Back in March, I wrote a post here about an awesome-looking homebrew pinball machine based on the classic Will Ferrell Christmas movie, Elf. Check the pictures of this game out.
Earlier today I had the pleasure of speaking with the creator of the Elf machine, Bob Nies. He told me the whole story of the Elf homebrew pin, how he wanted to create a his own custom pinball machine with his family as a fun hobby and that they ultimately chose the movie Elf over Tommy Boy as a theme because Elf is their all-time favorite movie.
Bob and his family have never sought any notoriety for the game that they produced. He has mostly been sharing his progress on the project with other homebrewers, but he did bring the machine to the Texas Pinball Festival back in March. The game was super well-received at the show. The public loved it and representatives from a number of pinball manufacturers even lined up to play it, from American pinball, to the super cool pinball designer Scott Danesi to a number of people from Stern Pinball. Interestingly, the people from Stern liked the Elf pin so much that they asked his permission to take several pictures of the game.
Flash forward to this week, I noticed a post on Facebook stating that the Elf homebrew game was going to make an appearance at a pinball distributor to play and even be included in a tournament that they were holding. How cool is that? So Bob brought the machine to the event, people were loving it and it was holding up well during tournament play...UNTIL the game all of a sudden was mysteriously pulled from the tourney. It's a homebrew, so obviously a mech went down or a bug caused the software to crash, causing it to be taken out, right? Not exactly. What really happened is a representative from Stern pinball called the distributor and told them to not only remove the game from the tournament but also remove any social media posts that they have made about the Elf homebrew pinball machine. In fact, many posts across social media referencing the Elf game seem to have mysteriously disappeared over the past several months.
Hmmmmmm, so why would Stern Pinball want eliminate all references to a hobbyist's family project? I can think of two possible reasons, one is that the tournament was an officially sanctioned IFPA or Stern circuit event and Stern wants to protect any current or future relationship that it has with New Line Cinema, who I believe is the rights-holder for Elf. Stern is understandably very protective of its licensing relationships because licensed themes are the company's bread and butter. I definitely wouldn't blame Stern at all if that was indeed the reason that they shut things down. New Line Cinema owns the rights to a TON of movie franchises, I believe including both the original Lord of the Rings movies and the upcoming Amazon series for example.
The other possible explanation is that Stern Pinball already has the license to produce a pinball machine based on the movie Elf. If Stern has the Elf license they obviously wouldn't want anyone else showing off their own version of Elf pinball.
So which is it? I honestly have no idea. If it was the former, Stern probably could have handled things a little more tactfully and just reached out to Bob saying something like "Hey man. We love your homebrew game and enthusiasm, but we really can't put it in a Stern tournament or feature it on social media because we need to be very careful with licensing." He absolutely would have understood.
As for the latter, Elf doesn't really seem to be the type of theme that Stern would produce a pin for to me, but Stranger Things have happened (ahhhh, see the pinball reference lol). I suppose that we can add Elf to the list of potential future Stern Pinball machines that already includes things like He-Man, Jaws, Back to the Future and Venom to name a few :) .
Time to try out that new Poll feature again.