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Random Thoughts & Pictures

I was previously familiar with Bad Cats, but I really got hooked when I found one around 2005 at an old mountain resort in Capon Springs, West Virginia. Capon was a premier 19th century mountain resort until the main hotel building burned in 1911. Enough peripheral buildings remained for the operation to limp along until a new family took over in 1932. The same family still runs the resort today. This place is a quiet little time capsule that few people know about. My wife is the third generation of her family to regularly vacation at Capon. Life moves slow at Capon. There is still a gameroom and that gameroom still has pinball! Bad Cats was at Capon for about three summers. I played this game continuously for weeks at a time and could never get enough. At the time I was mostly indifferent to cats but, I am a big fan of games with goofy, whimsical themes. Bad Cats is as goofy and whimsical as it gets. The humor, theme, art, music, sound and speech are all great.
Meow-Me-Meow-Meow!

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The pictures above show Bad Cats at Capon. By the time these shots were taken in 2007, the game had been sitting there for three seasons. It was dirty, weak, broke and almost not worth a quarter. Sad. It's especially sad to see a neglected game that is still in good cosmetic condition. It's not often you see a Bad Cats that hasn't faded to yellow or white. There's a real nice game sitting there under all the grime. In past years this room hosted other classic System-11 games like Fire! and Cyclone. In 2007 Bad Cats shared space with a Super Mario Brothers. Super Mario Brothers has some seriously annoying sound and speech, but at least the game was fully functional!

Bad Cats reminds me of Cyclone, another one of my favorite Williams System-11 games. Both are Oursler/Anghelo creations with whimsical themes. Both feature a pair of hurry up ramp shots. Both include a cellar-hole activated prize wheel. Both have a narrow top arch with a novel toy in the upper left corner. Cyclone seems to be the more popular of the two. But I give my nod to Bad Cats. I think Bad Cats is a bit better all around. Plus there are two banks of drop targets, which add more interest to any game. Bad Cats also has some classic features like backbox animation and a real (not translite) mirrored backglass.

Another unusual feature is the game's single-ball play. Next to Pool Sharks and Bugs Bunny Birthday Ball I believe Bad Cats is one of the last pinball machines to not include a multiball feature.

THERE IS MORE -- THAN ONE WAY -- TO SKIN A BAD CAT

Bad Cats had a relatively low production run and decent examples are not always easy to come by. Although the game is often criticized as too simplistic, there seems to be a loyal following of fans that quickly scarf up any nice examples that appear for sale. I found my Bad Cats in an eBay listing that just happened to be in nearby Manassas, VA. I picked it up on March 4, 2010. This game holds the record as involving the least amount of travel time to go get.

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My particular game has a perfectly orange cabinet. Most of these games have at least some fading to yellow. Some are white like they've been through a nuclear blast. The backglass is near perfect. All the unique game mechanisms are complete and working. The boards are matched and un-hacked with clean connectors all around. The ramps have some minor cracks and chips, but are otherwise sound. The plastics are so-so, but reproductions should be on the way. The downside is the playfield. Except for a patch around the jet bumpers, the game does not appear to have ever been Mylared. There's some checking and insert wear all around, but especially in the lower-middle area of the playfield. And the whole game is thoroughly dirty and will need a good cleaning and a ring kit. But otherwise, it's a nice starting point.

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Bad Cats has an animated shadow box behind the backglass. The cat spins as the woman whacks it with the broom. Check out the sign on the wall and the license plates. The art includes several references to artist Python Anghelo.

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Press your face against the glass and you can check out the butterfly tattoo on the woman's butt.

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Backglass details.

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Backglass detail.

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Backglass detail.

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The "Pinball Python" in the lower right corner of the backglass.

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Game design credits listed on the plastics between the inlanes and outlanes.

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Scruffy the Bad Cat.

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Shown above is the two page promotional flyer for Bad Cats. Click for larger picture.

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Shown above are the speaker cutouts and a promotional plastic for Bad Cats.

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Super rare stand-up promotional plastic for Bad Cats.

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Here's the "custom 3D desktop display assembly" that was included in the Bad Cats repro plastics set made by Classic Playfield Reproductions in 2013. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see how I turned this piece into a topper.

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Here's a sheet of decals I found rummaging around a junk box at a pinball show. I loaned this sheet of decals to Panetary Pinball for scanning. As of 2015 they were offering reproductions.

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Close-up of the promo decal.

Linear Target

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The linear target (or Fish Bone-Us target) is a mechanism unique to Bad Cats. As far as I know this mechanism was never used again. So you probably wouldn't want to buy a Bad Cats if this mechanism is missing. The functionality of the linear target is often compared to Gottlieb's old Vari-Target in that awards are proportional to how hard the target is hit. However, the technologies are completely different. The linear target's mechanism is hidden in the upper left corner of the playfield. It is buried under plastics and ramps and cannot be examined without significant playfield disassembly. So here it is...

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The mechanism is pretty simply. Linear movement of the target rod causes a notched disk to rotate though an opto interrupter. The number of notches passing through the opto interrupter is (theoretically) proportional to how hard the target is hit. The rubber parts appear to be cut-down conical yellow post rubbers. I don't know if this is the original or correct arrangement of rubber. But they appear to grip the target rod well, so I left them as is. The diagram in the manual appears to show round rubber rings. Unfortunately, the rings are not listed as a separate part number so I'm not exactly sure what they're supposed to be. The target rod is supported by snap-in nylon bushings. But my bushings were cracked and not holding themselves into the fame anymore. I used a few small dabs of white caulk to hold the bushings in place. It's kind of hack-looking, but seems to have done the trick. However, new bushings are available at least from Marco Specialties and are called 3⁄16" Nyliner bearings. The circuit board penetrates the playfield and is mated to an under playfield connector.

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During gameplay the target's behavior seems unpredictable and not all that linear. There are only a few notches in the opto interrupter disk so the initial position of the disk affects the outcome of a target hit. Most hits register from zero to two Fish Bone-Us advances. Three advances will occasionally register with a good solid whack.

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Click thumbnails to see linear target diagrams from the Operations Manual.

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Click thumbnails to see patent images for the linear target.

2012 Pinball Expo

The 2012 Pinball Expo in Chicago featured a seminar with the always entertaining Python Anghelo assisted by Phoebe Smith of Pinball Painting (www.pinballpainting.com). Python did the art and concept for Bad Cats which was the main subject of the seminar. There were many hilarious antidotes about the origins of the game. The audio transcript is available at Pinball News (www.pinballnews.com). Check it out. I acquired an autographed game flyer later that day (see above).

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Python Anghelo explaining Bad Cats.

There was an unstamped cardboard sheet of garage art on display at the seminar. The art forms the shadow box for the backglass animation.

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Garage art.

Phoebe displayed pictures of a prototype playfield including the following differences:
1) Colors of the four inserts under the Fish Bowl ramp entrance were different.
2) There was a large clear insert over the Seafood Wheel as opposed to a removable window.
3) The Seafood award at position 1 was "1,000,000" points as opposed to "Spots Letter & 25,000" points.
4)The Seafood award at position 5 was "Jackpot" as opposed to "Lites Jackpot".
5)The outlane inserts were labeled "Special" as opposed to "?" for a Curiosity Spin. Note that the game flyer still shows the "Special" outlane inserts.

Custom Topper

In 2013 Classic Playfield Reproductions released their reproduction plastics set for Bad Cats. The set included what the company called a "custom 3D desktop display assembly". I wanted to make it into a topper. As it is out of the box, the assembly is probably too light and wobbly survive atop a pinball machine. So I glued it to a piece of plywood using two beads of clear silicone caulk. Then I backlit it with a 25 watt miniature clip-on lamp I found at Home Depot.

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In 2016 I acquired an original standup promo so I redid my topper to include both.

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