Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We've Been Framed!

And now a word from our sponsor...

Not only can you purchase an official "Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons" T-Shirt but we now have Backglasses and Hand-Crafted Frames as the perfect compliment to this unique piece of art.

The frames, just like the rest of the project, are painstakingly hand-crafted with major TLC by Dennis Nordman. You're not going to find a better way to frame this backglass at a price like this - craftsman quality at an affordable price. Dennis takes several steps to get the frames weathered to look just like the Fruit Crate wood used on the custom cabinet for the game. The frames themselves are a work of art - no two frames are exactly alike - this ain't no mass production! And we finish them off with a custom Whizbang Pinball metal tag for authenticity.

These frames are ready to hang (hardware already attached)...just peel off the protective liner from the front of the acrylic and you're ready to enjoy some new custom pinball art. Looks great in almost any decor...

You can purchase the Backglass, Framed Backglass, and Official "Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons" T-Shirts at www.pinballlife.com - just go to the Whizbang Pinball Store on the site. And while you're there take a look at the rest of the site for all your pinball needs.

We delivered the backglasses and frames to Terry at Pinball Life World Headquarters last week. He now has one hanging in his office. Thanks Terry!

(Glass size is 24.25" x 26" - Frame size is 31" x 32.5")

Thanks for the continued support and happy shopping!

G & D

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

Photos on this post courtesy G. Freres and T. Dezwarte

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why we do it.

This will go down as the briefest posting to-date but we just wanted to share this link with everyone to help the non-pinballers reading this blog understand the passion we share with so many for this game-in-a-box.

The folks at the Pacific Pinball Museum do a great job in preserving the art of pinball for what will hopefully be many years to come.

Enjoy this brief documentary entitled "Pinheads: The Story of the Pacific Pinball Museum".



Saturday, November 6, 2010

Summer Flashback!

On September 11, 2010, these Prehistoric Pelicans were seen wandering behind Whizbang Studio. I had just taken a picture of Mark Weyna standing by his...911

...and he pointed and said (paraphrasing) "Holy Crap, there's a couple of dinosaurs behind you!" I turned to see the Sand Hill Cranes taking a hike towards the backyard (apparently they also heard about the bridge that Dennis built earlier in the summer.)

In just a few short weeks these cranes would be headed south as the summer of 10 was winding down and turning into one of the best seasons in Chicagoland...another "too- short" season called "The End of Road Construction until March."

Our short enough summer was shortened even more by a lot of work getting the game ready for Pinball Expo just a couple of weeks ago. For those of you that showed up at our Expo booth we say thanks again for your input, suggestions, purchases, and overall support. The game played like butter thanks to the major efforts of Mark Weyna and Ken Walker, a huge part of team Whizbang and the Weyna-Walker Watermelon Warehouse...Wholesalers of Weigh-Good Wizardry.

So since we owe you some blogtime from the proceedings that led up to Expo, we felt it appropriate to relive a bit of our summer and show you how the playfield got from the hand-drilled piece we brought to the Midwest show in Milwaukee to the fine-tuned whitewood that was not only playing but scoring at Expo.

Flashback, Flashback, Flashback...(echo....echo...echo...)

On a beautiful day in May (28th), the Friday before the official beginning of summer, we loaded up the truck and brought a fresh and minty whitewood out to Harvard, Illinois...cowtown of cowtowns (and proud of it.)

Some of you may already know that Harvard is the home of Pat Lawlor's design studio. For the less-than-pinball-savvy readers, Pat is one of our colleagues that made some of the coolest pinball games from the 1990's and beyond. And we took him up on his previous offer to rout our first whitewood in his amazing workshop.

Pat loaded Dennis' drawing into the computer and told Dennis he had to make a few changes to get the router to to read it properly.

These revisions gave me time to wander around the PLD studio and shoot some pictures (with Pat's permission.)

After a few minutes, Dennis saved the file and Pat loaded it into the system that runs the router.

Pat made a few adjustments to the head...

...pressed the big red button...

...of course Pat's shop has a red button(inside pinball joke #1)...

...and the router started doing its dance on the pristine maple veneer.

Whoa Nellie!

Dennis took a look at the first holes and realized his drawing was still a bit off...slots instead of holes. Doh! Even Pat's monkey couldn't believe it.

All was not lost though - within a few minutes and a couple more minor mods the machine started to do its work and in about 45 minutes...

...it was time for lunch.
And, of course, we had to play with the clock (inside pinball joke #2.)Looks good, huh?

After we got back, Dennis grabbed a hammer and the "special tool" and started finessing the switch slots - a perfectly normal procedure in the world of pinball design.

Voila! Se Magnifique! Our first official machine routered whitewood! Another step in the art of pinball. Thanks again to Pat and his well appointed model shop! We appreciate the support...and we'll be back. If you'll have us.

So the day was great, a big step in the design process that got us closer to our bigger goals, a great outdoor lunch talking about the glory days past and glory days yet to come, and all this goodness on the brink of what looked like a great Memorial Day weekend!

On the way out of town, I hit rural State Highway 23, windows down, my '97 CRV purring like it did in '97, and Sinatra comes on the radio with "The Summer Wind"...how much better could the day get...for McHenry County's finest looking to make quota for the month?

I haven't seen a speeding ticket in 30 years! Oh well, it could have been worse. At least I didn't have to give up my license and I didn't have to go back to McHenry for court. Online traffic school and a certificate! So I got that going for me.

So as the summer wore on and got hotter and drier than most, we also cranked up the heat on transferring the parts and wiring from the first whitewood onto this new whitewood. Slowly but surely Team Whizbang made strides in getting the WNBJM playfield to the next milestone...playable, scorable, wiring transferred and dressed for "production", and the big switch from the original 2-Player scoring from Continental Cafe, to the 1-Player configuration and added 4th scoring reel for the higher scoring opportunities that Dennis' layout provided. October seemed so far away.

Next time we'll show some of the behind-the-scenes efforts during the final month before Expo...the run-up to showtime that we in the game business refer to as "Game Hell".

And we'll see some surprise visitors to the Whizbang Shop of Horrors! Sorry, I guess we missed Halloween too.

And more information coming soon about where to buy WNBJM shirts and backglasses and framed backglasses...we're getting some much needed help!


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

Photos on this post courtesy G. Freres and D. Nordman

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Long Time, No Blog, eh?

Apologies for not keeping this blog more up-to-date but things have been way-out-of-control busy for us as the melon project gets closer to harvest time.

We have made great strides this summer on "Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons" custom pinball and now have most everything working properly, with just a few clean-up items left to go. If you are headed to Pinball Expo in Chicago this month (October 20 - 24, 2010), we will be trucking this stack-o-crates to "market" and have the game there - playable! You'll be seeing a "nearly complete" game! (Note: The term "nearly complete" refers to a playable game with most of the artwork completed and printed...with the exception of the playfield and plastics... slacker artist ran out of time.)

But listen up, kids! There's more! We will also be selling the official "Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons" BACKGLASS at Expo or you can get on the pre-order list by contacting us at our email address, whizbangpin@comcast.net. The backglass art was completed in early September and we'll be press-proofing the first run sometime next week! It looks something like this...

These official "Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons" backglasses will be silk-screen printed, 4-color process, on 26 X 24.25", 1/8 inch (.118) clear acrylic. We chose acrylic over tempered glass for weight, ease of shipping, and general safety (We've seen too many tempered backglasses go "POP" for almost no reason.) They will also have a white and opaque layer printed for lighting in the game (or lightbox.)Each piece comes with a pre-masked protective liner to protect the front surface from scratches. Each backglass will be packed with care a slip-sheeted for more protection to the printed surface.

But wait, there's more! Whizbang Pinball will also be offering Custom Frames to proudly display this unique piece of pinball history. The frames will be hand-crafted at the Whizbang Studio, weathered and aged to fruit-crate perfection, ready-to-hang on your gameroom, workshop, office, or living room wall (hey, it is ART), and emblazened with an official Whizbang Pinball metal tag to let you know you're buying an "authentic" Whizbang product.

AND, if we get enough interest, we will also be offering the ultimate in gameroom must-haves, an Offical Authentic Custom Whizbang Pinball Lightbox to illuminate those Big Juicy Melons! Built with the same hand-craftsmanship as the Custom Frame! It will almost be like owning the game - just place the lightbox on top of another playfield, strap it down, and press start!

The cost of the backglass only is $300(USD). Price of the Whizbang Custom Frame or Lightbox will be determined by Expo showtime. And cost of shipping and handling will be determined once we have the finished backglass in stock.

So don't delay...be the first on your block, in your league, or at the office or bar to own an official "Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons" backglass and frame - a truely unique piece of Pinball history.

Hope to see you at Expo! If you're interested in owning one of the THREE custom games that we're building we can arrange a time at Expo to discuss this further.

We have more to blog about and get you caught up next time when we show you what we did with our lazy, hazy summer. (Hazy, yes, lazy, not so much.) As a wise man once sang, "...like painted kites, those days and nights, went flying by."

And this just in...if you are anywhere near Lake Delevan or Lake Geneva area in Wisconsin, a place called The Purple Onion is now carrying official "Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons" t-shirts. And very soon other Whizbang Pinball merchandise. The Purple Onion is located on County Road "O" between US Route 14 and South Shore Drive, next to Millie's Restaurant. Tell 'em Whizbang sent ya!

See you at Expo!


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

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Melonhead TravelBlog - Part 2

Summertime, and the living is easy...yeah, right. Finding the time to update the blog is getting more difficult as life has become much busier in recent months. Busier in a good way.

We are definitely making progress behind the scenes on WNBJM and will have some updates shortly. We can't wait to make some real announcements but there is so much happening simultaneously that we don't know when exactly things will come together.

In the meantime, enjoy some more travel scenes from my recent trip to Germany in early May. After a short introduction, I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

I was asked to speak at the German Pinball Association's spring show in Volklingen,Germany by our more than gracious and hospitable host, Martin Wiest. Martin has been a regular visitor to the Chicago Pinball Expo throughout the years.

He has an extensive collection of games and houses them at a rented space with a group of other collectors in what they call "Pinball Heaven". This basement location is unique in that it has a stairway that leads to nowhere...an unused stairwell that the group refers to as the Stairway to Heaven, hence the name of the location.

I was able to share this lifetime opportunity with my wife, Andi, which was the best thing for both of us after a very long and trying 2009. Even an ash spewing volcano couldn't stop us from making this trip!

It was an unforgettable experience thanks to both Martin and his lovely wife Anja for welcoming us into their home and showing us 4 countries in one week!

Flying a bit south of the ash cloud added about 45 minutes onto the overnight flight but we landed in cloudy and rainy Munich with a warm welcome and started our jet-lagged week after lunch with some sightseeing in downtown Munich.

BMW headquarters - a German tradition on wheels.

Hangin' with the Beatles in Hamburg.

We visited a dozen cathedrals in one week - each one unique in it's own way.

An afternoon German tradition - "Kaffee und Kuchen"

Another German tradition...Beer!

And another German tradition...the world's best wurst!

As you can see, as an artist, I was overwhelmed with the rich history we were surrounded by in Europe. Every view is inspiring and almost every head turn...a statue or a gargoyle.

This gargoyle is dedicated to game programmer's who don't like a game rule idea...

This statue dedicated to game designers who may have lost or nearly lost a finger and tend to disagree with any team member's ideas...

This intricately carved wooden face is dedicated to pinball artists that wait until a game designer has left the room when the art is not yet good enough...

This bronze face is dedicated to guys who dig naked gold women in pools...

Whoa Nellie! This modern girl is actually in Luxembourg City and she reminded us all of the Big Juicy Melon project...for some reason.

After our Munich experience we visited with Martin's "Pinball Heaven" group and made some new pinball friends. The guys introduced me to some special Munich microbrews and I even left with some parting gifts - a couple of custom beer glasses with the names of the pinball games I've worked on throughout the years.

This was a pinball "first" for me when Chris asked me to autograph his head - sporting a special "doo" for the event. I told him I'd sign it only if he went straight to the tattoo parlor for a more permanent solution. I hope he didn't follow through.

The actual pinball show took place in a location about a five hour drive west of Munich in an industrial town called Volklingen, near the border of France. When we first arrived to where the GPS took us, we weren't sure if we were in the right place.

A looming steel mill from the late 1800's stood before us, looking like the birthplace of rust itself. Once we were assured we were in the right place we quickly learned that the German Pinball Association couldn't have picked a cooler location for their show. This aging steel mill, retired in the 1970's, and now repurposed as a cultural center to celebrate the industry, history, and culture of Germany was the most amazing venue for a pinball show ever!

Once we got inside, the strange industrial surroundings reminded me of a scene from Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times". My wife said it best..."If I wasn't here to see this myself, no description or pictures could have captured the look and feel of this place."

The show started with a welcome from the Burgermeister (Mayor) of Volklingen himself. I would say there were nearly 100 different pinball games to play brought by association members from several different countries.

The pinball world is a small place when it comes to "customizing", "mods", and the quest to make an old game new, different, or better than the original.

After being around pinball for the better part of 30 years, I've never actually played in a tournament. I had to travel across the globe for another pinball first! I had a great time playing with my "team" and even though I didn't exactly place, I played respectably for a first time tourney player.

Another amazing part of this adventure was my proximity to Luxembourg and a connection we made at the show.

I grew up knowing that my ancenstors immigrated from the country of Luxembourg. When I learned how close the show was going to be to the Luxembourg border I asked Martin if we'd be able to travel there after the show. As fate would have it, not only was my request granted but several of the show's attendees came from Luxembourg for the weekend. When they learned that my family had its origins in Luxembourg, they invited us to visit Luxembourg City on Monday and showed us around for several hours. A special thanks to Helmut Deimel and Jean-Claude Ruhl for being such avid fans of pinball and taking the time to show us their beautiful and interesting capital city!

During the show I sat with two groups of avid fans to talk about my pinball past and our pinball future as well.

After the show ended on Sunday afternoon we hit the road for more "local" sightseeing. Martin and Anja had never been to this area before so for them it was all new as well. We crossed the border into France and spent the rest of Sunday visiting the Alsace-Lorrain region, stopping by the largest U.S. cemetery in Europe (a hugely moving experience, especially because we were there in time to hear "taps" - ironically one day after the anniversary of VE Day), followed by yet another afteroon stop for the German tradition of "Kaffee und Kuchen"(only this time at a bakery in St. Avold, France.) Across the street from the bakery we found a familiar name on the sign.

Speaking of names, we came upon a small French village with a large fortress in the hills outside of town and a very peculiar name.

We are fortunate that both of our wives have a good sense of humor.

I was intrigued by things that we don't see in the U.S. - which was mostly everything in plain view but I also captured a few other items of interest.

Like cool and unique circus posters...

...and cool cars travelling down narrow streets...

...and cool bikes...

...and cool Fords...

...and...French Food in Luxembourg...

...and more Kuchen...

The final leg of our journey brought us south to the Bavarian Alps to visit the ornate homes of King Ludwig II. The weather took a big turn for the better and we couldn't have finished our stay in Germany in a better place. We actually stepped into Austria just to say we visited 4 countries in one week!

While visiting the castle Neuschwanstein (famous for being the design that inspired Walt Disney's Cinderella castle), a few folks noticed the Whoa Nellie shirt Martin was wearing and mentioned it between themselves. Turns out they were from the LA area and found the shirt entertaining. Yep, our big juicy melons got noticed in the Alps...by Americans. Melons Gone Internationale!

...and Two German Nellies!

I wish I could name and thank all the great people we met in Germany - everyone welcomed us like old friends and we'll never forget our trip - all because of pinball! Another special thanks to Reiner (hopefully spelled correctly) for getting the beer glasses made and for the handcrafted pinball themed gifts! And to all the great people associated with the GPA - thanks for the memories!

Next time we'll show some real progress on the game and get ready for the start of "game hell."

Enjoy the summer holiday weekend!


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

Photos on this post courtesy G. Freres or M. Wiest or A. Weist or A. Freres