We are pleased to bring Retro Thing readers the following public service. Retro Thing will finally unravel the mystery of the four different pieces of media named something like "Ghostbusters". That's right... four... and we'll be ignoring the 1940 Bob Hope movie "The Ghost Breakers", and the 1946 Bowery Boys comedy "Spook Busters" just to keep things simple, okay?
In 1975 I had a favorite Saturday morning live-action CBS-TV show called "The Ghost Busters". Even as a kid I could tell it was spectacularly cheap (from time to time the networks experimented with kid oriented live-action programming on Saturday mornings to try to get away from expensive cartoons. The problem was... kids liked cartoons). The show starred Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker of F-Troop fame. The third member of their party was a gorilla "trained" by Bob Burns (really Bob Burns was inside the suit - a story for another time). A weekly show with spooks and monsters? what could be better than that?
The episodes are all remarkably the same. The trio would leave their shabby office to receive their supernatural assignment at a local junk shop. Whatever secret object they picked up had a tape recorder hidden inside with their instructions (voiced by Lou Scheimer, one of the show's producers), a la Mission Impossible. The tape self destructed a la Mission Impossible, but always in the hands of the Gorilla who always forgot to simply let go.
Their mission took them to the old graveyard, or the old castle at the edge of town... or both (must have been sweeps week). I'm really not joking at how few sets there were. They'd do battle with some 70s luminary like Ted Knight or Jim Backus, but only after some silent-move type slapstick. Finally, they'd dispatch the evil spirit back to the afterlife with their Ghost Dematerializer.
Sounds a little familar, doesn't it?
Remember that this was 1975, nearly a decade before Columbia's big-budget "Ghostbusters" (note the difference in spelling) hit theaters. The CBS show was shot entirely on video, like a sitcom, and was created by Filmation. You know Filmation as the creators of Fat Albert, the Star Trek cartoon, He-Man, and tons of other quasi-animated fare. I say "quasi" as they specialized in low budget TV animation. Their stock-in-trade was limited animation, rotoscoping, endless walk cycles... you catch my drift. In the 70s they experimented with live action. Their other efforts were shot mostly on film, but this 15 episode opus was shot as cheaply as possible. I remembered it well into adult life, and no one ever believed me that there was a rickety old TV show called "The Ghost Busters".
Now spirt yourself forward to 1984. Columbia is about to release "Ghostbusters", a tale of a trio of guys (no gorilla) who are more or less ghost exterminators. Filmation also thought this sounded familiar, and this earned them a licensing fee from Columbia for the name. The movie became a major hit, and Filmation put a new version of their Ghost Busters series into the pipeline. At first, they hoped to do the official TV adaptation of the Columbia film (Filmation did tons of movie tie-in cartoons), but Columbia had other plans. So Filmation created a new cartoon starring the offspring of their old 1975 characters (yes, yes... with gorilla). This series was called "Ghostbusters" (now one word).
Columbia partnered with animation house DiC to create a cartoon based on their jump-suited ghost exterminators. The ghostly sidekick "Slimer" joined the team in this all new show called "The Real Ghostbusters". Problem solved, right? This is the cartoon everyone remembers, as well as a toyline that far outlasted the TV series it was based on.
[Okay, here's some Real Ghostbusters trivia for no good reason. None of the original Hollywood actors voiced their cartoon counterparts in "The Real Ghostbusters". Bill Murray complained that his character's voice artist, Lorenzo Music, sounded too much like Garfield the cat... and with good reason. Music voiced the lasagna-loving, Monday-hating feline in cartoons. BIll Murray was later the voice of Garfield in the 2006 feature film.]
If you'd like to see the original Ghost Busters series, and I don't recommend it, just poke around on YouTube. I did buy the DVDs, and the show looks as good as it ever did (because it was shot on video, Ghost Busters looks far more like a Krofft TV show than a Filmation TV show). Since it was a childhood favorite of mine, I plunked down the money for the DVDs. Instead of a trip down memory lane, I was sort of mad at my younger self for making such poor TV choices. I probably missed some perfectly good Scooby Doo time just to watch a gorilla blow up... which I hasten again to point out sounds much better than it really is.