Bad Celebrity Themed Pinball Genres

This time we wont rank the bad celebrity pinball machines, well look at several different genres of bad celebrity tie ins:


In 1991 Williams Pinball released a machine based on Terminator 2 complete with a gun trigger to launch the ball and a ton of Arnold’s catch phrases like Ill be back keyed to various game objectives. The film was a huge hit, and everything worked well together. Because of the success of this machine the production companies thought that releasing a pinball machine simultaneous with the film would be a great cross promotional tactic.

Unfortunately, this thinking led to a number of pinball machines based on films that were absolute bombs. Some examples of this genre are machines based on The Last Action Hero and Hook. There wasnt a cooler cartoon than The Flintstones. So how do you screw up a Flintstones pinball machine? Just base the theme not on the classic Hanna Barbara cartoon, but on the horrible film starring John Goodman and Rosie ODonnell.

My two favorites are The Shadow which is hilarious because Alec Baldwin is on the backglass and Waterworld. Waterworld was released in 1995 starring Kevin Costner and quickly became the definitive big budget, no box office film replacing Michael Ciminos Heavens Gate and the Dustin Hoffman/Warren Beatty comedy Ishtar.

Playing a bomb themed pinball machine is downright surreal. The most pitiful thing is when the machine booms out a catch phrase from the film that no one is familiar with. Fortunately, this trend died out with the demise of most of the pinball manufacturing companies. The remaining pinball maker, Stern Pinball, has learned from this mistake filled era and only does machines based around cool themes like The Sopranos and The World Poker Tour


This genre includes themes that would have been pretty cool, except for the fact they were released well after the subjects peak of popularity. Gilligans Island would have been great back in the mid-1960s or even in the late 70s when a new generation discovered the show in syndication. In 1991 it was just creepy since nearly half of the cast members depicted on the backglass were dead. Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry would have been a perfect fit for a pinball theme, except that its 1995 release came 8 years after the debut of the last film in the series (The Dead Pool). Popeye Saves the Earth was released 15 years after the release of the Robert Altman film.

The strangest machine of this genre is 1994s Mario Andretti. Andretti is certainly worthy of a pinball machine as hes a legitimate auto racing legend. Whats strange about this machine, however, is the backglass which displays an image of grizzled old Mario Andretti. Having the sixty-something race car driver on the backglass is vaguely akin to having your grandfather looking over your shoulder while you play.


A comment on the original celebrity theme article mentioned this genre and it is a good one. Its important to understand that the pinball industry has been based in Chicago for most of its history. Presumably for that reason there have been some machines featuring the local sports teams and stars. Chicago Cubs Triple Play isnt too bad due to the Cubbies national popularity. That’s not the case with 1978s Bobby Orrs Power Play, released not long after the trade that sent Orr from Boston to Chicago. Nationally, no one outside of Boston and Chicago cared. My hunch is that it was made to scam some free season tickets out of the Blackhawks management.


This requires a little bit of an explanation: for reasons that Ive never been quite clear on it was common practice to rebrand a perfectly good game for the International market. Sometimes it was released by the US company, other times it was licensed to a foreign operation. Youd think that there would be some creative control over the rebranded themes. Youd be wrong.

While I have a good grasp on the US pinball demographic I have no idea who plays pinball internationally. Based on some of the re-themed machines its probably better I dont know. Mata Hari was a classic machine of the early 1980s. The German release was rethemed as the more foreboding Lady Death. This one at least makes sense as they had some Nazi imagery that Germans are understandably sensitive about (despite being historically inaccurate, since the real Mata Hari was executed during WW I). Less understandable is the retheming of a military themed game called Special Force in the US to the downright bizarre Special Forces Girls, featuring comely women in low cut, cleavage baring fatigues.

Ross Everett is a well known freelance writer who covers travel, casino gambling and Uk marriage visa sports handicapping. He is a consulting handicapper for Anatta Sports where he is responsible for providing daily Uk marriage visa free sports picks. In his spare time he enjoys fine dining, fencing and deep sea diving. He lives in Southern Nevada with four dogs and a pet coyote.

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