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Disney's Toontown Online Dev Journals: ToonFest Diary

By Guest Writer on September 01, 2006

The Lead Developer of Toontown reports on Toonfest

Morning
Today (August 26th) we’re hosting the first-ever fan-fest for Toontown Online in Burbank, CA at Walt Disney Studios. Since the event sold out in one week, we were expecting a strong turn out of enthusiastic fans – a group that ranges from kids and teens to moms and dads. I arrived on-site around 8:30am and was thrilled with the setup that the events team had put together. The setting, decorations and backdrops really brought the game to life along Mickey Avenue. There were over 40 computers set up for an in-game scavenger hunt and for Goofy Speedway grand prix racing as well as stages for developer Q&A sessions and sneak peek panels.

Throughout the day I’ll be on-stage for four "Sneak Peek" panels where we will give the guests a preview of what is in the cards for Toontown Online. I am also looking forward to watching our guests play the Toontown themed carnival games, checking out the many fan costumes and maybe even trying my hand at some of the activities like “Squirt the Cog.”

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Right before the doors opened at 10:00am, we were all pretty excited. I couldn’t help but think of how much of a milestone this will be for Toontown, the Disney Online team, and even for the fans. The game launched three years ago and has grown to be a great success. Over 15 MILLION “Toons” have been created in the game over the past three years – a number we are all very proud of. When the crowds started to pour in, it became very apparent that Toontown is a game that kids and families are playing (and enjoying!) together.

Well, I’m off for the first of our Sneak Peeks!

Lunch
The first Sneak went very well with lots of kids and their parents in attendance. All morning, enthusiastic fans were showing off their Toontown skills in the commissary where computers were set up for the in-game scavenger hunt and down Mickey Avenue more fans were competing in the grand prix at Goofy’s Speedway.

This morning, I also had the chance to meet Disney Channel star Kyle Massey from “That’s So Raven,” who is a big fan of Toontown. He was having a great time and the younger fans were really excited to meet and take photos with him. He was a great sport and looked like he was having a blast with all of the Toontown fans.

Amongst all of the activities, gameplay, and panels --- a Toon's got to eat, right? There were picnic areas and tables spread throughout the Studio where attendees and their families could rest up and grab some grub. Real “Toons” thrive on earned jellybeans and by catching fish in the Playground fishing holes, but the human beings that role-play “Toons”, however, got their nourishment from more than just jellybeans and fish. They picked up hotdogs, burgers, popcorn and other snacks at the food stands. Some families chose to brown-bag it, but either way, it was great to see families picnicking together on a sunny day…and in costume, no less.

Speaking of which, I’ve seen some awesome costumes so far! I saw a family of five all dressed as their characters. One young girl was dressed as her Toontown cat character, complete with a personalized plush cat mask/hat and knee-high fuzzy boots. I was impressed because even though it was a warm day, she still wanted to show her Toon-spirit. My favorite costume so far has to be the mother and son Cog-fighting duo “Tinker Cat” and “Dr. Alvin Bananabubble.”

At the ToonFest stage we held Toontown Trivia Challenges throughout the day and a “Happy Dance, Dance Off” – which was hilarious to watch. The happy dance is what Toons do to celebrate a Cog defeat. We taught fans the moves and then they competed for the honor of best “Happy Dance Dancer.”

Afternoon
The day is flying by! The costume parade and awards ceremony are about to start. We’ll be giving awards for the Happy Dance Dance Off, the Costume Parade, Grand Prix Racing, and many of the other activities that have been held throughout the day.

During the afternoon, I had the chance to sit in on one of “ToonHall Meetings” with Steve Parkis, VP of Premium Products, Disney Online, and Mike Goslin, VP of the VR Studio, Disney Online, and was able to listen as the fans asked dozens of questions about Toontown. Steve and Mike handled themselves well under pressure and I was certainly glad I wasn't in that "hot seat!"

The highlight of the day for me was how excited fans got when I talked about the new game features during my Sneak Peek panels. Estate Gardening will be the biggest addition to the game this year and is scheduled to go live very shortly (currently in test mode). Daisy the Duck even made a special appearance at the “Sneak Peek" panels to celebrate gardening in the game. How will it work? Well, to begin gardening, you first have to buy a starter kit from the catalog. You can plant flowers by using jellybeans and gag trees using gags. We showed players how to plant a Cupcake gag tree. You have to water both trees and flowers to make them grow. Once they have matured, players can pick the gag tree, adding valuable gags to their inventory. Better yet, between you and me, gags produced from a gag tree actually provide more damage in battle than those purchased at the gag shop! After picking flowers, they are added to an album and players can earn trophies, very similar to the fishing feature in the game. You can even purchase statues and fountains to place in your garden and decorate your estate.

In the near future, we’ll also be adding new trolley games; including a new diving game where you and your friends team up to dive down and recover treasure chests while avoiding fish such as the Peanut Butter & Jelly Fish. We’ll also be adding new gags including a new ocean liner drop gag, a new geyser squirt gag, and one of my favorites – the wedding cake throw gag.

Conclusion
At the end of the day we tallied nearly 1,500 attendees, which was the maximum number of people we could fit at the Studio! Overall, we were all extremely pleased with the way ToonFest 2006 turned out and I know the attendees all had a great time.

The event reiterated for me, once again, how truly dedicated Toontown fans are. We are lucky to have such a loyal fanbase, which has grown with the game in the three years since we launched. ToonFest 2006 was an awesome celebration and gave Toons the chance to mingle with other fans.

If you haven’t played Toontown Online yet, check out the free 3-day trial or sign up for an account at www.Toontown.com and you can meet our great fans online, in the game!

- Greg Wiatroski, Lead Developer


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