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Righteous Dude

Gaming’s “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” captures the hilarity of the classic 1980s comedy

By Frank Legato


In the decades since its release, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has remained a cult classic, but not much has been done to capitalize on the popularity of the theme itself. Not surprisingly, that’s where WMS Gaming comes in.

 “This is a high-entertainment product,” says Littleworth. “The music is one big sell, but the movie clips we’ve chosen are nothing but hysterical. The players are going to have a lot of fun watching these.”


FERR_BankFor most people over the age of 40, memories of the mid 1980s hold many iconic pop-culture images, from Michael Jackson to Miami Vice, but among the most prominent is surely Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The John Hughes film, starring Matthew Broderick as a high school senior who enlists his buddy to skip school for a day of adventures around Chicago, provided a fast-paced view of Broderick’s wise-guy, con-man character, through major stops at iconic Chicago locations along with his girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck).

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—subtitled “One Man’s Struggle to Take It Easy”—was one of the top-grossing films of 1986, and has been voted one of the funniest films of all times. The funniest parts of the movie are in the characters portrayed by Broderick—who “breaks down the fourth wall” to step out of character and talk directly to the audience—and Ruck as the nervous best friend goaded by Ferris to take his father’s Ferrari on a joyride. A litany of classic lines, memorable scenes and hilarious sequences from Ferris are burned in the memory of Americans of a certain age.

In the decades since its release, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has remained a cult classic, but not much has been done to capitalize on the popularity of the theme itself. Not surprisingly, that’s where WMS Gaming comes in.

According to Robin Littleworth, senior director of game studios at WMS, the slot-maker’s game developers generally get their share of “passion projects” they would like to initiate, after which the company decides whether to go after a license for the brand, film or show.

“In this case, we had a couple of guys who were very passionate about the Ferris Bueller movie, so we decided to take a look at it,” Littleworth says. Research showed the game would play well with slot customers.

A game based on Ferris Bueller, though, would have to have a lot going on, to match the frenetic pace of the film with as many events as possible. Littleworth’s team accomplished that, and more.


Making a Hit

To capture that essence of the film, the WMS team gathered audio and video clips from all the movie’s most memorable scenes, from the morning he hatches his “Day Off” scheme to the film’s climax, when he races back home to beat his suspicious sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) and the even-more-suspicious dean of students from his high school, Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), to protect his ruse of being sick.

With footage of pretty much every hilarious moment of the film, fresh audio and video was created with the help of Edie McClurg, the actress who played Grace, Mr. Rooney’s acerbic secretary. (“They all adore Ferris. They think he’s a righteous dude.”)

“Edie McClurg provided narration for the game,” says Littleworth. “She was fantastic, and great to work with. A very funny woman.”

The format for the game also would be important in recreating the feel of the movie. In this case, it would be the popular “Sensory Immersion” format, with the BOSE surround-sound chair and virtual-reality feel. “Part of the reason (the sound) was important was that we’re featuring a couple of hit songs from the film,” Littleworth says. “In the free-spin bonus, it’s everyone’s favorite, ‘Twist and Shout.’ We re-recorded that; it will play through the sound chair in quad audio.”

While that tune provides the backdrop to one of the “mini-bonus” events (recalling the scene in the film in which Ferris winds up on top of a float in a parade), one of the main background tunes from the film’s soundtrack, “March of the Swivel Heads” by the English Beat, provides a backdrop for base-game spins. (The tune was the backdrop for the most fast-paced scene in the film, that final “race” back to the Bueller house.)

Of course, not everything is exactly like the film. According to Littleworth, gaming regulators required some scenes to be “cleaned up” a bit—the original film was PG-13; the regulators had WMS trim it back to PG, he says. Also, licensing issues forced small changes like airbrushing the Detroit Red Wings logo off Cameron’s hockey jersey, and depicting the famous Ferrari from the movie as an anonymous red convertible.

But aside from minor changes, the slot definitely captures the vibe of the film, and better yet, its humor.


Colossal Companions

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the slot machine, wraps all of the funniest scenes of the film into eight “mini-bonus” games, but even without all the hilarity, the base game is compelling in itself.

Its main feature is a random occurrence in the primary game, which applies to all free spins: the “Colossal Companions Spins Feature.” It’s a new twist on the popular WMS “Colossal Reels” feature. The screen splits into two reel sets—the main reels, with four reel spots each, on the left and a set of five giant reels of 10 spots each to the right. Pays for all wins on the Colossal Reels are doubled.

In the Ferris game, the Colossal Companion reels can appear randomly on any base-game spin. It adds an additional 75 paylines, and any bonus triggers on either reel set enact the free-spin or the main “Day Off Board” bonus event.

Any four stacked wild symbols appearing on the main reel set start a “symbol transfer,” turning the corresponding reel on the Colossal Companion reel set into wild symbols. All pays are then re-evaluated.

Three or more bonus symbols scattered across either the main reels or the main reels plus the Colossal Reels trigger the “Colossal Free Spins” bonus. The big reel set remains active throughout the free spins, with pays for all Colossal Companions wins doubled.

The main bonus event can be triggered through base-game or free-game spins. The “Day Off Board Bonus” is a gateway to bonus events depicting samples of the entire movie.

When the bonus is triggered, a car symbol on the fifth reel drives up to a top-box game board bonus display. It drives around the display, stopping to award credit prizes or a wheel spin—the “Ferris Wheel,” the “Cameron Wheel,” the “Rooney Wheel” or the “Sloane Wheel.” The wheel spin unlocks one of eight mini-bonuses, each depicting a scene in the film:

“They Bought It” recreates the first scene in the film, and the player is given the option to pick one of three ways to feign an illness to trick Ferris’ parents into a day off school: “Fake a Stomach Cramp,” “Moan and Wail,” or “Lick Palms.”  (“The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It’s a good non-specific symptom. I’m a big believer in it.”) Each illness uncovers a credit award.

“Bad Hair Day” is a hilarious sequence in which Grace the secretary pulls one of several pencils out of her poofed-up hair. The longer the pencil, the higher the award.

“Work of Art” recreates the film’s museum scene. The player picks a painting from the art institute to reveal a credit value and a multiplier.

“Swing Batter” uses the clip of Ferris and Cameron at the Cubs game: Cameron’s “Swing batta-batta-batta” is repeated as credits rack up.

“Chez Quis” is a funny picking game based on the scene at the fancy restaurant, in which Ferris claims to be a sausage magnate. The player picks a sausage for a credit value, with the potential to advance and choose a menu for additional credits.

“Lucky Foot” features the clip of Ferris and Cameron rubbing the lucky rabbit’s foot, in this case gradually increasing the bonus award.

“Car Trouble” is a simple display of credits awarded in the form of Cameron’s car mileage (well, the mileage on his dad’s car that they “borrowed,” anyway).

“On the Run” is the most extensive of the eight. It is an interactive bonus in which the player is charged with getting Ferris home before sister Jeannie or Mr. Rooney. This is a great recreation of the film’s climactic scene.

To the backdrop of “March of the Swivel Heads,” the video screen splits into three horizontal scenes—on top is Ferris running through the back yards, in the middle is the car with sister Jeanie, and on the bottom is Mr. Rooney, clothes tattered from his previous encounter with the Bueller family dog—in footage from the movie depicting the final race home.

At the bottom of the screen is a field of sneaker icons. The player picks to reveal images of each of the three characters, which causes the video of the character to get closer to the finish line, the Bueller home. The highest award is paid if Ferris gets home before he can be caught by either rival.

The film was hilarious, and the Ferris Bueller slot machine definitely does it justice. “This is a high-entertainment product,” says Littleworth. “The music is one big sell, but the movie clips we’ve chosen are nothing but hysterical. The players are going to have a lot of fun watching these.”

The bonus features, by the way, are fast and frequent. “We wanted them to hit very often, because we want players to see all this content,” Littleworth says, noting that his team strove to remain true to the credo of the film’s most iconic Ferris Bueller quote:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” •








Five-reel, 35-line video slot; 75 extra lines in “Colossal Companion Spins” feature; multiple second-screen and free-spin bonus events; all denominations available






Approximately 50%



35-credit version: 18,000 credits

20-credit version: 10,800 credits



All U.S. markets




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