In the wonderful world of pinball design, one of the least risky ways to guarantee the success of a model is to take a juicy license such as a movie, a series or a cartoon and turn it into a machine that takes the main lines of the movie, series or cartoon and attracts the pinhead with fan service.
In theory, it works pretty well. Gary Stern has even made it his leitmotiv for years and everyone is speculating about the next license that will have the honor of having its field filled with toys and artworks that will delight the fans.
Except that at the time, our dear pinball machine manufacturers were taking risks that were sometimes a little ill-considered by launching the production of models even before having seen the film (e.g. Johnny Mnemonic) or by relying on crappy licenses…
And that’s the subject of today’s review. We go back in time again, this time to 1994, to talk about a pinball machine based on a movie that Steven Spielberg (Executive Producer at the time) still has to try to forget through shrink sessions, so much it is a stain in the middle of his list of blockbusters. I named it: The Flintstones!
So let me reassure you right away, we won’t dwell on the level of the film. I’ll let you make your own opinion on the subject, but tell you that if it didn’t make a mark, it’s not for nothing.
On the other hand, I am obliged to mention the The Flintstones movie and not the eponymous license in the broad sense, which most of us know through the cartoons of Hanna Barbera (#nostalgia).
Simply because the pinball machine is about the film, and therefore, the scenario of the film and in fact, all the artistic direction takes the codes of the film and not those of the cartoon.
And what an artistic direction it was! If there is one thing that cannot be taken away from this pinball game, it is the beauty of its “world under glass”:
- The ramps that go under the houses on each side of the board;
- The moving dictabird figure;
- The brontosaurus at the bottom of the board that cleverly camouflages a metal ramp;
- The volcano that dresses up an eject hole;
- The row of bowling pins that hides the bowl-o-rama targets and so on…
A nice playfield, all right. What about the box and the backglass?
In short, it is undeniable, the set of this pinball is beautiful. We can find all the characters and the different scenes of the movie through the artworks. The inserts, flashy and well arranged throughout the field, come to sublimate the whole.
However, the same cannot be said for the rest of the pinball machine… The translite is totally bland and one-colored (the LEDs are essential if you want to play on some shades and break this abundance of orange color).
And I’m not even talking about the box, which turns out to be so sad… A simple shiny black background with a few lightning bolts and the logo of the film, and that’s it!
Two design variants for the same machine
Note, however, that there are two subtleties in the exterior design of this machine.
The first one: The pinball machine was planned to be with gold legs, and the rest of the armor kit (lockbar and side rails) in classic chrome. That’s how it was proposed in the promotional flyer. Legend has it that this mix of colors is intended to be in continuity with the lightning bolts drawn on the decal, which are also gold and gray.
As for whether production models were provided in this configuration? It is unlikely. Almost all Flintstones are equipped with classic chrome legs, except for some picky collectors who changed them to find the flip in its original configuration.
The second subtlety is in the speaker panel and more precisely in the speaker grids.
The first models to come out of production had a rather interesting design element as a painted brontosaurus head on the right, as well as on the left, covered the grids, in line with the speaker panel design.
Except that when this childishly themed pinball machine was released, it seems that many people complained to Williams.
The reason? Well, from a distance, this brontosaurus head and its elongated neck looked a bit too much like a phallic shape… Admit that on a child’s pinball machine, it looked odd! Result: Williams did not want to tarnish its image with such a controversy, so the rest of the production was simply given black grids, and the artwork of the speaker panel was amputated of a part of its design. Too bad…
Where is the lightshow!
Finally, we can’t talk about the design of the Flintstones without mentioning the most incomprehensible point of all: the lightshow and especially the general illumination, which is a shame…
It’s quite simple, there must be at least 5 to 6 GI (General Illumination) bulbs missing to allow the board to be lit properly. It is so dark that almost all the mods available for this pinball machine consist in adding LED strips everywhere to allow light to correctly display all the elements of the board.
It is all the more incomprehensible that every owner who has lifted its tray, at least once, has been able to note the number of holes present under the decorations which contain only empty places, without socket nor cable, as if it was a part of the planned bulbs that had not been mounted during the assembly.
Bad taste or economy in the production? We will probably never know…
Rock Me, I’m famous
An uneven design, but in game, what does this Flintstones machine give?
The least we can say is that this pinball machine is meant to be accessible and fun to play. On this point, the contract is fulfilled. The machine has a good flow, and the shots are quite permissive (you will rarely have the “plane” or “garage” effect). There is a presence of many fixed targets but also of two banks of falling targets (rare enough on this generation of pinball machines to be underlined) make sure that each shot allows you to win points very easily.
The abundance of elements on this board also gives the impression of systematically varying the pleasures: You attack the bowl-o-rama with a strike or a spare, you go on with a ramp, then you send the ball with the third flipper to the top of the board. It then ends up in the volcano and then in the mouth of the brontosaurus, to be spat out in the bumpers… in short, it goes fast, it’s dynamic, it’s varied and the games last relatively long.
The missions are articulated around different highlights of the movie (such as Fred’s hiring questionnaire or the Bedrock Water Buffalo’s concert). Quite classically, you switch missions by shooting the pop bumpers, missions that are activated by taking the right or left ramps three times. Once the 4 missions are completed, you trigger the wizard mode and you will just have to bomb the rows of falling targets to explode the score (100 Millions x the current multiplier) for several seconds.
This is a pinball machine where you can score quite easily, so assume that you have to go for the billions to start installing your name in the high score table in a sustainable way (and I saw you, the little rascals who imagine doing that by pressing the “extra ball” button at the end of the game! We said WITHOUT the “buy in” option!)
In addition to the classic missions mentioned above, there are a lot of things to do like :
- Two additional missions by activating the dictabird (the moving parrot figure);
- The possibility to launch the bowling match through a ramp by aiming the pins with your ball;
- The “CONCRETE” letters to be lit by aiming at the targets. They allow to launch the concrete multiball. This last one propels the 3 balls in the concrete machine on the top left and makes the balls rotate to increase the bonus score (note that this pinball machine allows you to cast the multiballs, so you can accumulate them to get up to 4 balls on the board);
- A rather original video mode, in the form of a dinosaur race, in which you don’t play with the pinball buttons but with your ball that you have to send waltzing into the pop bumpers, each impact making your dinosaur move forward to hope to take the lead of the race, rather original;
- The shots in the brontosaurus that work like a mystery mode and activate a different element each time (CONCRETE letters completed, doubled values, video mode activated etc…) ;
- And of course, the most surprising feature of this pinball machine: the “smart ramps”, which change the direction of the shots each time. Indeed, these are connected to the apron which acts as an extension of the ramps and, thanks to the inertia, your ball falls in the opposite hole of the ramp in which you sent it. Believe me, the first few times it is quite confusing! To top it all off, depending on the phase of the game, diverters allow you to block the marble to make it go down in the classic way, which enriches the gameplay a little and spices up our game strategy.
This feature is not found on any other pinball machine. The only machines that have a similar principle are Roller Coaster Tycoon and Hurricane with their ramps that loop across the board.
In short, you will have understood: even if all this seems a bit messy and lacks of harmony in the gameplay, the least we can say is that we are not bored and the ball always finds an objective to reach with each shot.
BedRock Festival – July 1994
In 94, the new sound system of Williams appeared: the DCS Sound System (for Digital Compression System). The sounds are thus cleaner and clearer than the good old Yamaha sound chipset which equipped the Fliptronic of the preceding generation.
And it is on the sound aspect that this machine realizes a homerun. The call-outs of this pinball machine are just perfect, most of them are taken from the movie and help to recreate the very special atmosphere of the craziest family in prehistory.
You’ll find yourself yelling “Yabba-dabba-doo!” with Fred at the start of each game, smiling when the Flintstones’ pet dino grunts on the screen while trying to bite its tail, or punctuating each game with “boing!”, “strike!” or “booooh!”.
And for the older ones, to whistle the music of the credits, identical to the series, while remembering the Wednesdays of the 90s in front of Hanna Barbera while eating a bowl of cereals (it was better back in the day, isn’t it?!).
The DMD’s animations are very well done and obviously full of humor. They are a perfect complement to the game’s sound atmosphere and are, moreover, very clear. Nevertheless, they deserve a color change through the screens available on the market. If only to stick to the theme and break the orange color of the world under glass.
Successful license adaptation or fiasco worthy of the film?
So in conclusion, this prehistoric cocktail by Williams: Indigent as concrete or light as fine sand?
Well, neither in the end. We find it an excellent machine to gently enter the wonderful world of pinball, which will delight young and old. It even becomes the perfect demonstration that you can make a very honorable pinball machine from a cheesy movie!
Once equipped with the essential mods/accessories, it even takes on another visual dimension and turns into a beautiful little machine that will not have to blush next to the great classics.
On the other hand, it finds its limits too quickly in terms of gameplay and will definitely not satisfy the most demanding pinheads. They will find it, without a doubt, too simple and too messy in its design.
On my side, I have already lost, I had to anchor it to the floor of my gameroom. My daughter swears by this pinball machine…
Manufacturer: Williams (Midway Manufacturing Company)
Production date: July 1994
Theme: Cartoons / Movie License
Type: Solid State / Standard Body
MPU: Williams WPC Security (WPC-S)
Units produced: 4,779
TOYS / SPECIAL FEATURES :
The Concrete Machine: A rotating disc that holds the balls and raises the bonus score before releasing them into the left ramp.
Smart ramps: Ramps connected to the apron, which allow the ball to be ejected in the opposite direction of its entry.
The Dictabird: Figurine of the parrot present in the film, which moves when you shoot at the linked target.
NOTABLE FEATURES :
- Standup targets (13)
- 4-bank drop target (1)
- 3-bank drop target (1)
- Ramps (3)
- Diverters (3)
- Multiball (4 balls)
TECHNICAL AND ARTISTIC TEAM :
- Game design : John Trudeau
- Software : Jeff Johnson
- Artwork: Kevin O’Connor
- Sound: Dave Zabriskie
- Music: Dave Zabriskie
- Dots/Animation: Scott Slomiany, Eugene Geer