Pinball art

A significant part of pinball games appeal comes from its vibrant art. Even a technically well designed and well playing pinball would be somewhat crippled if the playfield and backglass art were missing. Many players recognize the names Pat Lawlor, Steve Kordek and Ed Krynsky as game designers, but we should honor the pinball artists as well.

The lighted multicolour backglass is an alluring invitation for players. In the beginning of pinball era it did not have any other purpose. But soon the means of showing the player score in lights, numbers or even animations became standard.

From the beginning, pinball backglasses have been made by silk screening method, printing one colour at a time directly onto the glass. Each colour required a separate printing pass. From 1978, beginning with Bally's Lost World, the backglasses were printed with four primary colours, that when properly mixed enabled all the different colours in four passes. Since the 1990's, the backglasses were not printed on glass anymore, instead a thin sheet of polycarbonate plastic, or a translite, was prepared and attached onto transparent glass.

The silk screening process was well known even before pinballs, from various printing, e.g. posters. So it was no miracle that the backglasses were made regardless of game manufacturer in one place - a Chicago printing company Advertising Posters. Its founder Tom Grant was one night sitting with Bally's Ray Moloney, when Ray asked if it were possible to print directly onto glass. Tom knew how to do that, and since then his company has been responsible of most pinball backglasses. The game manufacturers concentrated on the actual game design, and left the art to the professionals of Ad Posters. Of course, when the company had such geniuses as Roy Parker, Gordon Morison and Christian Marche, that was a perfect arrangement.

But not all pinball artists were working at Ad Posters. Dave Christensen, for example, was writing manuals at Bally, when his artistic talents were notified. Everybody knows the legendary games like Fireball, Wizard and Capt. Fantastic, all by Christensen. Without him doing the artwork they might not have been so legendary.

Leroy (Roy) Parker

Roy Parker made playfields and backglasses for almost 300 different pinballs. He worked mainly for Gottlieb, from 1930 to 1966 when he unfortunately passed away. Many fine games ensure that Roy's name will not be forgotten.

Lot-O-Fun (Gottlieb 1939) and Miami Beach (Gottlieb 1941)

Lady Robin Hood (Gottlieb 1948) and Quartette (Gottlieb 1952)

Sunshine (Gottlieb 1958) and Egghead (Gottlieb 1961)

Kings & Queens (Gottlieb 1965) and Bank-A-Ball (Gottlieb 1965)

Roy Parker's trade mark was the "Parker Blonde" whose figure we can admire in almost all of his works. Parker also filled his works with small details, images of his friends and amusing little comments. His backglasses must be checked carefully, there is always something new and interesting to be found.

Gordon Morison

The Gottliebs of 1970's are mostly by Gordon Morison. His art is somewhat comic like and quite easily recognized.

Now (Gottlieb 1971) and Drop-A-Card (Gottlieb 1971)

Jack In The Box (Gottlieb 1973) and Hot Shot (Gottlieb 1973)

Joker Poker (Gottlieb 1978) and Pinball Pool (Gottlieb 1978)

Christian Marche

Christian Marche did Bally and Williams games in 1960's - 1970's. His work is easily recognized by the paper-cut like, angular people.

Shangri-La (Williams 1967) and Blast Off (Williams 1967)

Op-Pop-Pop (Bally 1968) and Joust (Bally 1968)

Smart Set (Williams 1969) and Gold Rush (Williams 1971)

Pat Hand (Williams 1975) and Space Odyssey (Williams 1976)

Hot Tip (Williams 1977) and Tri Zone (Williams 1979)

Dave Christensen

Dave made many little details, that did not always please the game makers. Capt. Fantastic has Adolf Hitlers face in the crowd, and also some quite risque details. These went unnoticed first, but then a new backglass was made, that had the questionable parts covered with little stars.

Fireball (Bally 1971) and Wizard (Bally 1974)

Old Chicago (Bally 1975) and Capt. Fantastic (Bally 1975)

Tony Ramunni

Tony Ramunni made some great science-fiction themed games, like Alien Poker and Embryon:

Alien Poker (Williams 1980) and Embryon (Bally 1980)

Greg Freres

Harlem Globetrotters On Tour (Bally 1978) and Vector (Bally 1981)

Elvira And The Party Monsters (Bally 1989) and Scared Stiff (Bally 1996)

Paul Farris

Night Rider (Bally 1976) and Playboy (Bally 1976)

Eight Ball (Bally 1976) and Lost World (Bally 1977)
Lost World backglass image has the artist himself, with his wife presented.

Centaur (Bally 1981) and Phantom Of The Opera (Data East 1990)

Constantino Mitchell

Known from many Williams classics.

Flash (Williams 1979) and Gorgar (Williams 1979)

When you play pinball, pay attention to game art. Soon you will be able to recognize many artists by style, and appreciate their work. Playing pinball is after all not just playing with the silver ball.