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Toontown Online Continues Living in the Modern Era of the Internet

Although it shut down 10 years ago, Toontown Online lives vigarously through remakes that have strong communities to this day.

Image of a 'Toon'. a customizable character from Toontown Rewritten, a remake of Disney's Toontown Online.
Credit: Toontown Rewritten

Disney’s discontinued massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Toontown Online finds a haven within a remake created by fans.

Disney is no stranger to creating online multiplayer games in the past. People who grew up on the internet have likely heard of some of their games, such as Pixie Hollow and Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Arguably, Club Penguin was Disney’s most successful game to come out of all of the company’s works.

One particular game, Toontown Online, also proved to be successful. More unique in its gameplay compared to Club Penguin, a largely social game, it was more colorful and whimsical in its aesthetic with a turn-based gameplay style.

With all of Disney’s online games coming to a close within the past years, including Toontown Online, communities have come together to keep these games alive through remakes. The community of Toontown Online’s most popular remake, Toontown Rewritten, is especially compelling.

Background

Disney officially released the original Toontown Online in 2003, and they had released beta versions the previous year. Jesse Schell was the lead designer and one of the prime founders of the game, and was responsible for making it unique from other online games. The gameplay centered on customizable anthropomorphized animals known as ‘Toons’, which were controlled by the player, to complete quests known as ‘Toontasks.’ These tasks included battling cogs with comedic items known as “gags,” accumulating currency in the form of jellybeans, and a variety of other activities.

Over the course of its initial operation, Toontown Online was frequently updated. In-game free chat, hostable parties, accessories, and new toon colors would be introduced later in the game. To engage in the many activities that Toontown Online provided, players would have to pay a monthly or yearly subscription.

Toontown Online harbored an online community that found adoration and comfort within the game. Players created clans and groups, held fashion shows, made music videos and some even made a name for themselves within the community. Whilst internet safety was the staff’s top priority, it became questionable in the game’s later years. Players would learn how to bypass certain filtered words and add each other on external platforms. Popular external platforms included various forums, as well as a Toontown Facebook parody known as “Toonbook“.

Updates would eventually halt, and sprawls of hackers would become a regular occurrence in-game. Because of this, the game’s player count decreased. Disney ultimately decided to cease Toontown Online’s operations in 2013 due to these issues. Their focus shifted to Club Penguin, Disney’s more successful online game. Club Penguin would later shut down operations in 2017.

The Remakes

Soon after Toontown Online ceased operations, fans were quick to make remakes so that others could get back to playing as soon as possible. Toontown Infinite was one of the first remakes to be released to the public in 2014, but it only lasted a few months due to server issues and unrelated drama. The most successful remake to date is Toontown Rewritten, which has been operating since September 2014. It is free to the public and has amassed 1,750,000 players as of September 2023.

Other private Toontown servers that have varying success include Operation: Dessert Storm and Toontown: Corporate Clash, with the ladder having more players. Corporate Clash lives outside the lines and follows a different playstyle structure, whilst staying true to the original style of Toontown Online. Dessert Storm is similar to Corporate Clash in that it follows a playstyle structure from Toontown Online.

Toontown Rewritten stays closer to the original nature of Toontown Online’s playstyle, aesthetic, and other aspects. The biggest distinction is that it is free to play and easier to communicate with other players. There are also big game updates here and there. To this day, this particular Toontown server proves to be successful and still has a fairly large playerbase.

Toontown Rewritten’s Success

Fellow Toontown Online players Joey Ziolkowski and Jeremy Koletar founded Toontown Rewritten. The game runs with the assistance of a large team of solely volunteers. Funds for the game are out of pocket from internal team members. A large chunk of success that Toontown Rewritten has acquired is a result of the game being free-to-play.

Toontown Rewritten is not only free, but has frequent updates to improve its quality. Some of the game’s biggest updates to date have occurred only in the past few years and months. The return of Toontown Online’s “Sellbot Field Offices” with a refreshing twist brought back many players, as well as the introduction of brand new bosses for cog facilities.

Toontown Rewritten’s tight-knit community holds annual events labeled as “Toonfest” at certain conventions each year, continuing a tradition started by the original Toontown Online team for two years. GalaxyCon 2024 in Oklahoma City, OK hosted Toonfest this year. Players from around the nation flew to the city to attend and discuss upcoming plans for the game, as well as to mingle with fellow players.

The annual event hosted a number of original Toontown Online staff to talk at panels about the development and history of the game, such as Jesse Schell. Schell and other original prime staff members have shown support for Toontown Rewritten over the years, with Ziolkowski even joining Schell’s game development studio, Schell Games.

Conclusion

While the original Toontown Online closed almost 11 years ago, its spirit lives through the remakes offered to players around the globe. In fact, such remakes are arguably better in terms of quality and gameplay in comparison to their predecessor.

Compared to other Disney online game remakes of Club Penguin, Pixie Hollow and Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Toontown Online remakes run stronger in the modern era of the internet.

Toontown Online’s biggest remake, Toontown Rewritten, has been open for almost 10 years, and is still amassing a following of players who are nostalgic for their favorite childhood game. Not only are there players from the original game, but brand new players who are from a newer generation that never got to experience what Disney’s version had to offer.

The ceasing of Toontown Online’s operations has only made its playerbase stronger.

Written By

California State University Long Beach undergraduate studying journalism with a special interest in music journalism. Guinea pigs and music are some of my favorite things.

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