Toonstruck is an adventure game released in 1996 for DOS. The game features hand-drawn imagery and animated characters, but the protagonist Drew Blanc (played and voiced by actor Christopher Lloyd) is represented as a video-captured live action character interacting with the cartoon world around him. Toonstruck also features scan-line compressed FMV, including several animated sequences produced by Nelvana and Rainbow Animation, and was also one of the first video games to include stock music from APM Music, notably the classic "Spooky Scherzo" by Sam Fonteyn and "Lonely Hearts Club A" by David Bell.
Toonstruck European Cover
|Publisher(s)||Virgin Interactive Entertainment|
|Artist(s)||William D. Skirvin|
Toonstruck is a point-and-click adventure game where the player controls Christopher Lloyd's digitized likeness. The game uses a "Bottomless Bag" as an inventory icon, and the mouse pointer, represented by an animated white-gloved hand, is context-sensitive, changing its icon depending on what it is rolled over.
Drew Blanc is a cartoon animator and the original creator of the Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show. The show has been an unprecedented ten year success for his company, but in reality the many cute talking rabbits that star in the show sicken him. His self-revered creation, Flux Wildly, a wise-talking and sarcastic small purple character, has been denied the chance of starring in his own show. Drew's boss, Sam Schmaltz (played by Ben Stein), sets him the task of designing more bunnies to co-star in the Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show by the next morning. However, the depressed animator soon nods off, suffering from acute artist's block. He wakes early the next morning to inexplicably find his television switched on, announcing the Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show. Suddenly, Drew is mysteriously drawn into the television screen and transported to an idyllic two-dimensional cartoon world populated by his own creations, among many other cartoon characters. He soon befriends Flux Wildly (Dan Castellaneta), and discovers that this fictional paradise is being ravaged by a ruthless new character named Count Nefarious (Tim Curry) with a devastating weapon of evil, a flying machine equipped with a ray beam that mutates the pleasant, childish landscape and its inhabitants into dark, twisted and mean counterpart versions of themselves. He is tasked with hunting down and stopping this madman, thereby restoring peace and harmony to the land, in return for safe passage back to three-dimensional reality. In the end, Drew manages to defeat Nefarious and returns to the real world, thinking his adventure was just a dream. He presents his new idea to Sam, The Flux & Fluffy Show, only for it to get shot down. As Drew resigns himself to his soulless job, Flux calls him through a communicator he gave him and tells him that the toon world is still in danger and Drew happily teleports away.
Several famous actors provide the voice talent for the game.
- Drew Blanc (Christopher Lloyd): An animator who, upon being pulled into a cartoon world populated by his characters, tries to help the Cutopians in an effort to return to his own world.
- Sam Schmaltz (Ben Stein): Drew's boss.
Cutopia is the land of all the happy and adorable Cutopians and is overlooked by King Hugh's castle.
- King Hugh (David Ogden Stiers): The smiley king of Cutopia. He sends Drew and Flux on a mission to find items for the Cutifier in exchange for helping Drew return to the real world.
- Bricabrac (Corey Burton): King Hugh's scatterbrained engineer who creates and builds the Cutifier.
- Footman (Jeff Bennett): King Hugh's footman. Looks like an actual giant foot.
- Sparky and Chipper (Tress MacNeille): King Hugh's guards.
- Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun (Tress MacNeille): The sugar-sweet rabbit of Cutopia, whose job is to be the 'cutest rabbit in the whole wide world'. However, she is not all that she seems.
- Dough, Ray and Mee (Jim Cummings, Frank Welker, and Rob Paulsen respectively): The singing frogs who work in the bakery.
- Ms. Fit (April Winchell): The proprietor of the Costumarama in Cutopia.
- Marge (Tress MacNeille): The sweet cow who makes butter for Cutopia in the barn. Later malevolated into Mistress Marge, a leather-wearing masochist.
- Polly (April Winchell): The kindly sheep who hangs around with Marge in the barn. Later malevolated into Punisher Polly, a dominatrix counterpart to Mistress Marge.
- Elmer (Frank Welker): A 'special' horse who lives in the barn with Marge and Polly.
- The Carecrow (Jeff Bennett): A camp "scarecrow" who looks after the crows in his fields. Later malevolated into a real scarecrow.
- Barman (Rob Paulsen): The big lump of half-Irish, half-Scottish cheese who owns the pub in Cutopia.
- Flux Wildly (Dan Castellaneta): Drew's favourite creation who assists Drew in helping the Cutopians stop the evil Count Nefarious while cracking jokes. Flux can sometimes be used like an item to overcome certain puzzles in the game.
- Fingers (Dom DeLuise): The slimy Zanian octopus who left for Cutopia to con the gullible Cutopians in his video arcade.
- Jim (Jeff Bennett): The muscled bulldog who owns his own gym in Zanydu. His voice is modeled on Arnold Schwarzenegger.
- Woof and Warp (Jeff Bennett and Jim Cummings): The owners of Wacme (a play on the ACME from the Looney Tunes), who provide Zanydu with the finest abuse gadgets.
- Outhouse Guard (Jeff Bennett): The dedicated security guard at the Zanydu outhouse who hasn't left his post for years.
The Malevolands are the dark and adult part of the cartoon world, with Nefarious' castle looming in the distance.
- Count Nefarious (Tim Curry): The most evil character in the cartoon world, who resides in the Malevolands while plotting to take over the cartoon world and turn it and all its inhabitants dark and twisted like the Malevolands. His three henchmen do most of his dirty work.
- Ms. Fortune (Tress MacNeille): A psychic feline who assists Count Nefarious in his evil schemes and looks into the future to see what is to come. She had a hatred for real humans and sees Drew as a threat to Cutopia and the Malevolands.
- B.B Wolf (Jim Cummings): The suave wolf who resides in the Malevoland woods, hosting dinner parties and generally pretending to be sophisticated.
- Feedback, Goggles and Lugnut (Jim Cummings, Corey Burton, and Rob Paulsen respectively): Nefarious' henchmen who suffer from the loss of speech, sight, and hearing, respectively. They use specially-made gadgets, invented by the megalomaniacal Robot Maker, to overcome their losses.
- Seedy (Jim Cummings): The owner of the sleazy bowling alley in the Malevolands.
- Bouncer (Tress MacNeille): The gritty bouncer at Seedy's, she speaks with a gangster/gunmoll accent.
- Robot Maker (Jeff Bennett): The mechanical man who creates machines for Nefarious and dreams of machines ruling the world. His design and personality appear to have drawn inspiration from the Dalek of Doctor Who fame while his voice and speech patterns appear to be based on those of Christopher Walken.
- Snout the Ogre (Jim Cummings): The dim-witted jailer of Nefarious' dungeon.
- Spike (Jeff Bennett): A homicidally demented clown who serves as Nefarious' jester.
- Gator Guards (Frank Welker): Count Nefarious' castle guards.
The game was originally slated for a 1995 release but was delayed until late 1996, in part due to the lengthy animation process required.
The released version of Toonstruck contained less material than originally planned. Shortly before the beta version was released, the game was divided in half. The removed material, video and animations from the first game were to be released as a sequel; however this material was never released. A number of the unused backgrounds, animations and pictures remain on the internet.
Keith Arem, a developer who currently owns the right to Toonstruck 2, is planning to release a full version of Toonstruck which would include the second half of the game. But since he needs "tremendous fan support" to justify its release and get funding, there is a petition for the release of Toonstruck 2.
In May 2011, Keith Arem officially confirmed they're currently working on an enhanced re-release of ToonStruck, to which they may add some of the sequel's content if they can afford it. He has also stated they'd like to re-build the fanbase first, before moving onto the development of Toonstruck 2. It was also confirmed by Arem that an official announcement for the enhanced edition would hopefully be made by the time of Comic Con in July 2011.
In June 2011, Trevor Greer, a friend of Arem's, confirmed on the Toonstruck 2 Facebook page that his father, Arem and himself are overseeing the project through Arem's owned PCB Productions company. Greer also answered some fan questions, most notably mentioning that an iOS version of the game is in development first for iPhone/iPad. A PC & Mac release may happen soon after depending on its success. More info was to be announced at Comic Con in July. However a rep at the PCB productions booth said they had planned to make an announcement during the convention, but were waiting for the right word to say so due to legal issues being resolved at the moment.
In 2014, Arem gave the fanbase a handful of updates through the Toonstruck Two Petition Facebook group and Twitter. In February he wrote that they would "need to raise significant capital and fan interest to bring this game back to life" and "we need to show investors and distributors that we can sell hundreds of thousands of games," tasking the community to recruit as many fans and followers in social media as possible. In June, Arem posted for the community that "very good news is on the way" and that there would be a large update in "the next few weeks." When asked on Twitter, Arem said that they hoped to have an announcement by Comic Con in the end of July. However, the announcement was once again postponed due to the copyright issues still being unresolved.
The increased interest in the Toonstruck sequel among fan community resulted in many fan creations, including a Toonstruck 2 fangame project, a fan-made Toonstruck launcher for modern operational systems, and a Creepypasta story centering around the unreleased Toonstruck 2 game.
Simon Jeffery of Virgin Interactive said that Toonstruck's global sales surpassed 150,000 units by 1998. However, it "was delivered almost two years late and at a final development cost of well over $8 million", according to Next Generation. The game underperformed in sales and became a major commercial flop, a problem that executive producer David Bishop attributed to poor marketing and "the worst packaging I've ever seen".
Ron Dulin of GameSpot said Toonstruck was "overly-hyped for both its technical prowess and ingenious premise. ... the animation, while admirable, isn't mind-blowing, and the story is mildly amusing at best. But what's great about Toonstruck is that neither of these drawbacks matters in the slightest; the designers have made a great game by creating an experience that is entertaining and challenging but doesn't become too frustrating or too easy." He elaborated that the game is consistently clear about what the player needs to do, and the puzzles deal solely with how to go about doing it. A review in Next Generation focused instead on the script, and assessed that "The dialog, slapstick humor, and relentless 'comedy' situations are tired and mostly ripped off from past and present cartoon creations. You've seen most of these jokes before, and done better 40 years ago." Major Mike of GamePro likewise found the dialogue tedious and unfunny, but praised every other aspect of the game, particularly the puzzle interface, whimsical music, and integration of live action video with fluid cartoon animation. He summarized, "Although it lags at times, it contains an excellent blend of puzzle-solving and cartoon animation."
Despite receiving mostly positive reviews from game critics, the game sold poorly. Destructoid blamed this on the decision to cut the length of the game in half as well as poor marketing by Virgin Interactive.
Toonstruck was named the 37th best computer game ever by PC Gamer UK in 1997. The game was a finalist for Computer Gaming World's 1996 "Adventure Game of the Year" award, which ultimately went to The Pandora Directive. In 2011, Adventure Gamers named Toonstruck the 93rd-best adventure game ever released.
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