Pinball Wiz

updated 06/20/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/20/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

WHAT DO YOU GIVE THE TV PRODUCER who has everything? Last year, Aaron Spelling's wife, Candy, decided that a $170,000 custom-designed pinball game—called This Is Your Life, Aaron Spelling—would be the perfect Hanukkah gift for the man behind Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place. And to make the machine look just right, the company she chose, Data East, called in—who else?—Markus Rothkranz, the Picasso of pinball machines. Rothkranz, 30, a demigod in pinball circles for his hyper-colorful, photo-realistic images, illustrated such best-selling games as Jurassic Park and Star Wars. His Guns N' Roses game appears this summer.

Growing up on a farm in rural Ontario, Canada, Rothkranz "was one of these kids who had to walk for a mile through snow to the school bus," he says. Without playmates nearby, he learned to create his own entertainment, and by 15 he had completed a cardboard-and-plastic 180-square-foot model of Disney World with rides that actually operated.

There was no way to keep talent like that down on the farm, and by 1985, after dropping out of art school, Rothkranz had moved to Hollywood. There he created special effects for TV commercials and such movies as Die Hard and Total Recall—and launched his pinball career.

So, is Rothkranz content? Well, no. "I don't want to step off a plane 6,000 miles away," he says, "and have someone say, 'Hey, it's the pinball guy!' " To avoid that fate, he's producing and designing a live-action movie he describes as an environmental special-effects extravaganza—"a cross between Dances with Wolves and Star Wars."

Say, there couldn't be a pinball game in this, could there?

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