On the second floor of the University Union at UW-Green Bay, visitors are greeted by a faux fortune-telling machine that resembles the creepy, magical “Zoltar” from the Tom Hanks comedy Big.
There’s a story there, and it has to do with students wanting to promote their recent and highly popular “Psychic Fair.”
Staff member Grant Winslow and student Chris Baldwin of Good Times Programming are the individuals who made the Zoltar replica. (Zoltar, of course, was the mystical arcade-game character that granted a child’s wish and made little-boy Josh into a grown man, played by Hanks.)
Baldwin was looking for a creative way to liven things up on campus and also promote the psychic-reading event. On Winslow’s suggestion, they created their own Zoltar machine, transforming the animatronic Santa that was perched in the Common Grounds Coffee House alcove each December. A bit of beard and eyebrow shading, and a change of wardrobe and, well… the transition from Santa to Zoltar was nearly magical.
At some later date, Baldwin and company want to add functionality with microphone capability and a working ticket dispenser. Fortune-telling tickets are still available commercially.
The Fourth Estate student newspaper reported on the psychic event and described it as a fun lark and a big hit with students looking to relax before finals week.