Search This Blog

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dueling "Ghostbusters"

It's time for another look back on the Saturday Mornings of yesteryear. And for this entry, I thought that we would take a look at a show that was based off of a popular movie from the 1980s. It was a program that despite a lawsuit threat, a revolving door of voice artists and a tinkering of concepts ran for five seasons on ABC and in syndication.

And it was also a show that yours truly grew up on, watched religiously, and never missed a single episode.

And this is surprising, considering that when I first watched the movie, I was too afraid of it to sit through it the first time.

I blogged about this movie a year ago (which you can read about HERE if you like), but the movie that inspired today's blog topic was 1984's “Ghostbusters”. And, yes, “Ghostbusters” scared the heck out of me when I first watched it. But in my defense, “Ghostbusters” came out when I was three years old, and admittedly when I was three, I was a big wimp. A few years later, I gave the movie another whirl, and it instantly became one of my favourites...which was a good thing because right around the time I started liking the movie, the cartoon version started airing.

That cartoon, of course, was “The Real Ghostbusters”.

The cartoon began airing on ABC on September 13, 1986, and ran until September 1991, and it was a three-way production between DiC Enterprises, Columbia Pictures Television, and Coca-Cola Telecommunications.

Now, I suppose some of you might be wondering why the cartoon is referred to as the “Real” Ghostbusters. Well, would you believe that just a few days before “The Real Ghostbusters” debuted, another cartoon series produced by Filmation known as “Ghostbusters” began airing?

Yeah, “Ghostbusters” debuted five days earlier, on September 8, and was a completely different format than “The Real Ghostbusters”. In the Filmation version, the cartoon was a revamp of an earlier 1970s live-action program also called “Ghostbusters”. Below you can watch the intro of that show.

Here's the thing about the Filmation series “Ghostbusters”. The program ran for 65 episodes during the 1986-1987 series, and the main characters were Jake Kong and Eddie Spenser (in the cartoon, they were actually the sons of the main characters in the 1975 version). Oh yeah...there was also a gorilla named Tracy that tagged along with them. So, in a way, it was trying to be a bit like Scooby-Doo with a kooky animal sidekick. I'm almost kind of surprised that Hanna-Barbera didn't jump on this idea and run with it.

I'll admit to watching the Filmation version of the show, and when I was a kid, I did somewhat enjoy it. But I hated the gorilla, and only watched the episodes that heavily featured Jessica in them.

(I mean, seriously, what were they thinking with the gorilla?)

Now, here's where things get quite interesting. When Columbia Pictures released the 1984 film “Ghostbusters”, they seemed to neglect the fact that a television series had been already produced nine years earlier...and when Filmation found out the news, they immediately filed a lawsuit against Columbia Pictures. The two companies ended up settling the suit out of court, but there was one condition that Columbia Pictures had to abide by. They could not use the name “Ghostbusters”on any future projects, including cartoon series, toys, comic books, and video games.

At some point before both “Ghostbusters” cartoons debuted in September 1986, Filmation actually attempted to work out a development deal with Columbia Pictures based on the movie. This was a deal that Columbia Pictures initially agreed to, and reportedly a basic outline was completed before Columbia decided to pull the plug on their partnership with Filmation. Columbia Pictures instead relied on then animation heavyweight DiC to finish the project, leaving Filmation to regret asking for the animation rights to the cartoon during their settlement.

So with that, the two “Ghostbusters” cartoons went head to head. The Filmation one airing five days a week in syndication, and “The Real Ghostbusters” aired exclusively on Saturday mornings.

But try as Filmation did to come up on top, fans seemed to prefer “The Real Ghostbusters” more. Or, maybe I'm just biased because I did like one version better than the other. I'm interested in knowing which version you prefer.

Here's the deal with “The Real Ghostbusters”. The show did manage to air about four years longer than “Ghostbusters”, but “The Real Ghostbusters” ended up having a lot of tweaking and changes done to it during its five year run.

Firstly, although the cartoon shared the same characters as the movie, there were slight differences. On the movie, the uniforms that the Ghostbusters wore were all the same colour. In the cartoon, they were all different (Peter Venkman wore brown, Ray Stantz wore tan, Egon Spengler wore navy, and Winston Zeddemore wore light blue). In the movie, Janine the secretary was kind of dowdy and nerdy, but in the cartoon, she was actually kind a nerdy way. Perhaps the biggest difference between the movie and the cartoon was the role of Slimer. In the movie, Slimer was kind of an antagonist of sorts...and in the cartoon, he can sometimes come across as a bit of a liability than an asset. But in the cartoon, Slimer is now a friend of the Ghostbusters instead of a foe.

There were some changes in the voice actors as well. When the show first debuted in 1986, here was the list of characters, as well as their respective voice actors.

Peter Venkman – LORENZO MUSIC
Winston Zeddemore – ARSENIO HALL
Janine Melnitz – LAURA SUMMER

TRIVIA: The voice of Slimer was also provided by Frank Welker.

MORE TRIVIA: When Maurice LaMarche auditioned for the role of Egon Spengler, he was not asked to do an impersonation of Harold Ramis (who played Egon in the movie). But when LaMarche went ahead and did the impersonation, he was hired on the spot.

EVEN MORE TRIVIA: You might be surprised to see Lorenzo Music voicing Peter Venkman, considering that he was also known for being the voice of Garfield, something that Bill Murray (the actor who played Peter Venkman in the movie) was not keen on. Ironically enough, Murray would end up voicing Garfield in the live-action movies that aired in 2004 and 2006 after Music passed away in 2001.

STILL EVEN MORE TRIVIA: Ernie Hudson, who played Winston in the movie, was the only actor from the movie who auditioned for a part in the animated series. Imagine being turned down in favour of Arsenio Hall! Ouch!

The cast and writing staff remained the same for the first two years of the series. But beginning with season three, some major changes took place.

The first change came with the departure of story editor and writer J. Michael Straczynski, as well as the departure of three of the five main voice actors. Lorenzo Music and Arsenio Hall both left the series at the end of the 1987-1988 season, as did Laura Summer. Dave Coulier, who fans probably know best as Joey Gladstone from “Full House”, took over the role of Peter Venkman, while Buster Jones became the new Winston. Janine's voice was taken over by long-time voice artist Kath Soucie.

Another change in the series were some of the character designs. Slimer was given a tail instead of a round bottom, and Ray Stantz ended up losing some weight as he was drawn with a slimmer build. Janine's look was also updated with the new Janine having longer, straighter hair.

There were two new characters added to the show as well. With the “Ghostbusters” movie sequel being released in 1989, the character of Louis Tully was added into the cartoon (voiced by Rodger Bumpass), and Cree Summer was added to the cast as the voice of mail carrier Chilli Cooper.

And this leads to the final change to the program. The title.

Beginning with season three, the show expanded from thirty minutes to an hour. And to make the show last that long, the show was split into two half hour blocks. The first block showed an episode featuring all of the Ghostbusters. The second block featured Slimer getting into his own mishaps and mayhem (these were the cartoons where the new character Chilli could be found). Because of the new focus surrounding Slimer, the show's title was changed to “Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters” in the late 1980s.

Even after the show was cancelled in 1991, another sequel was made of this cartoon. “Extreme Ghostbusters” began airing in 1997, which had Egon training a new team of Ghostbusters (including Janine). This sequel only lasted a few months, but it did introduce a new group of fans to the cartoon series.

And, that's about all I have to say about the two “Ghostbusters” series.  So, why don't we watch an episode of the series that I liked best to conclude this piece?

No comments:

Post a Comment