Coin-op veteran Jack Guarnieri announced the formation of JJP on Jan. 1, 2011, to design and build commercial pinball machines. Jersey Jack Pinball licensed the iconic film, "The Wizard of Oz," from Warner Bros. Consumer Products to theme its first game. Guarnieri starting repairing electromechanical pinball machines in 1975.
JJP is building 1,000 WoZ Emerald City Limited Edition models, which have been sold out since 2011. Its next step will be to produce the standard version of Wizard of Oz, which the company expects to be a worldwide hit. It has spent $2 million to make it.
The Wizard of Oz machine is said to incorporate some "industry firsts" designed to bring pinball into the 21st century. These include a 26" high-definition LCD screen for custom animation, movie clips, scoring and much of the backglass artwork. The playfield is illuminated by LEDs, while the soundtrack and effects are generated by a seven-speaker digital audio system. The solid-wood cabinet and the playfield feature full-color digital imprinting, the playfield is protected by a premium Clearcoat overlay.
Guarnieri reports that the machine's aesthetics were thought out carefully, inch by inch, to ensure that all aspects of The Wizard of Oz are illustrated. The game includes a magnetized flying monkey that scoops up the ball, Dorothy's house which spins and drops on the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East, a crystal ball that displays animations on a small backlit LCD monitor, ruby red "slipper flippers," and many other visual references to the movie.
With Wizard of Oz now rolling off the assembly line, the company has begun work on its second game. This will be based on the movie version of J.R.R. Tolkien's children's book, The Hobbit. The first of the three movies in this trilogy premiered in December 2012, with the two remaining films set for release in December 2013 and December 2014.
The Hobbit pinball is currently in the design phase, and will be released late 2014. The company says it already has pre-sold more than 1,000 units.
Guarnieri has proven that a pinball startup, while not easy, is possible -- if it has a loyal and tolerant clientele. The former distributor for Stern Pinball Inc., which until now was considered the only manufacturer of authentic pinball machines for more than a decade, could now be considered a Stern competitor. If and when its second title rolls off the Lakewood factory line, Jersey Jack Pinball could become more than a one-pin wonder.
As for the first game, Guarnieri exclaims, "My Oz is finally seeing these incredible games make their way out of our factory and into the homes and arcades of our unbelievably loyal and patient customers. We hope this game will bring smiles to their faces for many years to come."