Date: 15th February, 2021

The American Pinball hiring spree continues with today’s announcement that artist Jack E. Haeger has joined the parent company Aimtron Corporation/American Pinball as the new Art Director.

American Pinball's new Art Director, Jack E. Haeger
American Pinball’s new Art Director, Jack E. Haeger

Like other recent American Pinball joiners Dennis Nordman and Zofia Ryan, Jack has a long history in the coin-op business, but he will also be familiar to home computer fans as one of the early proponents of Commodore’s Amiga as that company’s Art & Graphics Director.

It was in 1985 at the launch of the Amiga 1000 that he assisted Andy Warhol as the pop-art artist used ProPaint to digitise and paint over an image of pop-star Debbie Harry.

Jack Haeger with Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry

Soon after that, but before he got involved with Williams’ arcade video games, Jack worked with the pinball division to develop concepts for upcoming titles.

He told Pinball News about how two such games, Pirate Island and Hey, Bartender! Jack said, “I developed those two concepts back in 1986 – just before I got deep into the video game production for NARC with the amazing Eugene Jarvis. Steve Kordek had a wide-body whitewood pin he wanted to release and was looking for some new game concepts. The challenge was to develop a title and theme that would fit into the existing 13 light display already built into the playfield. My first concept was Pirate Island (the space between the two words occupied the middle light).

Jack's Pirate Island concept
Jack’s Pirate Island concept

Steve liked the idea but I had also heard from sales that there was potential for more of a street/bar piece, so, again – 13 letters: Hey, Bartender!, complete with a glowing bubble mug of beer on top of the backbox was my alternative suggestion. The game wasn’t re-skinned after all but the exercise got me even more inspired for the entertainment potential of the silver ball.

Jack's Hey, Bartender! concept
Jack’s Hey, Bartender! concept
The Hey, Bartender! concept game
The Hey, Bartender! concept game

One of Jack’s game concepts which did make it into production, albeit with another manufacturer, was World Tour which ultimately became Alvin G’s Al’s Garage Band Goes On A World Tour.

Jack said, “I contributed to the Williams Electronics pinball design team while the new ‘digitizing’ video hardware and software were still in the works (which would eventually lead to the design and production of the revolutionary video game NARC.) A pinball designer came to me with an idea for a game based on a ‘travel’ theme. I developed a story and produced graphics around a touring ‘Rock Star’ concept and called it World Tour.”

An early sketch for World Tour

Jack continued, “The cabinet was to be covered in stickers as if the game itself had stopped at all these destinations from around the world, like a touring piece of band equipment. The concept was shelved at Williams then appeared as a very similar game in production from Alvin G. years later.

The completed World Tour backglass artwork
The completed World Tour backglass artwork
The Alvin G. game's backglass artwork
The Alvin G. game’s backglass artwork

Soon after Bally/Midway were bought by Williams, Jack helped American Pinball’s recently appointed Senior Game Designer, Dennis Norman, and Stern Pinball’s Art Director, Greg Freres, with their 1989 collaboration, Elvira and the Party Monsters.

Jack told Pinball News, “I got to witness two inspired creative geniuses at work first-hand in Greg Freres and Dennis Nordman and I was invited by them to sketch and sculpt the Skull Cave that appears on the upper left side of the playfield. I was very honored to be asked to contribute to this classic Elvira pin!

Jack's sculpt for the Skull Cave on the left of the playfield
Jack’s sculpt for the Skull Cave on the left of the playfield

During his time working at Team Play for former Williams Pinball Executive Vice President and General Manager, Ken Fedesna, Jack helped develop several titles including a bagatelle-style flipperless game called Spins Ahoy!

Team Play's Spins Ahoy! playfield
Team Play’s Spins Ahoy! playfield

More recently, Jack created the production art package for the first Heighway Pinball game, Full Throttle, and was reunited with Greg Freres as one of the eight designers working on the artwork for the Stern Pinball title, Star Wars.

The Full Throttle art package
The Full Throttle art package

Jack told us about his involvement with Star Wars.

He said, “I was called on by Greg Freres to help out after some unexpected changes threw off the production schedule a bit, so I did my best to match the existing artists’ style and ‘painterly’ technique. I was responsible for producing the backbox images of Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi and the coinbox front artwork on the Star Wars Pro series. People seemed to like how the package turned out and I was truly grateful to Greg and George Gomez for giving me this opportunity.

He worked on other projects for Stern, coordinating the designs for their Ultimate Spider-Man model.

Pinball News asked Jack whether he uses all-digital techniques to create his art or if he’s more of a traditionalist. He told us he uses both methods at different times.

Eventually, we always end up pushing pixels but my experience and training in traditional methods and materials is always involved. I frequently draw (to quickly iterate solutions that come to mind) and scan those drawings so I can composite on the computer. Working with sketches and traditional media also helps me communicate and visually problem solve with team mates and clients faster at the outset of a project.

His new position at Aimtron/American Pinball is their Art Director, so we asked Jack what that role involves.

He told us, “The Art Director ‘wears a lot of hats’, from initial meetings with Licensors and Marketing Directors to define the scope and overall visual approach of the project, to sharing a library of approved assets with team members and contributing artists. The Art Director is the go-to person when it comes to print quality, production checks and adjustments. You may be working on pinball related assets one hour and focused on corporate marketing collateral the next and if a problem arises, have the skills to pitch in and solve it. To communicate with confidence to contributors as well as management on the state of the project and always work to maintain the production schedule and exceed quality expectations, to ultimately delight and entertain the player with an inspired well-designed pin.

Jack will be based at the American Pinball and Aimtron facility in Palatine, Illinois. It is a full-time position and although he hasn’t done any previous work for either company, Jack said he can’t wait to get started.

He told us, “This is my first time working with the visionary Mukesh Vasani and the inspiring David Fix and Aimtron Corporation/American Pinball – and I am truly excited to be here! We are developing some exciting new products and promotions. I can’t wait to share them all with you!

Here’s the press release from Aimtron/American Pinball announcing Jack’s appointment:

American Pinball and Aimtron Corporation are proud to announce our newest hire, Jack E. Haeger, as Art Director.

Jack is an award-winning interactive entertainment veteran with extensive experience as a game designer, art director and team leader within the video game, pinball, slot, and redemption game industries.

Starting at Williams Electronics, Jack helped design the classic game SiniStar before joining Williams’ teammates in Silicon Valley to develop the Amiga Computer – where he also worked with artist Andy Warhol to help him use the revolutionary Amiga in his New York studio.

Jack has contributed to memorable video game titles such as NARC, Terminator 2, Revolution X, NHL Open Ice and CarnEvil and helped to build MIDWAY Games into a creative powerhouse, hiring key talent and establishing state of the art video digitizing studios and working to perfect the processes that led to mega-hit franchises like Mortal Kombat, NBA JAM, and NFL Blitz, while also producing various pinball concepts and sculpting on Williams Elvira and the Party Monsters pin.

At Team Play, Inc. Jack reunited with MIDWAY legends Ken Fedesna and Brian Smolik to help contribute to the design of innovative redemption products such as Fish Bowl Frenzy, Family Guy Bowling and a record-earning 4-Player mini-pinball called Spins Ahoy! as well as other popular products.

Jack Haeger has also been a frequent contributor to Stern Pinball, providing concept design as well as final artwork for titles such as Ultimate Spider Man and Star Wars.

We are happy to have Jack join us and we look forward to lots of GREAT things to come!
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