The series follows the continuing adventures of Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Egon Spengler, Dr. Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore, their secretary Janine Milnitz and their pet ghost/mascot Slimer. Each episode generally featured the grow trying to catch any number of ghosts, poltergeists and any number of other spectral baddies and fixing the troubles caused by their over-eager mascot, Slimer. Kenner Toys started a toy line for The Real Ghostbusters early on and continued through the run of the series.The DIC Entertainment designs for the show are a bit of a departure from those of their live action counterparts. The Classic Hero Figure of Egon Spengler from the first wave of toys shows one of the more extreme changes in a character’s look. Instead of the thick brown “fro” that Harold Ramis sported, the figure has a swirling blond pompadour on his head and he wears a bright red pair of glasses. The character wears a simple green jumpsuit with a black belt and boots but his Ecto-blaster is anything but ordinary. The blue Nutrona weapon has a swirling orange “energy beam” that extends outward from the wand and is attached to a Proton Pack. The figure comes with a Gulper Ghost figure.
One of the more unusual aspects of the toy business in the late 80’s is that kids began to embrace toys that are a little gross. One of the earliest gross toys is the Ecto-Plazm Play Gel, a small bucket of viscous gel that came packaged in a small plastic can and was shipped with a tiny ghost character. The first batches of Ecto-Plazm came in a pink and purplish color but were later sent in red, yellow and blue. Although not the same color, the Ecto-Plazm was a great substitute for the slime that was left behind by our old friend Slimer and was able to be used with a large number of characters and vehicles.
The Fire House headquarters of the Ghostbusters is an iconic and immediately recognizable part of the film franchise and was a huge part of the animated series as well, becoming a character in itself. The Kenner Fire House Headquarters playset was a multi-level fun site for the figures that came with its own can of Ecto-Plazm and a cage that you could pour it on your enemies from. It came with a removable Ghost Containment Unit for storing the miniature ghost figures. It also has a “Ghost Pursuit” fireman’s pole that runs the height of the building with a stand that allows you to raise and lower figures to the various levels.
There is an often repeated and completely erroneous idea that boys don’t want to play with female figures or characters. The Ghostbusters’ sassy secretary Janine Melnitz didn’t get any figure until the fourth wave and in a wave later than the other characters received the “Fright Feature” treatment. As Fright Feature Figure: Janine Melnitz, Janine’s eyes and glasses bug out, her jaw drops and her hair flips up when her arm is lifted over her head. She comes with a Tickle Ghost and carries a tease ray weapon.
The fifth wave saw the Ghostbusters branch out and embrace a set of classic monsters from the heyday of horror. Loosely based on a group of classic characters collectively called the “Universal Monsters”, the set has Dracula, The Wolfman, The Mummy, the Frankenstein Monster, Quasimodo and a zombie. Each has the word “monster” attached to their official name, possibly to avoid any legal issues. The Monster Figure: The Wolfman Monster is the classic bipedal wolfman dressed in a tattered dress shirt and jeans with a slightly askew tie. His large jaw opens wide and closes tightly, his head rears back and his arms open wide from his body.In what must have been one of the oddest pitch meetings of the line and the nightmare of every potty training child, the Ghost Figure: Fearsome Flush is a plastic replica of a toilet that, when rolled, produces yellow teeth and a long red tongue from the bowl and wild bloodshot eyes from the tank. The effect of this ghostly toilet is equal parts hilarious and frightening toy from the sixth wave of the Kenner toy line.
One storyline saw the Ghostbuster have to don spacesuits to entire the ghost dimension directly and that journey came with unusual abilities. The Super Fright Feature Figure: Winston Zeddemore sees the fan favorite character in a green and blue space suit with the Ghostbusters logo on the chest. Shockingly, his head drops down and his face appears in his chest with a long extended tongue. His companion ghost character is the humorously named Meanie Weenie and he carries an impressive weapon.
Long suffering Louis Tully, nebbishy Gozer victim and later team accountant, didn’t get the figure treatment until the eighth wave of the Kenner line but they did manage to give him his own powerful weapon and a ghost to vanquish. The Power Pack Hero Figure Louis Tully wears a green jumpsuit with the pants legs tucked into his socks. His bandoliers hold calculators strapped to his chest. His Power Pincher weapon is a long set of extended arms attached to a harness. The set up is perfectly created to grab the accompanying Vapor Ghost.
Although it wasn’t the first time that the famous car of the Ghostbusters was created and this version was never actually used in the cartoon, the Action Vehicle: Ecto-1A is an homage to the car used in the second live action film and uses that film’s logos. Ecto-1A is an incredible toy with a lot of bells and whistles that elevate it above the other portrayals. It comes with two great weapons. On the roof is a Swiveling Battle Seat that fits one of the action figures and a giant Ghost Claw comes out of the back to of the car to grab and reel in ghosts. The car is covered in Ecto-Plazm splatters to make it look like the car has been in battle.
The final wave of figures saw the Ghostbuster practically become ghosts themselves. The Ecto-Glow Hero Figure Peter Venkman shows the wise cracking front man of the group as a spectral glow in the dark figure. He has an interchangeable standard head and a glow in the dark one. The figure has his name and green and blue lines to break up the glowing body. Even his Proton Pack and Nutrona Blaster glow in an eery white as does the fearsome looking spiderghost that accompanies the figure. All and all, one of the best figures of Peter in the line.
The success of the series, the toy line and even the live action films all revolve around one important emotion: pure, unadulterated fun. The franchise took things that should have been scary and pointed and laughed at them with the mantra “ I ain’t afraid of no ghost!”. The double negative aside, it is an empowering statement to take the fear out of the situation. This isn’t to say that the premise was a ridiculous idea. Ghostbusters fully believed in the world it built and was never short on danger and thrills but the greatest thing is that it was just fun for the sake of fun and that kind of thing will never stop appealing to the kid in each of us.
You can catch The Real Ghostbusters now on Netflix.