Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Toontastic Day

A grand time was had by all. Remember, this was the event put on by Disney folks for fans of their game Toontown Online? And y'all wanted pictures? Well, here you go.

We drove onto the Walt Disney Studios lot at about 9:15. It was sunny and hot, which is as things should be in southern California. It's a rule. But I was beside myself with excitement about getting onto the Disney Studios lot, where common folk like me aren't usually allowed. And, being a lover of (most) Things Disney, I was primed for the experience.

It was rather like Disneyland, in that everywhere you looked there was a charming reminder that you were in the Land of Mickey. Look, up there in the sky!

And seeing this sign just thrilled me. (I know, I know...as my mother would say, "Small things amuse small minds." Still...just THINK of the famous and cinematically historical people who've been directed by this sign!!! Oh, Mr. Disney, we're ready for our close-ups!

Oh, yeah. We were there for Toonfest.

I can't estimate how many people were there for the event. 500? 1000? The ticket sold out, and it wasn't a huge crowd, but certainly a good number of people. Here's what we saw approaching the main entrance to Toonfest.

Attendees were primarily families. At the hotel the night before, we'd gone to the pool and Caroline met other kid Toons and they swapped Toon names and had fun talking Toony talk. But I couldn't find another parent who would admit that they played too.

However, standing in line, it was clear that there were other adult players as involved as me and, in fact, far more obsessive. Lots of people camed dressed as Toons, or wearing shirts they'd made with their Toon names and slogans and Toony pictures. Here, Caroline is talking to two Toons whose shirts advertise their Toon characters.

Basically, Toonfest turned out to be a carnival themed to the game in a very low-key but well-executed manner. There were games and small events, all suitable for kids from about 4 to, well, OLD. Here, Caroline is playing "Pin the Tail on the Doodle." (A doodle is a Toon's pet.)

They had all sorts of other things going on, too. In one area, a long-time Disney animator gave demonstrations on how to draw Disney characters. This artist, Stacia, was lovely and SO good with kids and talked a lot about being an artist and not being afraid to try new, different, messy things. We had a great time learning to draw Donald Duck and Caroline got to show Stacia her notebook of Toon drawings, which of course we'd had to bring along for the day.

Toons carry "gags," their weapons for fighting Cogs. Here's a Toon with one of her most powerful gags!

Uh oh, let's get out of here before it explodes!

Here I am, posing with a Cog. He's a Bossbot (the others are Cashbots, Lawbots, and Sellbots.)

We ate lunch at the Disney Studios commissary, where I was in heaven imagining that I getting my Diet Coke from the same spout as, say, Michael Eisner! Or Hayley Mills! Or Tim Allen! Caroline was unimpressed and just wanted to get to the food.

Some of the events were held in an area called Legends Plaza, right next to this building:

I've always wanted to see this in person, and was so charmed by the dwarves holding up the roof. I'd like some at our house!

Wouldn't Happy look great over the front door?

And Sleepy over the bedroom windows?

I think I'd have to put Grumpy over my office.

This lovely statute commemorates the creative contributions of Disney artists.

And look! I found one of my favorite Disney Legends!

...and another!

Later in the afternoon (when we were ready for a break from the heat), we went to this talk by Redmond, the main developer for Toontown and another member of his creative team whose name I don't recall. They gave a "Sneak Peeks" talk with information about what they're adding to the game next. They're about to start a new thing where as a Toon you can grow a garden on your "estate" and plant flowers (which grow when you plant a jelly bean -- different flowers from different colored jelly beans) and trees. All sorts of funny things result and you can gain points and various advantages from growing stuff.

I was especially impressed at how friendly these guys were with the kids, how open they were to new (and silly) suggestions, and how they repeatedly emphasized how the cooperative element of the game is a main theme that they always include.

I was fascinated by the mix of people at Toonfest. Mostly families, but really, all ages. Standing in line for something, we got talking to some older women behind us (finally! Adults who admitted playing!) and it turned out that one woman recognized Caroline's Toon name and vice versa, so they concluded that they had played together at times. Turned out the lady (Princess Panda, I think) was over 70. As Caroline and I talk about Internet safety a lot and I'm always reminding her that she has no idea who is on the internet, it was a useful illustration of how Caroline had NO IDEA she was playing with a 70 year old lady when she was running around Toontown with Princess Panda.

Oh...another interesting revelation for me. We saw quite a number of kids there with physical or developmental disabilities. And it struck me, from a parental perspective, that I'd be so happy for my disabled child to be able to run around and interact totally equally with others in this Toontown world. What a huge thing that must be for those kids, don't you think?

Oops! This gag fell on Caroline! (See her feet there, off to the left?)

Phew. She's okay. Good thing she's a strong Toon with a lot of "Laff Points" (your strength, which rises higher as you complete more tasks).

By 5pm, we were exhausted.

On the way out of the studio lot, we saw the Animation Studios building across the street.

It was a terrific (or, as they say in Toontown, "Toontastic") day.

We picked up take-out sushi on the way back to the hotel, then put it on ice while we refreshed ourselves in the pool...Then crashed for the evening with a sushi dinner and some Gameboy Pokemon game play. I wasn't kidding when I said this was a mother-daughter game weekend.

We were home by Sunday evening, in time to watch the Emmy Awards and think that we were glad we'd missed all that limousine traffic.

We're both eager to play Toontown and see if we can find any of our new friends there!


  1. Anonymous6:16 AM

    Oh Diane, I'm green with envy...my son bought me a copy of the first season of Animaniacs on DVD- the clerk thought he was buying it for a kid and James said"No it's for my Mom" We watched together and it's still as funny as always- Your too much fun and what a lucky girl your daughter is. James is 22 and we have such fun memories of those times as well as Pinky & the Brain. thanks for the fun pics-now I guess I have to wait for the grandkids to come along!!

  2. I used to play ToonTown with my kids a few years ago. They really loved that game. I wish they still played it, but now they are into the darker kind of stuff with swords,etc... The ToonFest looked like a ball though, how exciting to see the Disney Studios up close and personal. Thanks for sharing all the pics.