Like most kids of the 1980s weaned on cartoons and sugar cereal, my memories of The Ghostbusters are dominated by Egon Spengler, Peter Venkman and Slimer, not Jake Kong, Eddie Spenser and Tracy the gorilla. That's not to say, however, that I don't remember the latter: this animated oddity (produced by Filmation) was often dubbed as "The Original Ghostbusters", and for good reason. It's based on the 1975 live-action series of the same name, which introduced us to the ghost-hunting dads of Kong and Spenser...and the same gorilla, though he looked quite different.
"The Original Ghostbusters" was created in the wake of Columbia Pictures' 1984 live-action blockbuster starring Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd---so you could say that Filmation was just riding on the film's coattails, but the characters of Kong, Spenser and Tracy had already been around for nearly a decade. Eventually, Columbia's alternately-titled The Real Ghostbusters (with Slimer and company) hit the airwaves, quickly capturing the popularity that Filmation was hoping to keep for themselves. So while Filmation's earlier animated curiosity only lasted 65 episodes, it still left its mark on pop culture.
NOTE: All further references to "Ghostbusters" refer to the Filmation series.
As with most animated shows, most episodes of Ghostbusters follow a similar pattern; that is, they rarely reach beyond stories that can be solved in 22 minutes. The series takes place in and around Ghost Command, our heroes' haunted headquarters located in a busy metropolitan area...but Jake Kong Jr., Eddie Spenser Jr. and Tracy (at top) aren't alone for their adventures. Also on board are Belfry (a pig-nosed pink bat), Futura (a sorceress from the future) and Jessica Ray (a local TV reporter), not to mention Ansa-bone (Ghost Command's talking phone), Skelevision (a talking TV, who informs our heroes of their upcoming mission) and Ghost Buggy (a talking car). They've also got an impressive array of other weapons and gadgets at their disposal, most of which trap the evil ghosties in various ways (including pink goo, bubbles, or the standard "dematerializer").
Representing the equally-colorful villains are Prime Evil (a robot-like wizard, below left), Scared Stiff (a robotic skeleton who frequently falls to pieces), Fangster (a goofy-looking werewolf), Haunter (a safari hunter with an English accent), Mysteria ("the master of mist"), Brat-a-Rat (a flying rat-like creature with a hideous cackle) and more. Typical adventures show Prime Evil sending one of his minions to cause mischief at a certain point in time, but the Ghostbusters eventually show up to foil his evil plot.
This premiere volume collects roughly the first half of the series (32 of 65 episodes), presenting them in "chronological order"...not in order of production or broadcast, but in order of the entire story's continuity. Fair enough, especially since the Ghostbusters' five-part origin story---which was originally produced and aired all out of whack---is now presented as Episodes 1-5. Additionally, most episodes are completely "stand-alone", so casual viewers can easily pick a random episode and not feel terribly lost.
The stories are fairly corny (the concluding morals even more so) and the animation isn't top-notch, so this series really isn't recommended to those who've never seen it in any way, shape or form. Filmation's Ghostbusters: Volume 1 is strictly aimed at fans of 1980s animation who can take their cartoons with a grain of salt. The second and final volume is scheduled for release later this summer, so at least those looking to complete their collections know that the series won't be abandoned halfway through.
Complete Episode Listing
(32 episodes on 5 single-sided discs, with a sixth bonus disc)
"I'll Be A Son Of A Ghostbuster" (Part 1)
"Frights Of The Round Table" (Part 2)
"No Pharaoh At All" (Part 3)
"The Secret Of Mastodon Valley" (Part 4)
"The Ones Who Saved The Future" (Part 5)
"Wacky Wax Museum"
"Statue Of Liberty"
"The Ransom Of Eddie Spenser"
"Eddie Takes Charge"
"The Great Ghost Gorilla"
"A Friend In Need"
"No Mo' Snow"
"Prime Evil's Good Deed"
"The Headless Horeseman Caper"
"Banish That Banshee"
"He Went Brataway"
"The Looking-Glass Warrior"
"Laser And Future Rock"
"Runaway Choo Choo"
"My Present To The Future"
"The Beastly Buggy"
"Belfry Leads The Way"
"The Battle For Ghost Command"
"The Haunting Of Gizmo"
Additional Bonus Features
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, these 20-years old episodes look fairly decent for their age. Colors are generally bold and bright, while most of the prints don't suffer from too much dirt and age-related damage. A mild amount of ghosting---no pun intended---can be seen during many episodes, though this problem isn't as noticeable on all setups. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English or Spanish) and is roughly on par with the visuals. Dialogue is relatively clean and clear throughout, though a number of musical cues and sound effects can't help but feel a bit thin. Unfortunately, no subtitles or Closed Captioning options are included anywhere.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
Seen above, the lightly animated menu designs are cluttered but easy to navigate. Each 22-minute episode has been divided into several chapters, while no layer changes were detected during playback. This six-disc release is housed in three clear thinpak cases (two discs apiece) and tucked inside a nice slipcover. An additional booklet (with episode summaries and other notes) is also included.
Confined solely to Disc 6, the bonus features aren't jaw-dropping but do a good job of supporting the show. First up are a series of Creator Interviews with producer Lou Scheimer, writer Robby London and episode directors Tom Tataranowicz and Tom Sito (4 clips, 17 minutes total). These are fairly decent chat sessions, but they feel somewhat padded by the opening animation and lengthy closing credits during each one; in fact, the first interview is barely a minute in length! Even so, there's some interesting info shared here, and all the participants are cordial and well-spoken.
Next up is the Premiere Episode of the original "Ghost Busters" live-action series from 1975, entitled "The Maltese Monkey" (22 minutes, below left). Starring Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch and Bob Burns, this oddball series features the original Kong and Spenser (with Tracy, of course) and shows its age as a rollicking, goofy comedy-adventure complete with canned laughter. For those interested, a DVD release of the entire series is also due from Ink & Paint in the near future.
Also here is the original Promo Pilot for the animated series (9 minutes), which basically pitches the show and introduces most of the major heroes and villains. It's an interesting goodie from the vault which fans should enjoy, and serves as a decent overview for those unfamiliar with the series.
On a related note is the first Ghostbusters Anti-Drug Spot (30 seconds, above right), which should amuse anyone raised during Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" era. Apparently, rejecting narcotics is as easy as having Tracy the gorilla slam a mohawked punk into the nearest trash receptacle.
Several visual-oriented extras are also on board, including a lengthy Slideshow Storyboard for Episode 22, "Laser and Future Rock". The images are a bit cramped and aren't exactly easy to read, but this gallery is worth a look for fans of the series. Slightly more helpful is an Image Gallery for several characters, including original model sheets and sketches.
Winding things down is roughly 25 minutes worth' of Trailers for other Ink & Paint releases, including He-Man, She-Ra and Bravestarr. DVD-ROM material is also on board, which includes the complete scripts of the five-part origin story (Episodes 1-5). Though a more complete behind-the-scenes featurette would've tied things together nicely, what's on board covers the bases fairly well.
A few Easter Eggs are reportedly tucked away somewhere, but you'll have to hunt those down for yourselves. If you find any hidden goodies, don't forget to share!
Though it hasn't held up perfectly over the last two decades, Filmation's Ghostbusters: Volume 1 is a quality DVD release produced with the fans in mind. Those with fond memories of Kong Jr., Spenser Jr. and Tracy should enjoy Ink & Paint's solid six-disc collection of the entire series' first half, boasting a decent technical presentation and a nice collection of unearthed bonus material. Casual animation fans looking for a quick nostalgia fix will be happy enough with a weekend rental, but frothing Filmation disciples should certainly consider a purchase. Mildly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.