Atari’s collapse cost us this exquisite-looking Laserdisc game

When the early-’80s home video game business began dwindling in the US, Atari looked to a Laserdisc arcade cabinet to boost its fortunes. That’s according to Richard Taylor, who served as the film director for Atari Playland, an unreleased arcade cabinet from classic Atari’s waning days.

Laserdisc games were already a hot commodity by 1983, as seen in the Don Bluth-directed Dragon’s Lair, which used hand-drawn animation instead of an arcade’s usual pixelated sprites. But unlike the single-game Dragon’s Lair cabinet, “the idea [or Atari Playland] was to make a freestanding arcade structure that, using Laserdisc, would have 10 games in it,” Taylor told Ars in a recent interview. Also, unlike Dragon’s Lair, everything in Playland would be filmed with a real camera floating above elaborate miniatures on sizable sets.

Atari Playland featured multiple miniaturized sets; there were plans for an intro inside a killer clown’s dressing room, a shot outside the park’s entrance, and a fully filmed ride-selection screen. The construction of those sets was “not cheap,” according to Taylor, and required a lot of specifically filmed transitions.

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