NATALE ZACCARIA
INTERVIEW


Report by Waldemar Banasik

Zaccaria was one of the biggest Italian producers of pinball in the seventies and eighties. The company was established in 1974 in Calderara di Reno, Bologna, and set up by three brothers (Mario, Franco and Natale Zaccaria).

The first model they released under the Zaccaria company name was a single player, electromechanical pinball called Strike. With a bowling theme, it featured drop targets symbolising bowling pins, and an add-a-ball feature.

Between 1975 and 1988 they produced fifty different models produced under the ZZZ brand, and another five released under the Tecnoplay banner. Most of them were designed by self-taught visual artist Lorenzo Rimondini.

Zaccaria pinballs were also exported to Poland in the 1980s. Their biggest sales hits were, among others, Time Machine, Pinball Champ, Soccer Kings and Magic Castle.

I had the opportunity to correspond with the company's legendary founder Natale Zaccaria. He is currently the Technical Director for Tecnoplay, a company founded by Zaccaria family members in 1986.

Do you remember the first pinball machine you played or made a particular impression?
I remember Gottlieb's Hi-Lo and Bally's 8-Ball.

How did your adventure in the pinball business begin?
Fratelli Zaccaria was started by Marino, Franco and Natale Zaccaria. Marino started out in 1964 with his first pinball machine in his bar. The cash box was filling up so quickly it wasn't long before he began to set up pinballs in other bars.

At some point he realized that he needed help, and asked Franco. At that time I was finishing school but still helped however I could, and started working full time in 1968.

Natale from a Zaccaria Pinball publicity brochure in the '80s
Natale from a Zaccaria Pinball publicity brochure in the '80s

At the time pinballs were mostly being imported from the USA, but due to an economic crisis in Italy their cost increased a lot, and so we decided to start refurbishing used pinballs with new graphics applied. Lorenzo, a friend of ours, introduced us to this idea.

Do you remember the name of the first model that you decided to 'freshen up' in the sixties?
The first pinball we reconditioned was called Red Show, if I remember correctly.

The Internet Pinball Database says that the first production model Zaccaria released was Strike. Is this true?
I'm sure that the Strike was produced after that one.

A brochure for Zaccaria's Strike
A brochure for Zaccaria's Strike

The company developed rapidly and began selling to other operators in Italy. By 1970 we had started making completely new machines, continuously improving on our ideas and the quality of the machines themselves.

On the production line inside the Zaccaria factory
On the production line inside the Zaccaria factory

We started exporting to other European countries in 1975, and soon after to the rest of the world as well - Japan, Australia, America, etc. Pinball Champ was the first pinball in the world that talked to the player in four different languages. It was a real success for us.

The flyer for Zaccaria's Pinball Champ
The flyer for Zaccaria's Pinball Champ

Even the best businessmen cannot build a successful business without a creative force behind them, and Lorenzo Rimondini was one of the driving forces behind your company. I know he died of cancer in the mid-eighties, but how was it to work with him?
In the '70s when we started the production of pinballs, Lorenzo immediately showed he was an excellent artist. His method of work was to always seek perfection.

Lorenzo Rimondini
Lorenzo Rimondini at work
(picture courtesy: Tilt.it)

He designed everything by hand, which took a long time. Each design, each model was composed of twelve colours and then twelve separate designs components - such as the backglass and the playfield - each one hand-drawn with pen and ink. A
single pinball art package took two months to design, and Lorenzo often worked on them long into the night.

All this work was rewarded by appreciation from the customers, and even today his artwork is highly regarded by collectors as he worked with such passion.

Unfortunately he was unlucky and his life was cut short. I am writing these few lines with nostalgia about those beautiful times. Lorenzo left us with wonderful memories.

Did anyone in particular take over designing pinballs from an artistic standpoint after Rimondini, or it was more of a team effort?
After our exit from the company, Lorenzo continued development of two or three further models - I'm not sure about the names. He only stopped due to his passing.

What was the name of the last model with artwork by Rimondini?
Mexico 86 (for Zaccaria).

What was the reason for stopping Zaccaria's pinball production? Was it due to decreasing demand, or were there other reasons?
More than one reason; a failing market, too many company employees, and financial problems.

There were probably five models produced under the brand Tecnoplay. Were those pinballs designed by Zaccaria, or were they completely new models? What was the purpose of selling pinball machines under a new brand name, rather than using the Zaccaria brand which was already well-known to the public?
The reason was because the company was acquired by different people, after which it continued to develop pinball for only another two years.

Tecnoplay's X Force machine
Tecnoplay's X Force machine

Tecnoplay began developing new machines, but after two years decided to stop production and began the importation of new Stern pinballs, which they still do for the Italian market to this day.

Are your brothers also still in the game business?
Marino and I are still in the business, but unfortunately Franco suffered from a serious illness - Parkinson's - for many years, and passed away two years ago.

Natale presenting prizes at the Rome Pinball Tournament to Franck Bona with IFPA Italia head, Alessio Crisantemi left
Natale presenting prizes at the Rome Pinball Tournament 2013
to Franck Bona (centre) with IFPA Italia head, Alessio Crisantemi (left)

Special thanks for Mauro Zaccaria and Federico Croci of http://www.tilt.it/ for their help with this article.

Back to the Learn page Like this page? Share it with your Facebook friends:
Back to the front page

Pinball News 2014