No, seriously, I’m asking. What gives? It was teased by the current rightsholder, then apparently just dropped and forgotten. At least, that’s how it seems.
Maybe I should backtrack, in case you don’t know what Toonstruck is. Because, even as popular as it once was, mentioning it still seems to draw some quizzical glances.
Toonstruck was a late-golden-era (1996) graphic adventure game created by Burst Entertainment, a company made up of a bunch of adventure gaming veterans (the one I’m most familiar with is artist Bil Skirvin, who had previously been at Sierra On-Line). They sunk everything they had — and then some — into developing Toonstruck, their first — and, as it would turn out, only — product.
The production values are really second-to-none. You’ve got fully animated cartoon fun in the style of 1930’s Warner Bros. cartoons, voiced by industry veterans like Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson), Tress MacNeille (Mom from Futurama), and Frank Welker (every goddamn cartoon you’ve ever seen). On top of that were live acting performances by Christopher Lloyd (yes, that Christopher Lloyd!) as the protagonist, and Ben Stein from before he came out as a right-wing nutjob.
The game itself was straight-up classic point-and-click fare, which sadly led to poor sales in an era where everything that wasn’t mud-colored first-gen 3D was frowned upon.
While the game was substantially lengthy, adventure game fans would later learn that we, in fact, only got half the experience. Because of the game’s huge budget, Burst’s publisher, Virgin Interactive Entertainment, had them release the game before the entirety of it could be completed.
Despite having completed work on much of the graphics, voices, and FMV’s for the now-fabled second half of the game, Toonstruck released as basically half a game — setting itself up for a blatant sequel just before the end credits.
A sequel that never materialized.
Citing poor sales, Toonstruck 2 was shelved. Shortly after this story became public, the current rightsholder, Keith Arem, announced that he was planning to release Toonstruck 2 — but only if he saw enough public interest. Keith was audio director on the original game, and I have no idea how the rights to an entire game and all of its assets ended up with him, but there you go.
That was 2010. A petition was launched, it made big news urging fans to sign said petition, and a Facebook group and Twitter account (@ToonstruckTwo) was launched.
The last post on the subject on a fan-run news site is from 2011. Keith himself tweeted on the subject in 2013:
And in 2015, Toonstruck did appear on GOG.com.
But it was not the re-release that was teased. It was “just” the old CD-ROM game, now released in digital form. One could speculate that releasing it on GOG was a “dipping-the-feet” test to see if there really was substantial interest in the sequel.
Considering the warm reception the GOG release garnered, I’d say the interest was definitely still there. But word on the sequel has gone very quiet. The aforementioned Twitter account hasn’t been updated since February 2011, and the Facebook group doesn’t seem to exist anymore:
Speculation abounds whether Toonstruck 2 is even on Keith’s radar anymore:
And I suppose it would be easy to just ask the man himself, but what kind of magical age do you think we live in? Oh, right. One where you can totally do that.
All right, so, there’s still some rights issues to resolve. But when those one day get resolved — and no one knows how long that takes; there are lawyers involved; you’d have more luck predicting when our alien overlords land — chances are there will be a Kickstarter to support future development:
Also, Keith seems like a nice bloke:
@SQHistorian Yeah. I've worked on over dozens of cancelled titles over the years. Tragic. I hope TS will make up for that.—
Keith Arem (@KeithArem) December 01, 2016
Maybe there is still a chance we’ll get to see Christopher Lloyd pull adorable faces like this?