Saturday, April 9, 2011

Playfield Sketch Phase

It all worked out...Dennis did clarify later that my email had so much content about the direction of the playfield art he just needed some time to absorb the ideas, and start kicking in some ideas of his own.

Both Dennis and Mark were as excited about the direction as I was and I think the selling point was possibly this initial direction I started with:

"Ok, so Melony isn't alone in this story...Melony comes from a family of melon growers...generations with the innate ability to grow the biggest juiciest melons...and she lives on a large farm...and her family's last name is (coincidentally/appropriately/conveniently)...Mellon! But wait, it gets better. Melony has twin sisters."

The last four words sold the pitch - we bantered these ideas around (and expanded them) via email whilst I started getting the back of my hand dirty with graphite. Once I tore myself away from the initial idea of keeping the playfield simple, geometric, and less illustrative (in keeping with vintage playfields from the 30's through the 60's) I was able to open up the design direction to more possibilities. And since the playfield isn't loaded with a rule-set like the games I was used to working on once the Solid State era kicked-in, I knew I could still meet the less-is-more approach but still be able to engage the viewer/player with interesting details and characters.

So just like the usual steps in the art process it all starts with an aggressive list of crazy ideas, pencil roughs to see what might work best, and then a constant editing and tweaking process while filling in the appropraite spaces with appropriate (or inappropriate) art.

Since this direction was now about creating a scene (so to speak) I was able to look at the empty engineering drawing in terms of a foreground, middle-ground and background.

The top of the playfield where the ball enters the lanes became the sky and the bottom of the playfield became the ground level.

And by keeping the simple scoring features "emblematic" in nature, I was able to focus on the 3 sisters as the anchor point in the wide-open center of the playfield.

So welcome to the Mellon Family Melon Farm (color sketch), growers of "Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons", a farmstand with an abundancy of fresh produce and strange characters. Most of the crazy road-side "signs" from the previous (Dream Sequence) blog posts relate in some way to elements of the playfield art.

Please note: The story and characters depicted on this game are fictional. Any similarity to actual people, fruit, animals or plants may or may not be intentional. No animals were harmed in the creation of this art. There was a snowblower incident but that was way before we started on this project.

This is just the starting point. In the weeks ahead I will create the finished version of the art for the printer. Currently we are planning on 11 spot color silk-screen printing. More about that later. Our goal as pinball industry guys is to create the best looking art and design package we can with authentic silk-screened parts.

Still havin' fun! We'll fill in more blanks next time.
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.


  1. Hi Greg, hi Dennis,
    Don't know if you remember me - I am hosting the Complete Fathom Pinball Page and have interviewed you a while ago about the Fathom.
    Well, I have moved to Australia and was very sad not to be able to greet you in person while you've been visiting Germany and the GPA.
    Anyhow, the new project of yours looks great and I hope you'll get it of the ground!
    In regards of the artwork - I am missing some freshly sliced melons! The dark red would make a great contrast to the green pile of melons at the bottom. :-)
    Just my two cents... Take care!

  2. Sascha- of course we remember you. Glad to see you are still involved with pinball... only on the other side of the globe. Hope all is well downunder.

    Good call on the red! I was planning on some of that for the slingshot plastics too but I can see a couple of places where a halved melon will work well. I may also change a few to other varieties of melons just to add some visual interest in that mountain of melons.

    Thanks for the 2 cents - well spent!

    G & D

  3. That playfield design looks excellent. Greg has captured some great details, and the humor is spot on. Ha! I definitely recognise a Gary Flower there. Lots of other in-jokes and characters, but who's focusing on anything but the girls?

    Let's see if the inventory seems right:
    A barn, dog, shotgun, pickup truck, horse, three fine lookin' women and some (mellon?) squeezin's. Oh yeah, and a cow- got to have a cow there. Yup, all present and correct.

    Nice work, the 'pair' of you.