With Avatar done the rest of the pinball machine ad flyers I have are all for tables with original themes and stories. I think we get an immediate improvement in how the table has to be pitched, mostly thanks to the material being an original property which needs to suck in a player or buyer without any outside material to help it.
With that said, our next table is Cirqus Voltaire, produced in 1997 by Bally.
It is a double-sided flyer, so here’s a look at the front;
And here’s the back;
There’s quite a lot of detail and information to take in, so let’s start with the art.
I think the art is great. The thick lines and hard-edge shading create both a cartoony sense of fun and chaos (perfect for a circus theme), and are simultaneously a little off-putting thanks to the unnatural colors painted onto the characters.
Yes, all of the art used in the flyer is art from the table, but that certainly makes sense. And it is used well. Note how, on the front page, Velocity Woman (she isn’t given a name elsewhere, so that is what I’ve dubbed her based on the V on her belt buckle) is positioned so that it looks like she is presenting the pinball table to us. The ringmaster’s crazy-eyed psycho-face is front and center with animals surrounding him and acrobats above the title. The table is also displayed nicely, with its optional purple framing a great detail, so how could you see this flyer and not want to know more? It got me to stop when I saw it, and that was only as a tiny thumbnail.
The front page also gives a great view of the table’s sides and backglass (with another angle of it on the back), which shows that smart design wasn’t left to the ad flyer alone. The sides are dynamic, but that’s really only because of the sparks surrounding the game’s name. But if those aren’t eye-catching enough the backglass makes up for it. Filled with high energy chaos, if I saw it from across a room I’d want to see what was on the table itself. Sparks, electric arcs, firing cannons, hiding ringmasters, swirling colors, acrobats (of which one female is nicely positioned), and Velocity Woman all work together to attract interest for the machine.
I want to pause a moment to discuss Velocity Woman in more detail, who is of course why we’re even looking at the table. Her neon yellow skin is certainly striking and reason enough to justify her inclusion as a Fantasy Woman of Pinball. But below the belt, instead of pants or a skirt with legs, we have nothing but an empty…spring? Certainly something that looks like it could fire back a metal ball at high velocity. Whether this is an effect caused by her V belt or a natural ability akin to a sideshow act we’ll never know. Add to her an awesome jacket cradling a not-insignificant bosom, crazy dynamic hair, a smile that just screams “See what happens when you beat my high score,” and the fact that I do not doubt that she is entirely in control of the chaos around her, she is a pretty complete package. A worthy addition to my archive and this series.
The back page does not miss any opportunity to sell the table’s game play. The “crazed ringmaster” hides under the playfield, apparently using a magnet to snag your ball at any time. There’s an interactive dot matrix at the rear of the table so you can actually see it while playing (something the ad says is for “the first time” so points for innovation). And there’s some sort of balloon bumper that – when hit consecutively – can help maximize a score or bonus balls. The text also promises plenty of multi-ball opportunities, which is perfect for a three-ring-circus “too many things going on at once” theme.
Those are just the items singled out. A great portrait shot of the full table reveals multiple ramps – one with neon! – and a big green ball in a cage that I am just dying to know how I might release! The table’s playfield art is also nicely themed, although it doesn’t seem to have many characters on it other than a cameo by Velocity Woman over to the left.
Ultimately, this flyer has made me want to…
Play – I would absolutely wait in line to play Cirqus Voltaire. The flyer has done a great job of showing me all the reasons why I could have a blast playing this, and has certainly earned its quarter. The art is great and already has me thinking of what the story could be – Velocity Woman trying to keep the circus going while the crazed Ringmaster creates chaos! The ad also told and teased plenty of fun-looking parts of the table. The designers have clearly taken the circus theme and lovingly included not only the look but the feel that such a crazy fun environment encompasses. I’m not quite at the level of Buy yet only because, although both look really well done, neither art nor potential-gameplay completely blew me away, but I do think if I did play the game and had a blast I could be convinced. But the flyer has still been successful in getting me to want to plunk down some change, and for Bally and an arcade owner that is Mission: Accomplished.
So, as we leave the chaos of Cirqus Voltaire and move on to the next table, let’s not forget that there’s still plenty of room for original ideas and themes, and they can be successfully attention-grabbing when they are done – and marketed – well.
P.S. – If you’re curious about the q in Cirqus, keep in mind that in 1997 Cirque du Soleil‘s touring shows were really hitting the height of their fame (at least in New Jersey, when I lived there), so I’m not surprised some influence (most likely more than just the substitution of a q) made it into a circus-themed pinball machine. One could probably write more on the subject, but this isn’t the time.