Sunday, September 18, 2011

Step by Step, Inch by Inch

This will be a very quick update since we are now within the one month window of Pinball Expo 2011.

The playfields have been routed and progress has been made in the silk-screen department at CPR! We should be seeing printed playfields before the end of the month and then lots more to do getting said playfields into the cabinets, plugged-in, dialed-in, flashing, dingin' and dongin', and shined up real purty-like ready for the big Whizbang event.

Coincidentally, I just got this link from a show called "My Generation" that was filmed at last year's Pinball Expo and includes a nice segment on Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons.

Hope to see you at this year's Pinball Expo in Wheeling Illinois!


(Photo courtesy of Classic Playfield Reproductions)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Another Summer Growing Season

Looks like we need some dustin' on the old blogger desk. It's been a while.

Four months have gone by without a proper update and we apologize for this gap in communication BUT we can safely say that we haven't been wasting that time and we are still progressing with all of our plans - Whizbang Pinball is cranking on all cylinders and will have some beauties to show at the upcoming Pinball Expo in Chicago later in October. Please keep all fingers and toes crossed and then, just for good measure, knock on wood with said phalanges.

We did get to spend some time in Seattle at the Northwest Pinball and Gameroom Show in June which was a great start to our summer. We are always treated well when we travel to Seattle and really appreciate the enthusiasm that crew and those fans have for the game.

Dennis stayed home for this show so the Whizbang booth was a family affair. Andi helped with the booth while I was yabbing away with old and new Northwest friends and after the show we were able to spend a couple extra days seeing the sights.
We got to visit the famous Shortys - a very cool place for Pinball, hot dogs, and beer...and just a few scary clowns. All people interested in Pinball have to make the trip to Shorty's while in Seattle! We want to thank Ewoud (pronounced Ay-vout...I think...or maybe A-Bomb?), the Dutch proprietor of Shorty's for inviting us out and sharing his passion for pinball with us. Not to mention his shuttle bussing us around town as well. For some reason I never got a picture of Ewoud for the blog. I'll have to work on that next time. Speaking of Scary Clowns, we did see a few familiar faces at Shorty's - JPOP, Rick from Planetary Pinball, Jim Shelberg, Steve Ritchie, and John Youssi.

What's a trip to Seattle without a visit to Pike's Market where the fresh fish fly (try saying that 5 times...sober) every day. But when I heard about the Gum Wall from Michael and Mellisa from the Pacific Pinball Museum, I had to see this living work of public art for myself. And add a swatch of color to the canvas.

We re-visited the Mecca Cafe while in town as this is where Whizbang Pinball all began with a few ideas back in 2009.

The NWPGS crew also asked me to create their poster art for this year's show. It was a real kick to see my work hanging on telephone poles all over Seattle!

Andi also sat down with one of the Na'vi while they were in town for an exhibit at the EMP Museum.

And on the rainiest Seattle day (actually the ONLY rainy day during our visit), we visited the Seattle Pinball Museum that opened last year and seems to be a great place for pinball. Charlie and Cindy Martin had this idea and brought it to reality - a bit of pinball history, old-school storefront arcade, all the while helping the community with charitable events. Keeping the silverball rolling! Thanks to both Charlie and Cindy for their time, hospitality and support of the Big Juicy Melons!

And to cap off the show we got invited out to Todd MacCulloch's house for an after-party and got a chance to see his amazing collection of vintage coin-op games. Thanks to Todd for the invite - we had a great time. Any time Andi gets a chance to win against Steve in a competitive venue is a good day. Here the two Aquarians battle it out on Cool Gunman with Gary Flower spectating or giving Andi some suggestions to catch up.

Transitioning from the last post, where we talked about the design of the playfield art, this summer was the time to get the design into production mode and turn the pretty picture into something that a silk-screen printer can use to create the screens that will transfer the ink to the wood. There are other methods of decorating playfields these days compared to when we first started working in the pinball biz, but we felt to create the quality custom product that we've put all this energy into over the past two years, then it was important to provide the customer with an amazing finished product, thus the choice to go with silk-screen other than newer digital methods.

I'll spare you the overly technical aspects of the process but we now have the art in CPR's (Classic Playfield Reproductions)hands and will hopefully have the first printed playfields within the next few weeks. I've been in this business for quite a while, and the anticipation of seeing the first printed "Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons" playfield is as exciting as seeing my first ever playfield (Harlem Globetrotters)come in from the printer. It's amazing. My level of interest hasn't changed since 1979 - I guess that's a good thing.

CPR also have the plastics art and will follow-up the playfield printing with the plastics (for the non-pinball readers, the plastics are small islands of printed plastic, cut to various shapes to fill in areas above the playfield where the ball doesn't travel...easier to see rather than explain.) Since the playfield art has to align to the playfield engineering drawing, we sent Dennis' drawing to CPR to make sure his drawing was routing the layout exactly where we want all of the elements of the game mounted (Flippers, Bumpers, Gobble Hole, colored inserts, etc.)

We received the routed playfield for proofing purposes last month from CPR and aligned the drawing to the wood. CPR triple checks alignment and positioning to make sure we are all on the same page and checks-off each position on the mylar overlay as they go.

Once we approved this piece of routed wood, we then gave CPR the greenlight to proceed with routing the run of playfields and prep the artwork for films. Once the films are made, screens can be burned and the magic begins to happen. If CPR wasn't located in Halifax we'd really like to document some of the behind the scenes progress to share here to help complete the full-circle. Maybe we'll get some help with that.

In the meantime Dennis is building the next cabinet, just like the first cabinet (well, we do plan on some unique touches for each cabinet so all 4 aren't exactly alike), and by the end of this month we'll begin to have all the pieces of the puzzle to assemble WNBJM 2 and present the first 2 of 4 finished games at Expo in October.

The first game, the one we've shown at all the previous shows, is considered our "Artist's Proof" and will remain EM for now (or forever depending on the buyer's preference.) WNBJM 2,3, and 4 will be the EM to Solid State Hybrid conversion that we've mentioned before. A lot of behind the scenes effort has been happening in that realm and we will also have all the pieces to that puzzle in the next few weeks.

By the time we get to Expo we will have invested 2 years to date from the time we showed a tiny rough sketch and a half a cabinet, without legs. It's been a great journey, and it's not over yet. We have met a lot of new friends along the way and learned a lot about pinball in the process. Since that time, pinball is in a new place in it's evolutionary history and we are more than excited to be part of any and all aspects of what we can some day refer to as the "Renaissance of Pinball". Lofty words eh?

Let's bring it back down then...We'll try to squeeze in one more juicy update before 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 LLC, Greg Freres, and Dennis Nordman.

Photos on this post courtesy G. Freres and A. Freres