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Willis Ms. Pac-Man side art mystery solved!

September 22nd, 2012

We’ve all seen it at some point during our collecting days. That piece of hideous arcade cabinet artwork that just makes you cringe and wonder what the hell they were thinking when they produced it. Why would anyone cover the original artwork with this? The infamous Willis Ms. Pac-Man side art is a prime example of this…or is it?

ms. pac-man side art

Looking at this side art makes me wonder if the artist was given a day, or maybe only a few hours to crank out some artwork that could be mass produced in the fastest time possible. Maybe to fill a big customer order or special request. This side art would be used to cover some of the most iconic cabinet art ever produced, and while I realize that time was money in the coin-op business, this was pushing the boundaries of bad taste to the limits. More time should have been spent to craft artwork suited to the rejuvenation of a worn ms. pac-man cabinet. Having never seen this artwork in person, I was forced to accept what my peers were saying about it. “…some of the worst Willis artwork ever produced, just awful.” I have to agree that it’s awful, but thanks to a few pictures from a fellow collector, I was able to confirm my long standing suspicions.

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WICO!

ms. pac-man side art

The artwork was not produced by Willis, it was a Wico product as can be clearly seen on the side art, part number and all. Everyone knows the Wico Corporation, famous for their red top joysticks, unmatched in the industry and standard on scores of classic arcade games. Wico was in the parts business in a big way, which also included replacement artwork. In this case bad replacement artwork. So with that the mystery of the bad “Willis” Ms. Pac-Man side art is laid to rest, firmly on the shoulders of Wico. Hug your Willis artwork, it’s finally over.

Retro Twitter updates for 2012-08-12

August 12th, 2012
  • This constant sunlight in Burbank CA is brutal. I need a dark Midwest corner. #

Q*bert bootleg artwork added, only took two years!

July 20th, 2012

One thing I’ve learned in this hobby is that patience really pays off in the long run. Sometimes a new or interesting piece of arcade artwork will pop up for sale on eBay and you just-gotta-have-it! Letting your emotions control your buying decisions can be an expensive proposition, so I like to evaluate the piece and determine the maximum I’ll spend. Then I set my snipe software and walk away. If I win great, if not I’ve learned that there is a good chance a similar item will show up for sale. I’ll wait it out. OF course this technique won’t work with any rare NOS artwork, so don’t let that stuff slip away 🙂

Q*bert cpo

Take this little gem for example. Pretty easy to recognize, it’s Q*bert! At least I think so… The nose isn’t quite right, those feet are too long, the swearing balloon text is all mixed up and the other characters have issues as well. Insert token to continue…

Willis Pac-Man cocktail cpo

July 9th, 2012

The Willis replacement control panel overlays for Bally Midway’s Pac-Man leaves very little to the imagination. Not that it’s revealing, just that it is very obviously for pac-man. Even a non-arcade enthusiast could probably tell you that. There are slightly different overlays for player one and player two, but the pac-man character eating dots can’t be mistaken for much else. Pretty boring, just like the original control panel overlays. The Willis player one and player two men make a cameo appearance again, reuse that artwork! Not sure what could have been done to make pac cocktail overlays more interesting, maybe a maze, some wacky ghost images, something. A piece of history that I’ll stash in the Willis vault.

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If you have any information about Willis Industries or would just like to comment about the artwork they produced, drop me a line I’d love to talk Willis!

Willis Q*bert cpo

July 7th, 2012

The Willis replacement control panel overlay for Gottlieb’s Q*bert is an odd one. When I first saw the overlay I thought, cool Marble Madness! Then I found out it’s actually for Q*bert, hmm. I’m not sure what the dropping balls have to do with Q*bert other than the vague relationship to a hopping Q*bert character, but at least it has yellow. A very simple design that really wouldn’t make me think of anything in particular if it was installed on my Q*bert. The little Willis men make an appearance on the player one and player two spot. It’s a Willis piece and part of history, so into the vault it goes!

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If you have any information about Willis Industries or would just like to comment about the artwork they produced, drop me a line I’d love to talk Willis!

Willis Asteroids Deluxe cpo

July 5th, 2012

The Willis replacement control panel overlay for Atari’s Asteroids Deluxe is an excellent effort by the design team at Willis Industries. With the solid black background and split screen, cockpit glass effect, you’re supposed to envision that you’re a space ship pilot blasting away at those pesky asteroids. With controls plainly laid out next to the planetary imagery, you can almost get that feeling. This is one of the better control panel overlay’s produced by Willis and will make a nice addition to the growing artwork archive on tokensonly. The production quality is top notch as usual, with 3M backing paper and die cut button holes. This overlay still has the die cuts intact, making the complete overlay design visible. A little blue tape on the back helps keep them all in place.

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If you have any information about Willis Industries or would just like to comment about the artwork they produced, drop me a line I’d love to talk Willis!

Retro Twitter updates for 2012-06-17

June 17th, 2012

It’s the 30th Anniversary of Robotron, the perfect time to revive a pair of cabinets. (Robotron restoration pt 1)

June 6th, 2012

robotron arcade game

I’ve been hanging on to this old Robotron cabinet forever. I inherited the cab when a good friend moved out of state and didn’t want to take it with him. It was a project that I figured I’d get around to one day, well one day ended up being almost ten years, yikes! It wasn’t until another collector suggested that I restore his cabinet at the same time that I got motivated. He’d cover materials and I’d finally get the project underway, so what the heck. I prefer to restore multiples of the same cabinet anyway, it makes for efficient use of time and materials. The cool thing is that this restoration project coincides with the 30th anniversary of Eugene Jarvis’ classic Williams arcade game. I’ll have to do a good job! Insert token to continue…

Stern production numbers and more CCI photos

May 1st, 2012

Among the Chicago Coin Industry press photos, Stern flyers and parts I found this little gem. (see the original post HERE) A two page, photo copied list of Stern production numbers! Stuff like this doesn’t come up too often so this is a great find. Sheds some light on how many games were in production and how long they were being produced. Insert token to continue…

Chicago Coin Las Vegas Shuffle advertisement found!

April 30th, 2012

A recent arcade purchase from a former Stern employee turned out to be a small treasure trove of arcade history. I was super excited to find a potentially NOS Stern Frenzy cabinet right from the factory floor! You can see it stuffed into the back of my 4 runner below, or check out the full post about the cabinet HERE. As exciting as that was, the real treasure turned out to be the plastic bin of miscellaneous parts and documentation.

NOS Frenzy Cabinet

In a Rubbermaid tote full of parts, photos, flyers and documentation, I found an original 8.5″ x 11″ marker rendering mock-up of the 1963 Chicago Coin Las Vegas Shuffle game. The artwork is drawn on vellum and then glued back to back onto a piece of white filler paper to create a double sided flyer. This was probably done in house by the marketing department, or by the person handling the company advertising at the time. The mock up is very similar to the flyer that was eventually produced and gives a rare glimpse at the creative process behind the arcade flyers we love so much. Insert token to continue…