Toonstruck is a 1996 point-and-click adventure game starring Christopher Lloyd, Dan Castellaneta, and Tim Curry (among many others).
Lloyd stars as Drew Blanc, a downtrodden cartoonist and long-time employee of Sam Schmaltz Inc.
Blanc’s ambitions for an edgy show starring a zany purple bespectacled character called Flux Wildly have long vanished, and he is now resigned to drawing fluffy rabbits for his ungrateful boss (played by Ben Stein).
For reasons it’s best not to overthink, Blanc is sucked into a cartoon world where he soon encounters none other than Flux Wildly and is tasked with saving Cutopia and the world from evil Count Nefarious (Tim Curry).
Blanc and Wildly set off on their adventure, where they’ll meet dozens of zany, wacky, and twisted characters.
Toonstruck 2 is the content that was cut from the original games at a late stage in development. The intention was to release the content as a sequel, but due to poor sales, the Toonstruck 2 never happened.
According to Richard Hare (Lead Designer) – “once Drew escaped from Nefarious’s castle, he and Flux were supposed to ride a “Train of Thought” (remember the train tracks area in Zanydu?) up to an island in the sky. Here, Drew explores his own fears and fantasies within a carnival setting (there was a Wild West shootout, an encounter with Drew’s artist idol, Van Gogh, and a visit to a maniacal dentist). Finally, Drew needs to kick-start his imagination/creativity (represented by a huge lighthouse) and defeat both Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun and Nefarious in the process.”
If the first ToonStruck had been commercially successful, we would have used most of the content that had been cut from the first game and added in additional scenes to pad out the story. Drew Blanc would have been transformed into a “toon” at the outset of the game and would need to undo this by the end of the game. We also wanted to add in more physical-based puzzles, allowing Drew to physically push around objects in the scene and use them together to solve different problems.”
However, the concept of Drew being a toon in the sequel was only conceived following the revised ending and would not have been the case if the cut content had been included as the third act as originally intended.
According to Laura Janczewski (a video compositor and background animator on Toonstruck), the whole game was ¾ complete when the decision was made to cut it in two just few months before the game’s beta release.
Toonstruck was a critical success, but a commercial failure. From a budget of $8 million+ (in mid-nineties money) it reportedly only sold 150,000 copies.
The game went over budget, and as it was nearing completion the team heard that there wasn’t any money left to market the game.
Aside from being financially limited, the marketing failed to find the right angle to promote the game. Most of Toonstruck is suitable for a broad age-range, but a smattering of sexual humour gave the game a 15+ rating (in the UK). So, the challenge (which ultimately failed) was to market a game that appeared that it was for children, could only be sold to adults, but was largely for everyone.
Lastly, at the time of the game’s release (1996), 2D games were falling out of favour as 3D games became more prevalent.
Realistically, though, the writing was on the wall for Toonstruck when it was given a budget of over $2 million. For perspective, The Curse of Monkey Island which was released shortly afterwards (and also had excellent production value in a well-known franchise) had a budget of under $1.5 million.
Another interesting factoid – Half-Life (1998) was released with an amble marketing budget to an audience that was then salivating for 3D games in that genre. The bean counters predicted that they would sell 180,000 units. As we know, the game did significantly better than that, but it shows that even with a full on marketing budget, it is hard to imagine Toonstruck ever seeing a decent return on a budget that was around $17 million in today’s money.
It’s certainly not the domain of AAA developers anymore. Point and click evolved from text-based adventures (“walk to the table, open box”), and now elements from point and click have made their way to newer genres.
Indy developers continue to make point-and-click adventure games.
We even got a brand new Monkey Island in 2022, and it was one of the most popular games of the year.
You could argue that Toonstruck represents the pinnacle of the genre; however, that’s mainly because the person you’re arguing with probably hasn’t played it (or even heard of it).
That’s the problem. Toonstruck isn’t perfect, but it is uniquely great. But, as it largely went under the radar, it won’t often be part of the conversation when the great titles of the genre are being discussed, and that’s a shame.
We are fans of the original 1996 game, some of whom were involved in its production. Like great fan movements such as Crowbar Collective‘s mission to remake Half-Life, and Andy Dufresne’s mission to get new books for the Library at Shawshank Prison, we’ll use time, skills, connections, and passion to lead this renewed charge to:
There are plenty of challenges ahead, and a lot of uncertainty about the execution. In time, all will become clear.
Want to help, head over to this page.
Within the last few years, advances in Artificial Intelligence have opened up new possibilities for remastering imagery and video. Compared to completely redrawing every asset in the game (of which there are many), AI upscaling presents a new opportunity to bring Toonstruck into a modern format on a much more modest budget than has ever been possible in the past.
Check out the gallery, where we’ve got some side-by-side comparisons as well as every scene from the original game with AI upscaling.
Keep in mind the gallery images were made using screenshots from the game. While the results are good, they would be much better if the technology was let loose on the original assets.
The purpose of this website is to:
That depends if you’re asking Christopher Lloyd or if you’re asking anybody else.