Now, unlike my esteemed colleague here at the offices of DVDTalk, Randy Miller III, who wrote a great piece on the first volume of Filmation's Ghostbusters, I didn't grow up on this particular animated Saturday morning cartoon; I was a little past watching such shows by 1985 (okay; I would occasionally sneak a look at a Looney Tunes here or there). However, I did grow up on the original live-action Filmation series, The Ghost Busters, starring Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch, that provided the inspiration for the 1985 animated series. That vaudeville-influenced slapstick fest from 1975 was fondly remembered by kids from my age group, so had I known about Filmation's continuation of the series into an animated one, I might have checked it out. Watching Filmation's Ghostbusters: The Animated Series, Volume 2 today, I didn't think it was all that bad, actually. While no great shakes in the animation or story departments, the series at least had a sense of fun and sweep to its outlandish, simplified plots. And some of the background designs have a real flair, making Filmation's Ghostbusters: The Animated Series, Volume 2 look better than you might assume.
Filmation, almost certainly aware during production and prior to its release that Columbia was making a big-budget special-effects comedy called Ghostbusters, no doubt decided it was time to dust off their own copyrighted show, The Ghost Busters, and update it for 1985 audiences. Perhaps assuming that the Borscht Belt live-action antics of Tucker's Kong and Storch's Spenser wouldn't play with kids brought up on Star Wars, Filmation chose to animate this update, and include sci-fi, fantasy, and sword-and-sorcery elements (big in 1985) to make the show more kid-friendly (sadly, it must have been assumed that the pie-in-the-face hijinks of the live-action series were "old hat").
In addition, the original "Ghost Busters" were modernized, with Kong and Spenser's sons taking over the business, and with gorilla Tracy revamped into a super-strong helper to the boys. The grimy, two-bit office that Tucker and Storch had was replaced by a haunted headquarters situated right between two towering office buildings. The klunky old car from the original series was kept, but now it was haunted, as well, becoming Ghost Buggy, who could transform himself into almost any shape to help the ghost busting crew. New friends were added, as well, including Futura, a sexy conjurer who came from the future; Belfry the bat; Jessica, the rather bland TV reporter; and Skelevision, a TV shaped like a skull (with big, normal feet) who gave out mission info and who made sure that the little ghostbusters out there in TV land got their Saturday morning moral for the week, after the adventures were over.
The live-action series used quite a bit of location work in and around Los Angeles, but somehow, quite a few of the episodes, if I remember correctly, wound up in a studio mock-up of a graveyard and a castle/haunted house, where the spooks and monsters were chased down by Tucker and Storch. In the animated series, the adventures are much more far flung, with the Ghostbusters branching out to the center of the earth (a la The Time Machine) to far-off outer space (where in one episode, they battle space pirates who have captured the ghosts of Captain Ahab and Moby Dick!). Among the regular villains the Ghostbusters encounter, Prime Evil stands out (a skull-faced precursor, perhaps, to Masters of the Universe's Skeletor?), as well as Haunter, the English safari hunter.
Watching the series with my kids (they enjoyed it, as well, if you're thinking of getting this set for a youngster - but you know it's really for you, don't you?), I liked the scope of the episodes, with the Ghostbusters going off not only to exotic locales, but also slipping in and out of time periods. While hardly original stories, the episodes for Filmation's Ghostbusters: The Animated Series, Volume 2 at least move during their speedy 22 minute time lengths, while some of the background art is pretty decent. Of course, the limited animation is going to strike anyone who didn't grow up on it as crude and primitive, but the famous Filmation house style is still evident in the character designs (Eddie in particular looks like he just stepped out of The Brady Kids). I can't say I was wild about the network-prescribed moral that had to be intoned at the end of each episode (the watchgroups were really going nuts during the mid-80s, making sure the networks put "educational" messages on all of their product), but thankfully, they come at the end of the show. Just skip them if you don't particularly care to hear how kids shouldn't use power tools (a ridiculous reminder to parents when one of the villains uses a laser for evil tool purposes). Overall, Filmation's Ghostbusters: The Animated Series, Volume 2 is a fun series of light-hearted (and light-headed) sci-fi and fantasy adventures that will no doubt please fans who bought the first volume.
Here are the final 33, twenty-two-minute episodes of the 5-disc box set, Filmation's Ghostbusters: The Animated Series, Volume 2, as described on a colorful, trivia-packed 8-page booklet included in the set:
Prime Evil steals the futuristic Megalaser device and hides it in the center of the earth prompting the Ghostbusters to retrieve it. However, when they arrive they discover that Prime Evil's Golem warriors have overthrown the peaceful inhabitants who dwell in the depths below.
The Sleeping Dragon
Jessica, Futura and the Ghostbusters travel to China to discover why the Sleeping Dragon has awoken and is turning people into stone. When they arrive Jake and Eddie are turned to stone, and will only be freed along with all the other people if Jessica, Futura and Tracy agree to compete against the Dragon's warriors.
The Phantom of the Big Apple
Always trying to get the latest scoop, Jessica receives a note and decides to meet with the mysterious person it came from. She is soon captured by the Phantom who wants to use her TV show to tell the people to surrender. As he threatens her, the Ghostbusters battle their way through the New York nightmares!
Shades of Dracula
When the Ghostbusters receive a call from the Mayor of Transylvania they learn that much to everyone's surprise, the famous Count Dracula has returned! The Ghostbusters travel to Transylvania but even they are not prepared to fight one of the greatest villains of all time.
In his latest plan to rule the world Prime Evil decides to amplify Belfry's sonic blast. However things do not go according to plan when his sister Prime Ordeal and her bratty child Snookums arrive. As the Ghostbusters fight to save Belfry, Prime Evil is occupied with many other problems!
Our Buddy Fuddy
In an effort to increase his power Prime Evil sends Haunter and Scared Stiff to kidnap Merlin, only to have them return with Fuddy instead! The Ghostbusters learn of Fuddy's capture and race to his rescue as he is subjected to the jokes of a giant rat with no sense of humor!
Train to Doom-De-Doom-Doom
The Ghostbusters receive a call from Prince Otis of Petronia who asks them to protect the Royal Crown of Petronia situated in England's Tower of London. Prime Evil wishes to obtain the crown so that he can take advantage of the Royal Law which dictates that he must be declared King of Petronia!
The Princess and the Troll
In Fairy Land Prince Delwin and Princess Gwendolyn are about to be married when the evil ghost Gimghoul appears and conjures the Prince away! Unknown to all he has been transformed into a Troll and it is up to the Ghostbusters to aid the former Prince and reclaim the Kingdom.
The Tooth Scaries, a quartet of mischievous inner city ghosts are persuaded by Prime Evil to steal the Diamond of the Nile which was stolen from him four thousand years ago. The Ghostbusters must convince the Tooth Scaries with the help of their sister Flossy that good is better than evil.
Tracy Come Back
Tracy is captured by Prime Evil and placed in a machine which will replace all of his good memories with memories in which Prime Evil always wins and he always fails. That Ghostbusters work against time to bring the big ape back to normal.
Fangster goes out on his own and locates the Lost Bone of the Werewolf. With the mysterious bone he plans to complete a magical archway that can transform dogs into savage werewolves. Fangster must not only overpower the Ghostbusters for his plan to succeed, but also face the wrath of Prime Evil.
That's No Alien
Prime Evil and his gang of ghosts journey to the 24th century and pose as aliens. Prime Evil plans to befriend the people and gain control over the Global Energy Station with which he can overthrow the Earth. It is up to the Ghostbusters to find the aliens whom the spacecraft actually belongs to.
Prime Evil hijacks Galaxy Airlines' Star Wing test flight; their secret new ship that has the ability to travel through space like no other ship. The Ghostbusters and Futura must team-up and prevent Prime Evil from gaining complete control of the most powerful ship of its kind.
The Ghost of Don Quixote
In Spain an unscrupulous mine owner plans to evict a farmer and his family from their property by using force. The Ghostbusters must help, but when the ghost of Don Quixote appears they question whether or not they can trust the aid of a ghost.
The White Whale
The evil ghost Harpoon and his hip full of pirates kidnap the ghost of Moby Dick and they ghost of Captain Ahab. With Moby Dick in his power, Harpoon plans to capture space liners and continue plundering. The Ghostbusters learning of this race to rescue Moby Dick and Captain Ahab.
As Betty's cousin Beauregard visits Ghost Command, the Ghostbusters receive a phone call inviting them to attend a party. Jake, Eddie and Tracy leave for the party little knowing that there is no party, and only the evil powerful Mr. Squid awaits them.
Knight of Terror
Corky's friend Gene, a young computer genius, is kidnapped by Prime Evil. The villain plans to use the boy to help take over the computers that control nuclear missiles and rule the world. Prime Evil's cousin the King of Terror uses his ghostly powers to scare Corky into not telling anyone about the incident.
The Girl Who Cried Vampire
The Ghostbusters travel to a Moon Colony in the future to help install an anti-ghost security device. Whilst there they meet Keyta, a little girl with a penchant for false alarms. However when Keyta sees two vampires disguising themselves as humans can she get anyone to believe her?
Little Big Rat
When Prime Evil learns that Belfry wants to be bigger he disguises himself as the magician Monroe and hands him an amulet to help him. When Belfry shows the amulet to the Ghostbusters it shoots out a beam, shrinking them. Belfry must learn a valuable lesson as he helps Jessica and Futura save the Ghostbusters.
Really Roughing It
The Ghostbusters, in an effort to get away from it all, take a vacation in the wilderness with Corky. However, the evil ghosts Benny and Clyde have stolen a statue for Prime Evil and are hiding out nearby. When Corky is captured by the gruesome twosome the Ghostbusters rush to his rescue.
The Bad Old Days
At Hauntquaters, Prime Evil taps the power of four mysterious urns unleashing the spirits of the four phantoms of Babylon! With their power the villain plans on sending the world back to the time of Ancient Babylon in a nefarious plot to take over the world. The Ghostbusters must travel through time to stop him!
The Curse of the Diamond of Gloom
Professor Von Ziflin locates the Diamond of Gloom, which is promptly stolen by Prime Evil's goons! The Ghostbusters retrieve it from Hauntquarters and must return it to its temple before the full moon or the Earth will be forever cursed.
The Bind That Ties
When the mysterious Vodun appears Prime Evil sends Scared Stiff and Haunter to capture the large creature. In an unexpected set of circumstances Eddie finds himself chained to Vodun with their enforced adventure giving both the monster and human a new perception of the other.
Like Father, Like Son
Prime Evil sends Sir Trance-a-Lot into the past to capture Jake's great-grandfather, Marshall Clint, and bring him to Hauntquarters. Prime Evil places a curse on Marshall Clint, a werewolf curse that now curses every generation of the Kong family!
The Fourth Ghostbuster
The Ghostbusters offer Corky the position of honorary Ghostbuster. Unfortunately, this honor goes to his head and Corky steals the Ghost Buggy in order to hunt down ghosts and impress his friend. When the Ghostbusters realize that Corky and his friend are missing they pursue the pair to the Hauntquarters.
The Batz; Beauregard, Rafter and Eaves, are horrified when their close friend Madame Why is kidnapped by the evil Wormwood. The villain plans to drain all of Madame Why's powers and add them to his own. The Ghostbusters must team-up with the Batz and overcome the many obstacles Wormwood throws in their direction.
A Cold Winter's Night
When Prime Evil sees a comet passing through space he sends Long John Scarechrome and his band of pirate warriors to capture the comet and direct it towards Earth. The Ghostbusters have no idea what Prime Evil's plan is until the comet strikes the earth and the largest volcano ever seen appears.
Father Knows Beast
The Ghostbusters' peace and quiet is broken when a phone call summons them to Scotland where a young boy has accidentally released the Spirit of Slort, the King of the Trolls. When the Ghostbusters are overpowered by the power of the Troll they look to their fathers for help and the original Ghostbusters come out of retirement.
Back to the Past
An evil witch named Sassella arrives at the Hauntquarters claiming that she will scare the Ghostbusters into another line of business by transforming them into five-year olds. The original Ghostbusters once again rush to their sons' rescue with a horde of Prime Evil's ghosts standing in their way.
Prime Evil desires to locate a decoding box that was accidentally dropped from space into the ocean. With the decoding box in his possession he believes that he could use it to learn every secret that the Governments of the world possess. When a new submarine is revealed to have been built Prime Evil sends Long John Scarechrome to steal it.
The Haunted Painting
Eddie, wishing to be a great painter, asks Madame Why to conjure up some magic paints for him. When she refuses Prime Evil takes advantage of the situation and sends Eddie some magic paints. It is not long before Eddie has painted a masterpiece, a masterpiece that could lure the Ghostbusters to their doom.
Long John Scarechrome shows Prime Evil a map leading to a non-existent buried treasure. Knowing that the route would take them to the planet Doom, Prime Evil sends the map to Ghost Command. As Eddie and Tracy head off to find the treasure, Jake and Jessica realize their friends are missing.
The Way You Are
Count Freeze arrives at Hauntquarters informing Prime Evil that he can defeat the Ghostbusters. Prime Evil agrees and it is not long before Jake and Tracy are frozen by the Count in Castle Blackstone. Unknown to the Wizard of Castle Blackstone, Prime Evil offers Eddie the chance to become a super hero.
The full frame transfers for Filmation's Ghostbusters: The Animated Series, Volume 2 look good, with a trace of artifacting that you'll notice on a big monitor. Otherwise, a few scratches and dirt specks let you know these are twenty-two year old film elements.
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 stereo option sounds fairly strong, with everything coming through clearly. There's a Spanish 2.0 audio track available for all episodes, as well.
As with most of these Ink and Paint releases of Filmation material, there are copious amounts of extras. First, we have a great commentary track on episode #37, Outlaw In-Laws, conducted by directors Tom Sito and Tom Tartaranowicz, and storyboard artist Michael Swanigan. The commentary is hosted by Andy Mangels. Next, we have some fun, but short, interviews with voice actor Pat Fraley and storyboard artists Rob Lamb and Michael Swanigan. Next, there's a four minute presentation for the series, filled with concept drawings and paintings, which I assume was used in the pitch process with the network. Next, there's a 21-second anti-drug spot featuring Tracy saying, "No, No, No!" Next, we have some image galleries, where you can look at original background art, as well as character designs for the villains. Next, there's an informative, fun look at the famous Filmation studio, The Magic of Filmation, which runs 32 minutes. There are DVD-ROM extras, including five complete episode scripts and the Ghostbusters series' "bible." Certainly my favorite extras is a bonus episode from the original 1975 live-action series, The Ghost Busters, starring Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch. Dr. Whatshisname features Bernie Kopell as the mad doctor. It's great to see this fun series out on DVD now, and this is a nice primer for anyone trying to decide if they want that show. Trailers for other Ink and Paint releases are included.
There's a nice emphasis on sweep and scope to these short animated fantasies, and while the animation (and humor) may be limited, Filmation's Ghostbusters: The Animated Series, Volume 2 still comes off surprisingly well twenty-two years later. I recommend Filmation's Ghostbusters: The Animated Series, Volume 2.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.