get something out of it. … There are
things you can do beside fighting cogs. You can socialize, you can play
golf, race autos, fish, and more."
Of the toon types, "Originally there were cats, dogs, ducks, rabbits,
horses, and mice. They aded monkeys and bears eventually, and then
amusing thing about the game was that so many adults played. many of
them were parents whose kid may have started and then the parent got
addicted while the kid moved on to something else." Ads at Nickelodian
and Nick at Night attracted both kids and adults, "This was the ad: ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCUTFd-ZRqM )."
Holocluck admitted he was "a great fan of the 30s-40s Warner Brothers"
cartoons, "I'm a traditionalist." He stated he had learned animation "a
few decades back. … I learned at a college owned by Disney called
california institute of the arts. A few Disney veterans ran a character
animation program. Toontown is 3D, I believe it utilizes Python. But
it's the feel of a traditional cartoon, and some of the animation is
just great. Going to Goofy's Speedway and watching Goofy walk around...
to an animator it's very rewarding (laughter)."
"Being a Disney game, is that when you build your toon (when you first
join the game) it can come in a combination of proportions. And each one
moves differently. Same as the cogs, who have about three different
basic physiques. they move different from one another in everything they
do. That sounds a bit technical but I'm an adult and an adult
cartoonist. I look at it a little differently. He smiled, "And then I
drop a piano on the head of some lawyer robot."
I asked him about the attacks, and he answered you start with small ones
and work your way up, "you start with a squirting lapel flower and a
cupcake. These can be worked up to a geyser and a wedding cake." Attacks
like the dropped piano need the help of another toon to distract the
"Walking around Toontown is just great. there are several neighborhoods
with themes. Obviously in the game you work your way in tasks and
challenges from neighborhood to neighborhood. But the meticulous
attention made to these, the names of the shops, the styles... and the
last few years some things like hydrants and mailboxes have
personalities and animate."
I asked Holocluck about the tasks, "They start off simple enough, a cog,
fish something out of the pond. there is a narrative which flows
through the neighborhood of some shopkeeper or other who was harassed by
cogs or something was stolen etc. And as you achieve these you can
carry more gags at a time, jellybeans at a time, get bigger, maybe
handle many tasks at once. And eventually you fight the source of the
cogs. Not for the faint of heart."
"There are four categories of cogs: the lawyers, the salesmen, the
financiers and the bosses. Each has a headquarters and there's someone
making them. (It's) Usually a behemoth of a robot in charge and up to 8
toons go in together to defeat them. There is usually a battle not
unlike the ones in the streets or in buildings, a stream of four cogs at
a time versus up to four toons at a time for about ten minutes. Then
the special, direct fight with the one in charge."
an example, the cashbot CFO (chief financial officer) looks like a cash
register for a head, a large body with dollar signs for the suit
pattern, and the bottom half of him looks like tank treads. There are
some toons who take to cranes (I do that) where we work with the other
toons who disabled these special sentinels coming out from between the
treads,. and we take large magnets and fling the things into the CFO in
the middle. Then when he periodically gets dizzy we grab large safes and
smack him." Holocluck laughed, "then we win! And we get some special
perk. The fight itself may be different each type of cog."
I asked Holocluck what kind of perks did toons get for beating boses. He
answered, "Well for the CFO fights we get special phrases we can say
which can endow anyone within range with jellybeans, more gags, or more
laff. (Toons) don't die but our levels called laff can diminish in a
For the lawyer cog boss battle, "in the case of the lawbot CJ aka Chief
Justice, the CJ is blindfolded, love that one. After the cog battle
there is a sequence where for a limited time the cogs are landing into
the jury seats and we use cannons to shoot toons to replace them. When
time is up the more toons means the scale in the center of the large
room may be in our favor. There comes a sequence where once side of the
room the cogs are lined up throwing evidence aka books at their side of
the scale, and we throw on our side and run to restock etc from the
witness. They occasionally skid their evidence on the ground to trip us.
we gotta know to jump (grin). Oh and the giant gavels. gotta be careful
where to stand." Holockuck laughed, "We win when the scale reaches down
on our side."
One element of character advancement was deciding on what new skills to
have, "as they advanced and added other types of gags … you had to leave
one off. One gag was not for the cogs but for fellow tons: the
toon-up." This move ranged, "from a tickle feather to a high dive act
into a glass of water, making friends laugh during battle to being their
There were some special happenings during holidays. For instance, one
could make a black cat character around Halloween. Besides those, "there
are invasions, when a particular cog is everywhere at once. regardless
of the type of building etc. when that happens everything is double
value in your efforts."
That a major corporation like Disney would make a game in which the
characters spent much of their time fighting corporate stereotypes,
Holocluck commented, "Well, there was an inevitable irony waiting to
happen." Toontown would soon be closing.
"Last month, Toontown was hit by teen hackers and they closed it and the
test servers, for about a week, to patch the game up. The test server
never came back but they made up for things with free beans (money) and
other perks to celebrate returning and for our patience." Holocluck
sighed, "But face it, that's a resource. If they have to work on that,
and if they're scaling down guess what leaves."
An article on CNN stated Toontown had experienced a "significant drop in user numbers."
Holocluck admitted after ten years, things were not looking as rosy for
the game as in the past, "Times have since changed. things have gone
mobile, they lost many players in the past to sophisticated MMORPG like
star wars or WoW." Although Disney promoted the game in the past with
commercials on television, they weren't doing so now. With the public "
looking to apps, etc., they just launched Inifinity and pushing that." Holocluck concluded that Disney felt, "Disney online is just in the way."
Holocluck stated Toontown wasn't the only game closing, "A friend in
Second Life goes to 'Pixie Hollow,' another game. The third is 'Pirates
of the Caribean.' All three are closing Sept 19. I believe … Disney
pulled the plug on the Disney Online project. There was news this
morning of major layoffs at ABC as part of their downsizing plan."
So where might the players go after the game closed, Holocluck didn't
have an answer, "Nothing will take the place of Toontown. It was a nice
game for people who wanted light hearted entertainment and challenges,
some funny mixed with getting back at the corporate world, and beautiful
When not playing Toontown for the next few weeks, Holocluck Henly
manages the Starship Diner at Hydrangea (77, 173, 72). He also DJs for
Relay for Life events.
One can check out Holocluck's Youtube stream for more Toontown videos, and his Flickr page for pictures.
Image credit: Holocluck Henly