(Re)Animations: The (Not So) Real Ghostbusters
I had a few major loves as a child. These infatuations consisted of Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe and The Ghostbusters. My toy box overflowed in a great abundance of toys from these lineups. In my younger years, though, Ghostbusters was my “main crush” (so to say) and the others were late night back-ups when my #1 girl wasn’t available. I had the figures, the fire station, every ECTO-1 that Kenner wanted to drop and I was armed to the teeth in weaponry that would allow me to take down any “focused, non-terminal, repeating phantasm,” or “Class 5 full roaming vapor,” however you prefer to classify your spooks. Heck, I felt that I deserved to be the 5th member.
I had the first movie on VHS (the 2nd as soon as it was available), went through a few copies of it as well. I was one of those kids who had to watch the same tape, every day and all day long. I put those tapes through VCR hell… at least up until Saturdays. Saturdays allowed for all new 30 minute ghost-busting adventures and, eventually, hour long adventures if you counted the tamer, more kid-friendly Slimer series. I would plop down in front of the set with my bowl of Real Ghostbusters cereal, my proton pack strapped on my back and a handful of figures at my side… it was Ghostbusters heaven.
Just like the movie the Real Ghostbusters cartoon featured four Ghostbusters (Dr. Egon Spengler, Dr. Raymond Stantz, Dr. Peter Venkman, Winston Zeddmore) who were the heroes, the brave New Yorkers who put down Gozer. These were THE guys, and there were no others like them. Until… one fateful weekday during the summer. My grandfather was flipping through the TV Guide and he says to me “Those Ghostbusters are on, you want to watch that?” to which I replied with “CUT THAT STUFF ON OLD MAN!” At least, that was what I was thinking in my head. You see, my grandfather was actually a Golden Gloves boxer at one time and I did not wish to see how well I could digest my teeth.
Up until this point life was simple. Every cartoon series had its own name that was completely different from all the others. But when my grandfather turned on the show there wasn’t any sign of Venkman or Spengley or Stantz or Zeddmore–not even Slimer! Instead, here was a show calling itself “Ghostbusters” (they even used the word in the theme song), but featuring some random guys with a gorilla and a car that talked. This wasn’t right… THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED!! Suddenly some switch flipped on in my head and filled me with mass confusion, anger, hurt and a major sense of betrayal. I knew EXACTLY who to call and it was not this bunch of PHONIES!
This was my first introduction to that “other” Ghostbusters show… Filmation’s Ghostbusters.
At the time, I felt that it was just a blatant rip off. However, I know now that wasn’t entirely the case… not by a long shot. As it turns out, this Ghost Busters had been around since the 1970’s. Featuring a group of three rather clumsy and lackluster detectives, one of which is a Gorilla, that investigated hauntings, Ghost Busters was a live action show that ran on CBS and went for a total of 15 episodes. This live action series revolved around Jake Kong, a stylish zoot suit wearing Eddie Spencer and Tracy the gorilla who would go after supernatural entities such as Dracula, Wolfman and the Mummy. I’ve only seen a few of the episodes, though, so I don’t know much more than that. It was up on Netflix for a brief moment I believe.
Filmation’s Ghostbusters was a direct animated sequel to the previous live action show that came out in 1986. Instead of featuring the people mentioned above it starred the sons of those two busters who have taken over the business, while also inheriting Tracy the Gorilla.
- JAKE KONG – Son of the previous Jake Kong, Jake takes the lead role among this group of busters and ends up solving most of the issues they encounter. He has a some what silly “bewitched” factor to him that causes his nose to twitch when something of the supernatural is around.
- EDDIE SPENCER JR – Also named after his father, Eddie plays the clumsy, fumbling and loveable member of the group. He’s best known as being the buster who gets scared a little to easily at times.
- TRACY THE GORILLA – This is the same gorilla from the previous live action series. Tracy is also the smartest character in this troop… he isn’t your average gorilla. Tracy actually makes the team’s busting equipment and has made things up on the fly to get them out of some “scary” situations.
- GHOST BUGGY – This is that talking car I mentioned. The series had a ghost faced emblem/logo they used and this also happened to be the face of Ghost Buggy. The car had the ability to become whatever form of transportation the situation called for at the time and didn’t mind jawing back in an overly done southern accent.
As the series progresses the team encountered some secondary characters that played out like reserve members on the team. It also had its fair share of supernatural bad guys too, and they worked as an opposing team. Lead by a skeleton x cyborg looking “wizard” named Prime Evil, these bad guys were full time regulars on the show. I think due to a popularity of Thundercats at this time Prime Evil was made heavily in a likeness of Mumm-Ra, but that’s just a guess. He also had a right hand servant named Scared Stiff that we can all safely assume is the Halloween version of C-3PO. Stiff was a golden robotic skeleton. Other menaces that the Busters encountered included The Headless Horseman and Dracula (on separate occasions).
I continued to watch these fakers, foolers and wannabes with their shenanigans and, over time, I didn’t end up hating it at all. After my initial shock blew over, I guessed there was enough room in my mental universe for a separate form of “Ghostbusters.” Looking back now I don’t even think it was the ghost-busting that I was attracted to, I just simply loved anything that involved ghosts and monsters. I always preferred Monster Squad to Goonies, Teen Wolf was way more fun to watch than any Disney fodder my grandmother preferred me to watch. Heck, by the time I was eight I had a Freddy Krueger shirt and the talking doll.
So, was Filmation’s Ghostbusters bad? No, they were actually enjoyable and to this day I know to smother out a grease fire with salt or flour due to that first episode I encountered, or rather its ending PSA. Every episode ended with one actually, that particular one just stands out the most. The animation wasn’t best and the writing was specifically aimed at a core audience of 6-10 year olds, or guys in their 30’s like me who still like to get on Hulu and check out stuff from yesteryear. It may not hold a candle to The Real Ghostbusters but it is a fun, crazy 30 minutes that fans of spook-hunting can definitely enjoy.