The Real Ghostbusters: The quintessential version of Ghostbusters?
Mike Williams | On 06, May 2017Reading time: 3 mins
With The Real Ghostbusters now on Netflix UK, we look back at the childhood-shaping cartoon of the 80s and 90s. Looking for the 2016 Ghostbusters? Click here.
As a child of the 1980s – born in 1984, when the first Ghostbusters movie hit cinemas – Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter were characters I, along with many others born within a 10-year span, grew up with. But it was The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series that resonated and shaped my view on the bustin’ foursome, rather than the live-action movie.
Too young to appreciate the film that was awfully scary to handle as a kid – even then, I saw Ghostbusters too early and, to this day, the gargoyle chasing Rick Moranis haunts me – the cartoon was wholly accessible. It was a cornerstone of kids’ TV back then, alongside Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, The Adventures of Tintin, and Rugrats.
With the show came the action figures. For anyone reading this born after 2000, cheaply, massed produced figures and vehicles to bash together were all the rage back then, and still are, to an extent (see: Star Wars).
What’s striking about the cartoon series are the notable differences yet relatable similarities to the films. Produced after the first movie was released to the masses, the voices are somewhat familiar: Lorenzo Music’s softly-toned sarcasm as Venkman echoes Bill Murray; Maurice LaMarche’s deep, authoritative nasals as Egon recall the late Harold Ramis. They all sort of look like their real life counterparts, too, but, at the same time, don’t. It’s a weird juxtaposition of creative license and staying true to its origins.
Then, there’s Slimer, an already established friendly fiend of the ‘busters. Here, he’s a loveable and cherished permanent fixture of the HQ, devoid of any scary CGI-ery of the movie. He’s an ally, of sorts, with plenty of episodic stories focused on him (and his food-eating antics, which inevitably get everyone into bother). In essence, his original character is brought forward into a neatly packaged, frivolously appealing sidekick for younger viewers – and, indeed, that is the approach to the entire show.
On paper, it feels an odd move to take a film about ghosts and turn it into a popular children’s programme. Who the hell came up with that bright idea? But it works. Not only is there a playful dynamic between the gang, Slimer, and receptionist Janine (Laura Summer, who even gets top billing on occasion), but tonally, the whole premise is also good fun, and that’s its main purpose throughout the mountain of episodes now available on Netflix UK. Season 1 alone has 78 – that’s unheard of today – and there are a further four seasons, which rapidly drop off in quantity.
Just like other hugely popular cartoons that shaped childhoods – staples such as Bucky O’Hare, Thundercats, and He-Man – there’s an overwhelming nostalgia that outweighs just how cheaply produced this is. Next to the likes of Studio Ghibli, the animation is incomparable. Back in the 80s, there seemed little care for the painstaking animating process – it was part of the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am culture of low-grade kids’ cartoons that encouraged massive followings and capitalised on lucrative toy lines.
Even now, as I type this in my early 30s, re-watching The Real Ghostbusters episodes that kept me engrossed for many hours in my youth, I still genuinely enjoy it. To me, and no doubt many others my age, that makes it the quintessential version of Ghostbusters.
Episodes to add to your watchlist
Citizen Ghost (S1 E11)
Janine’s Genie (S1 E12)
Xmas Marks the Spot (S1 E13)
Slimer, Is That You? (S1 E72)
The Real Ghostbusters: Season 1 to 5 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.