Sunday, November 22, 2009

Crates, Cantaloupes, and Cool Old Trucks

When the idea blender finished, Dennis poured it on the table and said, "It's going to be 'Ripe Juicy Melons' and I'm completely changing the cabinet to look like a stack of old beat-up fruit crates!" Needless to say we sat down and started brainstorming further ideas to enhance the theme. In under an hour we had a list of visual ideas for me to go back home and start working up some sketches.

Some of the "must haves" from the idea list were: A pin-up style girl (holding her award winning cantaloupes) as the focal point of the scene that would resemble a Fruit Crate Label and yet carry the tone of the Roy Parker style of pinball art. All around her are the farm workers completely distracted by her melons but still enjoying their work. A cool old truck. Some fruit crates. A dog. And a guy getting thrown from his horse because even the horse is distracted. Whoa! Hang on a minute.

At this point we started discussing the name a bit further and thought "Sweet" seemed to be the right word choice over Ripe. So for a while it was "Sweet Juicy Melons". (We'd eventually revise that all important first word to "Big" because in cantaloupe sales, size probably matters). But it was when the horse came up in the brainstorm session that I immediately suggested, "These melons, this label needs a company name. All fruit crate labels have some kind of catchy or not-so-catchy name to go with the produce they ship. So with this guy getting thrown from his horse, the new name of this melon company is 'Whoa Nellie!'" And Dennis chimed in with "Whoa Nellie Brand...Sweet Juicy Melons!"

Suddenly it felt like no time had passed since Dennis and I worked together back at Bally and Williams. The time and place were different but the feeling was exactly the same. We knew we arrived at the right starting point for this project and that it was a great theme that fit our combined sense of direction and warped sense of humor.

Dennis emailed me within a couple days with his first "concept" sketch of his cabinet idea, and it was stunning. The cabinet has a completely unique profile without the standard legs attached. He used old fruit crate art for the mock-up to help sell the idea better. The sketch further solidified our direction and we were on a roll.

As a footnote, it's a bit ironic to think that one of the biggest features on the pinball game Scared Stiff was "The Crate". Even the cabinet art looked like the crate. I guess Dennis just can't get away from designing cool crates. As Dennis might say, "He's a crate guy."

Below is what is left of the original mock-up crate for Scared Stiff, made from styrene, and behind it the vacuum-formed production version. Note that on the original mock-up, the "UP" pointers for the crate are pointing in all directions but on the production version we felt the need to be clear for assembly reasons.

Below, "The Crate" on the Scared Stiff playfield.

Next time we'll start showing some of the progress of the now named "Whoa Nellie" project.

All art, sketches, or photos related directly to "Whizbang Pinball" or "Whoa Nellie (Brand) Big Juicy Melons" are TM and Copyright 2009 WhizBang Pinball, Greg Freres, and Dennis Nordman.

All other photos credit the photographer or source whenever possible.

"Red '56 Stakebed" photo by G. Freres (Courtesy of Mike E. in Delavan)
Scared Stiff Crate and Playfield Photos by G. Freres

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