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Plok SNES flyer - front

Archive entry by Ste Pickford on Thu, 29 Nov 2018
Subject: Plok!

Ste Pickford

Here's an interesting little curio, Tradewest's pre-release flyer for SNES Plok, featuring the otherwise unseen original cover artwork. Click on it to see it full size.

We developed the game at Software Creations as a self-funded original title, without a publisher attached, which was quite unusual at the time. Software Creations specialised to licensed games, commissioned and funded by publishers. Developing Plok was a bit of a step up from that, and an attempt to create something that could be more of a long term success, and let us retain IP ownership in our work. There was a lot of work going on in the studio on the pitch for the game, as well as design and development.

Rick (the boss of the studio) had some little resin models made of Plok, that we sent out to loads of US publishers (that's a story in itself), and I remember doing a pitch directly to Nintendo of America staff who'd come to visit us in Manchester, with hand-drawn storyboards of the game's story sequences, that hadn't been implemented yet. In fact, Nintendo came very close to publishing the game worldwide (there's a story there too!), but in the end only took it for Europe.

As part of this 'full service' approach, Rick also asked one of the musicians at the studio, Chris Jojo, to paint a cover for the game. Chris was one of those incredibly multi-talented people who was brilliant at everything he tried, so although already working as a video game musician (he did most of the ace RAWK music in Maximum Carnage on SNES), he was also a top-class artist, and he did the airbrush painting you see here in his spare time.

Like a lot of cover art at done at the time (such at Bob Wakelin's Ocean covers), the logo was painted in, rather than being done separately and overlaid later.

The game was eventually licensed to Tradewest in the US, and this artwork was provided to them. We presumed this would be used for the cover, but instead they made some weird model of this cover artwork, and used a photo of that model on the cover instead. The US cover art was used by Nintendo in Europe, and the Japanese version had something typically Japanese done by Activision.

So, as far as I know, the only use of this painting was on this pre-release flyer, put out by Tradewest when they were pitching the game to buyers, retailers, etc. Probably at a CES show in Las Vegas or Chicago. I've had this A4 flyer up on the wall in my toilet for years, and only when someone asked me yesterday about who did the SNES cover art did I realise nobody has seen it other than me and a few people at the studio and some US retail buyers.

Rick used to have the original painting up on his office wall at Software Creations. I wonder where it is now?

 

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Comments

Interesting that it was Tradwest and not Nintendo of Europe who commissioned the clay model diorama; I assumed it was the other way. Maybe this will help shed light on who actually it.

It's tempting to think it was by Joan C. Gratz, who also did the famous Super Mario Bros. 2 diorama for the first issue of Nintendo Power. Or it could possibly be some other Will Vinton alumni; they did do a lot of this sort of contract work.

 

Ste Pickford

Oh, that's interesting. I never knew the names of anyone who might have been involved. Thanks.

 

Just in case you're interested enough to verify it yourself I did some digging and found Gratz's contact info on her homepage (she doesn't seem to be on any social media platforms). The rub is that I had to use the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, so it's a toss up whether it's still used:

gratz@spiritone(dot)com

Her site and other sources imply she's still represented by Laika (formerly Will Vinton Studios), so it may be worth a shot asking them in case her email is defunct.

 

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