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Scope the Latest Custom Pinball Creation from Brian Soares and Reby Hardy
Happy Gilmore is the latest custom pinball creation from Brian Soares (Gameroom Pinball) and Reby Hardy (Hardy Pinball). Some may recall some of their prior projects, like Matt Hardy’s Expedition of Gold and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
We got a chance to see Happy Gilmore (in person!) as well as talk with Brian, Reby, and collector Todd MacCulloch, who commissioned the project.
I came away incredibly impressed with the game overall. If you’ve played Stern’s Mustang at all, you’re familiar with how it plays, but the level of theme integration between the custom DMD work, callouts, artwork, toys, and all the other little details made it feel like its own distinct game.
About Happy Gilmore Pinball
Brian had been approached by collector Todd MacCulloch in July of 2022 about doing a new custom game after Todd saw Brian’s work with Ferris Bueller and Matt Hardy. He suggested a few themes to check Brian’s interest level, one of which was Happy Gilmore. They hit it off and started exchanging movie quotes and one-liners, getting excited for the project. Todd had expressed a preference for using a modern Stern as the donor game, so Brian suggested using Stern’s Mustang based on his prior experience with the game (Mustang was used for both Ferris Bueller and Matt Hardy games).
Reby Hardy was suggested by Brian to do the graphic design, and Todd added Tim Kitzrow to the mix for callouts. Soon after, the core group would have a video call to kick off the project.
Brian then spent a few months putting together the outlines of the project - like game modes, movie callouts to use, and defining what would be needed from Tim for the callouts. During this time, Brian also decided he’d be creating all of his own pixel artwork for the DMD as well, which was a departure from some of his other projects.
During this time, Reby started work on the exterior artwork design, which was completed in late 2022 which, for those who follow Reby’s other work, is when her Gothic Baby series on TikTok started gaining traction and demanding more of her time.
So, while the Happy Gilmore project moved to the back burner for Reby, Brian was able to take the extra time to create a ton of awesome little detail components for the game. He designed, manufactured, or sourced:
- The TV mod (similar model to the one in grandmas nursing home room) that plays the Happy Gilmore movie
- Cracker/golf ball start button
- Subway sandwich shooter rod
- Taxidermy alligator head
- Large scale checks
- Replica hockey stick putter
- Chubbs memorial
- Alligator eyeball in a jar
- Chubbs wooden hand
- Tap it In wooden speaker inserts
- Mini golf clown mouth mod
By the time Summer of 2023 rolled around, the code was complete, and Reby was able to refocus on the graphic design of the playfield, plastics, and the backglass. Once the graphic design was finished, all the remaining artwork was ordered, and the final construction of the game commenced.
The project was officially completed in November of 2023.
Happy Gilmore Pinball Details
- Brian Soares: Engineering, Coding, Audio, Animation, Toys
- Reby Hardy: Artist / Graphic Designer
- Todd MacCulloch: Collector
- Tim Kitzrow: Callouts
- Donor game: Stern Mustang
- Key vendors/tech used: Pinball Life, CoinTaker, Pingraffix, Prismatic Powder, 3D printing, airbrush painting
- Mini TV (mod that plays the Happy Gilmore movie)
- Cracker/golf ball start button
- Subway sandwich shooter rod
- Taxidermy alligator head
- Turf cover pop bumpers
- Shooter McGavin autographed golf ball
- Price is Wrong Bitch ball marker
- Tap it In wooden speaker inserts
- HAL L. name badge
- Mini golf clown mouth mod
- High gloss cabinet artwork
- Green and red "illusion" powder coat
- Mirror blades
- RF-controlled color speaker lights
- Ninja pinballs
Rules and Code:
No changes were made to the original game rules.
- Green Onions
- Jump Around
- Endless Love
- Money That's What I Want
- Carry On Wayward Son
- Hey Song (Gary Glitter)
- We've Just Begun
- Kiss you all over (Instrumental)
- Clubhouse Piano
- Magic (Instrumental)
- Tuesday's Gone
- Wooly Bully
- The price is wrong bitch
- How you doing Happy, I'm Bob Barker
- This guy sucks
- How many times has this guy tried out
- Just Taaaap it in
- Beat it McGavin
- You can trouble me for a warm glass of shut the hell up
- He's a disgrace to the game
- Gilmore from 9 feet
- You're gonna need a blanket and suntan lotion
- Do you alway carry a puck with you?
- Here's a free lesson..
- ....and many more
Additional Sound Highlights:
- (sound) Wooden hand hitting the road
- (sound) Asteroids game
- (sound) swinging golf club
Interview with Brian Soares of Gameroom Pinball
How were you approached to do this game?
Brian: Todd reached out via email in May 2022, stating that he had seen my work on Matt Hardy's Expedition of Gold and, more recently, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He inquired as to if I had any upcoming availability for a new project. Todd had a few titles in mind and ran them by me to see if any piqued my interest. We hit it off by quoting various Adam Sandler movies, and both loved Happy Gilmore, so that is the direction we decided to go for our project.
What was the original vision, and how has that changed between the idea and the finished version?
Brian: Todd pretty much left it up to me to come up with the various modes. We had a number of Zoom calls where I presented my plans for modes, multiballs, etc. He requested some little easter eggs for Reby to include in the artwork package (like a reference to Shooter’s quote, "He spends more time in the sand than David Hasselhoff," and when the limo drives by Happy in the parking lot, he says "that must be Burt Reynolds or something." He also wanted Tim Kitzrow to provide some of the callouts.
You spent several years working on this project. Can you talk a bit about the process involved in an undertaking like this? How do you kick it off, what does it look like when you’re in the middle of it, and how does it end?
Brian: In total, the project took about 18 months, mainly due to my commitments on other custom projects and Reby's popular Gothic Baby TikTok series. Projects like this one are extremely time-consuming compared to typical custom re-themes. Unlike simpler games such as an E/M or early SS, where you are changing the entire graphics package, this project requires you to understand every rule, mode, multiball, and bonus.
Once the story is written for the entire game, you need to go back in and create a new story that will fit within the parameters of the original game.
The DMD requires a thousand or so new images that need to be created and then implemented. Revised code is regularly uploaded to the donor game for testing to check the visual appearance on the DMD.
Once all this is complete, the game still needs sounds. Sounds include mode songs, multiball songs, partial songs, random noises, character quotes, and general instructions/commentary. Lists are made for each type. Audio is then obtained, edited, and inserted into the code. Similar to the DMD portion, revised code is uploaded often along the way to check the newly implemented sounds.
At this point, if the code is acceptable, the artwork portion begins. Other than adding toys, it became like any other typical retheming project for me.
You used Stern’s Mustang as the donor game for this project, which you’ve done on a few of your other major projects (Ferris Bueller, Expedition of Gold). Do you find it easier to work with a layout you’re already familiar with versus customizing something new? On one hand, I can see the consistent structure being useful but on the other hand can see it being limiting as well.
Brian: In my mind, the layout portion of the game is the simplest part of this type of project. It's definitely easier as I have already created a design "template." It's just a matter of working the new theme in where it makes sense. More important is having the "code template" that I spent a ridiculous number of hours defining during the building of Expedition of Gold. Knowing these inputs makes it a bit easier, though it's still a TON of work.
When you select a donor game for a new project - what kind of things are you looking for?
Brian: For donor games outside of EOG, FB, and now HG, I focus on ones I've used in the past where I've already created design templates. They are typically high-production run games by Bally or Williams with plenty of part availability. Except for when it comes to the later model Gottlieb / Premier games, where sometimes I need to get creative or make my own parts if they aren't available.
What are some details about Happy Gilmore that people may not notice or appreciate at first glance but that you are super excited about or proud of?
Brian: Reby loves pinball as well as attention to detail, so this is where she really excels. One of my favorite playfield graphic ideas she had was to use the scene where Happy dives underwater to find his ball under the top right plastic. When someone looks through the clear portion of the plastic, Happy looks like he's swimming underwater, picking up balls!
Behind the H-A-P-P-Y drop targets is a nod to the girl's chest that Happy signs. One on each standup target.
Easter egg-type graphics of David Hasselhoff in the sand and Burt Reynold in a limo
The TV mod is actually modeled after the TV in Grandma's room at Silver Acres when she watches Happy in the Subway commercial.
During the Pepsi Pro-Am mode, there is an animation spot where Bob Barker looks as if he's punching you.
The start / push button with the cracker is the same model ball used in that scene of the movie.
When you’re in the design process - how do you approach analyzing the source material of the theme? Are there specific types of elements you’re looking for that you know translate to pinball, or do you tend to focus on what is most memorable for fans of the IP?
Brian: In general, I would say I try to focus on the most memorable things to fans, and then I often take it one step further and try to get exact details that super fans may appreciate, like the start button golf ball in this case. During the Ferris Bueller build, I spent months searching for the exact model glove from Ferris' room, the Pepsi can used to collect $ for his new kidney, and the cassette tape for the doorbell scene. Most people will never realize I did it, but I like to be as accurate as possible on these types of items.
Are you creating rulesets for these games from scratch or mostly adapting existing rules and code to better fit the theme?
Brian: For every game, I adapt to the existing ruleset. In this case, hitting the captive ball 3 times still lights the same insert and enables "ready for multiball" completing top rollover or hitting the 3 right side stand-up targets light the same location insert, but the name of the task completed is adapted to the game.
At some point, I really hope to learn how to code and have the ability to make ruleset updates.
Interview with Reby Hardy of Hardy Pinball
How did you get into pinball?
Reby: My love for pinball started as a young girl, living in an apartment building in Queens, NY. My dad was the superintendent & would regularly bring back treasures from abandoned apartments & one day, I was blessed with a full-sized electromechanical pinball machine. I was hooked ever since. As much as I love gaming in general, there's something special about tactile games & the sense of accomplishment that comes with mastering them.
Could you tell us about your home collection and some of your favorite games?
Reby: Originally, my home collection was curated to be themed, as I had a wrestling-themed arcade, but my obsession with collecting quickly grew to include titles I have a personal connection to: Phantom of the Opera (my favorite musical), Royal Rumble, TZ (all-time favorite TV show & inspiration for my biggest wrestling catchphrase: OBSOLETE!), Addams Family (spooky lifestyle goals), Playboy (partially custom modded to include my own Playboy photos, of course), Attack from Mars (1st machine I ever got on the board on in my youth)... Unfortunately, I've started to run out of space, so my next acquisition will have to really speak to my heart.
When you take on a project like this, where do you start?
Reby: As with my last movie-based title, I had never seen Happy Gilmore, so I started off by trying to understand the characters via 3-minute clips on YouTube. I figured those would be the bits most people would want to see/recognize in the game if they were part of the "highlight reel." It wasn't until about halfway through the project that I finally sat down & watched the movie in its entirety & it turns out I had been on the right path the whole time. Luckily. My partner, Brian, was also the best resource when it came to choosing which beloved bits of the movie to include.
What are some particular challenges with the design process that people might not fully appreciate?
Reby: Not having high-quality, full-resolution reference photos was a bit of a challenge since old promotional photos and film screenshots were used as the basis of a few of the characters. There was a lot of guessing what peoples' bottom halves might have looked like; a 16:9 aspect ratio does leave a lot to the imagination.
Is there anything in particular you were initially excited about but couldn't quite get to work right?
Reby: I had really wanted to design another 3D lenticular translite, similar to the style of art I had done on the Ferris Bueller Pinball's trans, but the stars just didn't align this time within the time frame I had to complete the project. Another thing I would have liked to have seen more of was a bit more 3D texture throughout, but I might have been a little too ambitious, given the physical space limitations. Sometimes, the artist in me goes a little wild & Brian has to bring me back down to earth.
What part of this project are you most proud of and why?
Reby: Some people have issues with one singular pinball layout being used for multiple themes, but I take pride in making each custom build so uniquely different that the player tends to forget or even neglect to notice that one donor machine has produced several different custom titles. Each game of mine has been designed to be as different as physically possible - within the parameters of the donor machine - and I'm proud to have made that a priority in my playfield designs.
When someone sees this game for the first time, what are you hoping they take away from it?
Reby: I just want it to embody every stupid joke from the movie. I want people to play the game and nudge their friends, laughing at the nostalgia. At the end of the day, it has to carry on the spirit of the movie and I think we accomplished that.
How many times have you had to watch the film since you started the project?
Reby: I watched the movie once all the way through and approximately 200 hours worth of the same YouTube clips over and over.
If you could take on a custom retheme for any IP in the world, what would it be and why?
Reby: As much as I'd love to work on a Pokemon game, I'd almost rather see a mass-produced version instead, though that's where my mind immediately goes.
Interview with Todd MacCulloch, Pinball Collector
How did you get into pinball?
Todd: I’ve been into pinball for as long as I can remember. I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old. Everywhere I wanted to be, pinball was there, too. The bowling alley, the roller skating rink, 7-11’s. Spent a lot of time in the classic 80’s arcades. Started collecting pinball machines 20 years ago.
How many games do you have in your collection?
Todd: I have about 75 games in my collection.
Any personal favorites you’d like to highlight?
Todd: I really like the classic Bally/Williams games of the 90’s. My collection started 20 years ago with 3 classic 90’s Williams pins. You know you have it bad when you don’t just start with one pinball machine. My collecting started with the delivery of White Water, Jackbot and Medieval Madness. I still love those 3 games to this day.
When did you first decide to explore commissioning a custom pinball machine?
Todd: It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. When I saw the article “This Week in Pinball” did showing Brian’s personal “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” game, I was very impressed. I wondered whether he might be willing to do another game to that level. My favorite games are mode-based games, and I love trying to get to the wizard modes of modern games. The thought of combining a timeless comedy classic with a modern rule set was very appealing. I am very appreciative that Brian was up for it!
Why did you choose Happy Gilmore for a theme?
Todd: When I first contacted Brian, we discussed several possibilities and ultimately decided that Happy Gilmore would make a fantastic theme for a modern pinball machine. There are so many quotable lines, and the storyline lends itself to working toward a final wizard mode that coincides with the conclusion of the film.
What are you most excited about in this project?
Todd: I’m most excited about sharing this game with my friends. Ever since this project was publicly announced, I’ve been telling anyone who would listen about how excited I am about this game. I’ve been so proud of the work that Brian has done. It’s been absolutely incredible.
Will this game be “bolted to the floor,” so to speak, or do you have plans to bring it to any shows or show it off publicly?
Todd: The game will be “bolted to the floor,” figuratively speaking. Not sure if it will make an appearance at a show in the future. I’ll keep that possibility open, but I don’t see it traveling very far from home.
Have you considered trying to get this in front of Adam Sandler or anyone associated with the film? It seems like something they may get a kick out of!
Todd: I would love to try to figure out a way to get this in front of Adam Sandler. He’s one of my favorite actors. I’ve talked to several people who have met him, and they’ve all echoed how nice and cool he is. I’d love to find a way for him to play this machine somehow if it interested him at all. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Christopher McDonald (Shooter McGavin), and he was incredibly kind and fun. Would love to have those two battle it out for the tour pinball championship on the machine! Winner gets the golden pinball jacket!
If you ever decided to do another one of these projects, what would be your next theme choice?
Todd: That’s an excellent question. I think if I ever did it again, it would be another classic 90s comedy. I think comedy and pinball go hand in hand. I think a great comedy can be watched over and over the same way a great pinball machine can be played over and over.
Did you have any particular “must-haves” when starting this project?
Todd: I think the main “must-have” for this project was Brian Soares (Gameroom Pinball). I thought he hit a home run with his Ferris Bueller game. He had so many little Easter eggs and cool references in that game and in Reby Hardy’s graphic art layout. To me they absolutely nailed it. It was really fun to work with them on this project and talk about all the little Easter eggs and all the iconic things that made happy Gilmore such a special game. They were able to get all of it into the game! Callouts are really important to a game and we were so lucky to have the incredibly talented Tim Kitzrow (voice of NBA Jam) lend his voice as the golf announcer in this game. He did an awesome job with the callouts and the game looks and sounds so great!
What are your top 5 Adam Sandler movies (besides Happy Gilmore)?
1. Billy Madison
2. The Wedding Singer
3. 50 First Dates
4. The Waterboy
5. Grown Ups