Auto Pilot: The Real Ghostbusters

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One of the best things to come out of the phenomenon of the original Ghostbusters was the animated series that started 2 years after the movie debuted, The Real Ghostbusters.

Episode Title: Ghosts R Us

Original Airdate: September 13, 1986

Did I Know Anything Going In?:  I don’t recall specific episodes and I think it was just wrapping up when I really started getting into Saturday morning cartoons but things like the action figures and Ecto Cooler were definitely things I was well aware of when I was a kid.

Picking up an indeterminate amount of time after the first movie, the Ghostbusters are in full swing busting more ghosts around NYC and at the start of the pilot episode, they take down a trio of “Class 5s” that are terrorizing a chocolate factory.  After that successful job, the team takes a well deserved rest for the night but Slimer, who is constantly hungry, goes for a midnight snack and accidentally turns off the containment unit for a short while and the trio of Class 5s escape and decide to get revenge on the Ghostbusters by posing as their own ghost busting company, Ghosts R Us.  The trio is a very Jersey family with a giant, Baby Hueyesque son who poses as the ghosts that his parent bust each time and they look like something R Crumb would draw and it’s kind of strange that no one notices how deformed they look but it was also NYC in the 80’s, so I’ll give it a pass.  The trio eventually tries to lure the Ghostbusters into one final trap and accidentally unleash a dangerous Class 10 ghost from an abandoned toy factory that goes on a rampage across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Thanks to sacrificing the Ecto-2 motorcycle/helicopter and some strategically placed slime from Slimer, the team comes out on top.

One of the things that struck me is how little explanation there is for why Slimer is a part of the team now in the first episode or how they were able build/afford things like the Ecto-2.  The Real Ghostbusters is the start of Slimer’s domination of everything GB and he would appear as the mascot of Ecto Cooler and the show would eventually morph into Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters, with half of every episode dedicated to Slimer shorts.  Slimer rides a very fine line between being lovable and annoying but usually ends up on the former side more often than not.  The reason Slimer joins the team is explained in a later episode called “Citizen Ghost”

The voice cast for The Real Ghostbusters is also something everyone remembers and is full of great bits of trivia.  Everyone knows the whole story about Lorenzo Lamas voicing Peter Venkman and then Bill Murray eventually voicing Garfield, a role Lamas is even more famous for than Venkman.  There’s also the insane bit about Ernie Hudson auditioning to play Winston but the role going to Arsenio Hall instead.  The person who nails their character closest to the movie version is Maurice LaMarche as Egon, who nails Harold Ramis’ deadpan humor, even though cartoon Egon’s look is pretty infamously nothing like Ramis with his crazy blonde pompadour.  The legendary Frank Welker rounds out the cast as Ray and also does Slimer’s various noises.  It’s crazy how Welker can voice threatening characters like Megatron or Dr. Claw and then turn around and play some as light hearted and optimistic as Ray but that’s why he’s a legend.

The Real Ghostbusters holds up really well and it was definitely a worthy follow up for all the kids who went nuts for the movie when it came out in 1984.  The characters may look or sound like their movie counterparts but the spirit is there and the show is just fun and only got better as it went along, especially for the first season when comics writer J. Michael Straczynski was showrunning, although he would contribute scripts for all the rest of the seasons even after he stopped running things after the studio made a bunch of changes to make the show even more kid friendly and generic (all the ‘Busters got a trait that was played up even more, more Slimer, etc) but there was still episodes where the team fought things like Cthulhu though, so it still ranks up there as one of the best 80’s/90’s cartoons.

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