The movie Ghostbusters was released in theatres in the summer of 1984 in the USA and later that winter for most of the rest of the world.
Since it was a sleeper hit starring comedians from Saturday Night Live with no planned merchandising opportunities beyond T-Shirts the world was caught by surprise, especially the children and it took two years for toys and a cartoon to emerge.
Why the Real Ghostbusters?
During the movies development Filmation filed a suit against Columbia Pictures for copyright infringement so the name was retitled to “The Real Ghostnusters” in order tto settle the court case and as a fingers up to Filmation.
These figures were first released in 1987 and ran through to 1991 and were based on the first two Ghostbusters movies and the TV Animated series.
The line proved to be popular then and remains so now with MOC figures becoming extremely difficult to find and likely to be more so when the new movie is released.
The only batch that has been largely neglected by collectors was the Classic Monsters, released in 1989 that didn’t really have any connection to the movie or the rest of the toy line.
Probably the most difficult of the figures to acquire are the Ecto-Glow Heroes which were released in 1991 at the tail end of the lines popularity and just before its cancellation so had a very limited release.
Kenner, who had handled Star Wars created a line of action figures released for Christmas 1986, a few months after the first season of The Real Ghostbusters began airing.
Fans and collectors of the Kenner action figures will find many familiar hallmarks in their Ghostbusters line, including soft detail, five points of articulation; legs, arms and neck, fun accessories, repurposed sculpting, and some increasingly more garish and outlandish ideas nearer the end.
Wave 1, which was released in the winter of 1986 and hit general shelves in early ’87 included the original four Ghostbusters in their animated style.
Now there were rarely any movie-related use of the actor’s licenses in these toys so pretty much everything stemmed from either the cartoon or what the folks at Kenner could make up.
The initial wave of Ghostbusters figures featured the four busters in their classic overalls. These were some of the biggest selling and most fondly remembered of the whole line. Each came with a companion ghost made in translucent, rubbery plastic ready to be busted.
The proton packs were simple, molded blue and chunky and each was connected to their neutrino wand with a piece of yellow string.
In development meetings when making the animated Ghostbusters show, rather than just giving the busters matching beige or grey uniforms they had individual colours, brown, beige, turquoise and a dark grey-green. Likewise their neutrino wands were flexible plastic in four different colours to represent the many hues of the light streams we saw onscreen, in yellow, orange, peach and green. Their eyes were also painted different colours and Egon was given yellow hair and Ray lighter chestnut, to differentiate from the otherwise unanimous dark brown and black hair.
But few successful action toy lines don’t have baddies, for the goodies to fight, and in this case Kenner had carte blanche to go wild on their ghostly creations.
Once The Green Ghost (later named Slimer) and Mr Stay Puft had been released with the first wave a smorgasbord of original creations followed them, beginning in the summer of ’87, nearly all of them exclusive to the toy line rather than replicating ghosts from the animated show.
Each of them had some kind of wacky action feature: Bug-Eye, as you might expect had a large eye that popped out of his soft, rubbery, Boglin-style body, attached to a piece of string. Bad-to-the-Bone was a skeleton with a ribcage that could trap a buster and eyes that protruded from his screaming skull, H2 Ghost was a doubly troublesome watery phantom who split apart to reveal a pair of ghosts to trap.
A second wave, which was released with additions from wave 2, was released sometime in the spring of 1987 with three additional figures that weren’t featured on the cards: GhostZapper, Plush Ghost; Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Plush Ghost; Green Ghost (aka: Slimer) . This was followed by a third wave for the Christmas season of 1987.
The Action Ghost "Green Ghost", Slimer, was incorrectly printed in the first and second waves with item number #81020 but it was given the correct item number on the third pressing.
Wave 1 (Winter 1986)
• Peter Venkman
• Egon Spengler
• Ray Stantz
• Winston Zeddmore
• Green Ghost
• Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
• GhostZapper Not Shown on card.
• Plush Ghost: Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Not Shown on card.
• Plush Ghost: Green Ghost (aka: Slimer) Not Shown on card.
Series 2 or Wave 2, released sometime in the spring of 1987, introduced, to the delight of children and exasperation of parents everywhere; Ecto-Plazm.
Turns out kids love slime and this jelly-like, bright and colourful, distinctive-smelling ooze was provided in sealed tubs which would allow you to slime your figures and get most of it back into storage, possibly with some extra fluff, possibly leaving ectoplasmic residue on the carpet and in the case of one young boy possibly being smuggled home from a generous friend’s house loose inside his sock. That didn’t work out too well for me or my exasperated slime-hating mother.
As well as introducing the goop into action figure playtime, Kenner also released a range of ghosts with action features that made use of the stuff with Banshee Bomber dumping a load from his mouth, Squisher ejecting copious quantities from his nose and Sludge Bucket blowing a large Ecto-Bubble. Ecto-Plazm is fondly remembered by many thirtysomethings as the ideal fusion of substance and context for a toy. The Ninja Turtles ooze was too runny by comparison and again… my mother was not happy with what I did with it.
That year also saw the release of an accompanying line of dress up and role play busting gear including a child-size proton pack with a foam ghost catching beam, a Nerf-style Ghost Popper, a Ghost Zapper which projected ghosts on the wall whilst making an annoying zapping noise that in no way resembled the ones in the movies or cartoon, and a rather well sculpted ghost trap.
Vehicles were also on the way with ECTO-1 fairly faithfully reproduced alongside the flying ECTO-2 from the cartoon and the piece de resistance of any GB fan’s collection, the firehouse playset.
Wave 2 (Summer 1987)
• Action Ghost: Bug-Eye
• Action Ghost: H2 Ghost
• Action Ghost: Bad-To-The-Bone
• Squisher (Gooper Ghost)
• Banshee Bomber (Gooper Ghost)
• Sludge Bucket (Gooper Ghost)
• Ghost Zapper (Dress Up)
• Ghost Popper (Dress Up)
• Ecto-Plazm (Purple)
• ECTO-1 (Vehicle)
The third series/wave was likely first released to fulfill layaway orders in the Christmas season of 1987. The first public promotion for the wave didn't happen until mid-January of 1988.
Initially Fright Feature Janine Melnitz was not released as she wasn't listed on back of card. She was later released in the fourth wave.
The three Mini Ghost toy sets were released with the assortment number of "80400" mistakenly printed on the front of the card as the item number. All three also share the same bar code on the back. The Canada line printed the corrected item numbers.
The Fright Features Heroes in this set are the most common of all the Hero sets released as they were released in all major foreign markets toy lines, including being the exclusive hero line for Brazil's Caça-Fantasmas line released by Estrela.
Wave 3 (Early 1988)
• Peter Venkman (Fright Feature)
• Egon Spengler (Fright Feature)
• Ray Stantz (Fright Feature)
• Winston Zeddmore (Fright Feature)
• Mini Shooters
• Mini Goopers
• Mini Traps
• Ecto-Plazm (Red/Blue/Purple)
• Fire House (Playset)
• Proton Pack (Roleplay)
More ghost variations came in Wave 4 in the spring of ’88 with Granny Gross the haunted old lady, Tombstone Tackle the haunted football player, Mail Fraud the haunted mailman, and the following year Fearsome Flush the haunted toilet (yeah) to name but a few.
Janine saw a release for the first time as a add on toy to the Fright Line from wave three. Along with Haunted Humans, there was two ghosts released that ended up with two printings with errors.
Haunted Humans saw a sequel of sorts in Kenner's Beetlejuice line with Neighborhood Nasties group of four figures in late 1990.
Wave 4 (Spring 1988)
• Janine Melnitz (Fright Feature)
• Terror Trash (Haunted Human)
• Granny Gross (Haunted Human)
• Mail Fraud (Haunted Human)
• Tombstone Tackle (Haunted Human)
• X-Cop (Haunted Human)
• Hart-Hat Horror (Haunted Human)
• Brain Blaster (Action Ghost)
• Pull Speed Ahead (Action Ghost)
• Green Ghost (Gooper)
• Highway Hunter (Vehicle)
• ECTO-2 (Vehicle)
Wave 5 took a bizarre change of direction with the inclusion of the Universal monsters; Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolfman, a Zombie, and the possibly ill-considered Quasimodo, who really is just an unfortunate man born with deformities. Each had an action feature that showed off their ferocity and in the case of The Mummy an arm that fell off
Wave 5 (Early 1989)
• Frankenstein’s Monster (Monsters)
• The Mummy (Monsters)
• Wolfman (Monsters)
• Dracula (Monsters)
• Quasimodo (Monsters)
• Zombie (Monsters)
• Peter Venkman (Screaming Hero)
• Egon Spengler (Screaming Hero)
• Ray Stantz (Screaming Hero)
• Winston Zeddmore (Screaming Hero)
• Janine Melnitz (Screaming Hero)
• Wicked Wheelie (Vehicle)
• Air Sickness (Vehicle)
• Ghost Spooker (Roleplay)
Wave six is often merged on many sites with waves five or seven, however going by packaging cards it was clearly released during the spring/summer of 1989.
This wave is assumed to have been released late spring around May, much like wave four and two. It is unclear why they didn't release this as part of wave seven a few months later, but one of the toys released in the wave didn't appear on the back card until the next wave card.
Wave 6 (Spring 1989)
• Finger Pop Fiends
• Green Ghost with proton Pack (Slimer)
• Fearsome Flush
• ECTO-Popper & ECTO Goggles (Roleplay)
• Nutrona Blaster (Roleplay)
• Water Zapper (Roleplay)
Wave 7 was a fairly small release, later in 1989, which basically introduced a new group of heroes called Super Fright as well as a new Ecto-3 vehicle and a new Ghost Trap.
Wave 7 (Summer 1989)
• Peter Venkman (Super Fright Features)
• Egon Spengler (Super Fright Features)
• Ray Stantz (Super Fright Features)
• Winston Zeddmore (Super Fright Features)
• Janine Melnitz (Super Fright Features)
• ECTO-3 (Vehicle)
• Ghost Trap (Roleplay)
The next wave continued to expand the Heroes groups with the Power Packs theme in Wave 8. This was also the first series to use the classic mold designs since the first group of Heroes, it was also the only line that had a classic version of Janine Melnitz.
This wave was the first line to see Louis Tully in the line-up, and was apparently added as he was not part of the original line-up as suggested in promo pictures on the back of the cards for the other five toys in the line for the American and Canada releases.
There was also a set of three Gobblin’ Goblins that were themed on different body parts, such as Terrible Teeth, Terror Tongue and Nasty Neck!
Wave 8 (Winter 1989)
• Peter Venkman (Power Pack Heroes)
• Egon Spengler (Power Pack Heroes)
• Ray Stantz (Power Pack Heroes)
• Winston Zeddmore (Power Pack Heroes)
• Janine Melnitz (Power Pack Heroes)
• Louis Tully (Power Pack Heroes)
• Terror Tongue (Gobblin’ Goblins)
• Nasty Neck (Gobblin’ Goblins)
• Terror Teeth (Gobblin’ Goblins)
• Ghost Sweeper (Vehicle)
• ECTO-500 (Vehicle)
The pen-ultimate release of Wave 9 came in the spring of 1989 introducing the Slimed Heroes. Like the previous Wave these figures featured the classic mold designs, and also reused the proton pack designs. This was also the first line, other than the Classic Heroes, not to include a Janine Melnitz in the line-up. This wave also had problems with the of the plastic colours.
This line also included an Ecto-1A vehicle which as loosely based on Ecto-1a from the Ghostbusters II movie, even though the car didn't appear in this form in The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series. However, it’s only difference from the Ecto-1 was the stickers.
Jocsa which was a company that re-released Real Ghostbusters toys for Argentina made an exclusive line of Slimed Heroes, which had water squirting from the proton gun to change the color of the ghost instead of the Ghostbuster.
Wave 9 (Spring 1990)
• Peter Venkman (Slimed Heroes)
• Egon Spengler (Slimed Heroes)
• Ray Stantz (Slimed Heroes)
• Winston Zeddmore (Slimed Heroes)
• Louis Tully (Slimed Heroes)
• ECTO 1A: Ghostbusters 2 (Vehicle)
• ECTO Charger Pack (Roleplay)
• Rapid Fire ECTO Blaster (Roleplay)
• Ghost Grab-A-Meter (Roleplay)
The real blow came when the second Ghostbusters movie emerged. The toy line was doing well enough, but Turtlemania was just around the corner and ultimately despite the show, the poorly received Ghostbusters 2 movie in 1989 could not compete with the imminent ubiquity of the mutant brothers.
The original movie raked in an unexpected $295 million at the box office on a $30m budget and has maintained a 97% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, widely agreed upon as one of the greatest comedies of all time. Its sequel managed a lowly 50% although it didn’t fare too badly at the box office, making $215m from a $37m budget, mostly based on people hoping to recapture the magic from five years previously. It did not, though the much maligned sequel still has its fans.
The summer after Ghostbusters II saw the release of the tenth and final wave with the Ecto-Glow heroes being released in lower numbers than the previous waves and thus hard to find mint on card. It would still be a year of warming pegs before the Real Ghostbusters animated show would air its final episode.
Wave 10 was exclusively sold in America and was the last group released by Kenner. Note, that Jocsa of Argentina released it's own exclusive group of toys which reused the classic mold like this group and the two group before it.
Wave 10 (Summer 1990)
· Peter Venkman (Ecto-Glow Heroes)
· Egon Spengler (Ecto-Glow Heroes)
· Ray Stantz (Ecto-Glow Heroes)
· Winston Zeddmore (Ecto-Glow Heroes)
· Louis Tully (Ecto-Glow Heroes)
· ECTO Bomber (Roleplay)
· ECTO Headphones with Radar Blaster (Roleplay)
· Ghost Nabber (Roleplay)
The Real Ghostbusters released by Kenner Canada were exactly the same as the American line, however they didn't produce all the same toys, as a result the backs of the cards were different, also the cards were bilingual with both English and French language on them, in the same style as the Canadian Star Wars figures.
In Mexico, although made by Kenner, the figures were relabeled as being made by Auriken. The figures themselves were the same as the American Kenner figures and were mostly imported directly from Kenner.
The Brazillian line was called Caça-Fantasmas and was made by Estrela. The cards for this line were produced in Portuguese and only featured the Fright Feature line and some of the Classic ghosts.
Also, the No Ghost logo was slightly different as the Brazillian logo had the head of the ghost leaning left with a shoulder/back being very visible on the right.
In 1992, Josca released a line of The Real Ghostbusters Toys in Argentina, which were mainly related to the Animated Series.
This release was licensed from Kenner rather than being imported and it seems that most, if not all of the material that they used was handed down production stuff, including art and promo pictures from Kenner.
It seems highly likely, that due to this, that this was the last reprint line for the Kenner toy line.
In the UK the toy line and figures themselves were pretty much identical to the American releases, however much of the promotional work: such as logos for lines, color schemes, and the arrangement of toys shown on back of cards, were altered from the American versions.
Also the figures ran from 1987-1990 in the UK with only one wave of figures being produced each year, unlike the American line were several waves were produced each year.
There were, therefore, only four waves released in the UK and the tenth wave, which was mainly the five Ecto-Glow Hero figures was never released.
The Real Ghostbuster Toy Line released in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France was a reprint of the toys directly copied from the UK counterpart and translated into both French and Dutch.
The German line, produced by S.O.S Fantômes, like the Dutch and French lines were also a direct copy of the UK toys with German translations.
In Italy, they were produced by Gli Acchiappafantasmi and again were a direct copy of the UK toys but with Italian translations.
It’s also worth noting that all the lines based on the UK line had the Lion seal and yellow bar code on the back of the cards.
Another point of interest is that some of the toys from America, Canada, and the UK lines were also imported to Portugal and Australia, and these can be identified by the import stickers.
• Nutrona Blaster In development in wave 1/wave 2
• Ecto Glow Copter
• Egon's Lab
• Backpack Heroes: Egon Spengler
• Backpack Heroes: Ray Stantz
• Backpack Heroes: Peter Venkman
• Backpack Heroes: Winston Zeddmore
• Ghost Blaster
• 15" Backpack Heroes: Egon Spengler (Prototype)
• Play-Doh SetEdit
During its launch year Kenner also released a Real Ghostbusters Themed set in it's Play-Doh line.
It is strange to think that the closer the 80s got to 1990 the more neon colours began to creep into our fashion, our art and our toys, but this is exactly what happened, with exactly the same results. A sense of cheapening that few preferred to the original colour schemes. Kenner also made the decision to have the busters exhibit the same action features as the ghosts themselves, with screaming heads, spinning heads, heads that disappeared inside their stomachs, spinning legs and other supremely cartoonish movements which made the sculpting eerie and unlovable, more resembling mannequins from a ghost train or the stars of a new Five Nights at Freddy’s game. That’s great for your ghosts but keep messing with the main design and you lose sight of the heroes themselves.
All in all, six variations of the initial four were introduced: Fright Features, Screaming Heroes, Super Fright Features, Power Pack Heroes, Slimed Heroes and Ecto-Glow Heroes. Several figures of Janine Melnitz and Louis Tully were also released within these later lines.
Six years later in 1997 Extreme Ghostbusters attempted to revitalize the franchise with a forty-episode animated show and tie-in toy line from Hasbro, who had since bought out Kenner.
This was an attempt to pass the torch onto a new generation. This was a difficult prospect as the kids who had previously loved the movies and animated shows were in their teens and twenties, mostly too young to have appropriately aged children of their own so at best it fell to considerably younger brothers and sisters who had no nostalgia for the originals.
In short it was too soon and imploded. Later a well-timed Transformers movie would show the world exactly how you relaunch.
In terms of collecting on the secondary market the most sought after and valuable appear to be mint, carded versions of the original four as well as sealed, boxed roleplay toys like the proton pack and of course ECTO-1 and the fire house, with an amazingly high price paid for sealed tubs of Ecto-Plazm. At the other end of the scale are thousands of the wacky ghosts and screaming heroes listed above loose and in very played with condition. Interestingly mint, carded versions of the Extreme Ghostbusters line command a respectable price, due to few being saved in boxed condition and the fact that they have to hit a very specific nostalgia button.
The license would lie dormant for many more years, only to emerge for the adult collector’s market, detailed in the next few pages.