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The History of the Ghostbusters

(Image via Columbia Pictures)

With last week being the 30th anniversary of the release of ‘Ghostbusters’, and this week is the 25th anniversary of ‘Ghostbusters 2′, now is a perfect time to look back at the long legacy of one of the greatest movie franchises of all time.

The Ghostbusters franchise is one of the most beloved, and most lucrative, brands in Hollywood.  There have been two movies, several video games, three animated shows, countless action figures, and a devoted fan base across the world, even here in Wichita Falls with the Texoma Ghostbusters.


'Ghostbusters'

(1984)
 
 

The movie that started it all.  Originally conceived as a buddy film with his 'Blues Brothers' co-star John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd invisioned the Ghostbusters story focusing on the New York franchise of the paranormal investigators and eliminators, a well-established public service along the lines of the fire department.  The Ghostbusters would use wands to eliminate the ghosts, Winston would appear much earlier in the film and be the one slimed at the hotel, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man showed up earlier in the film and was only one of several big monsters.  After the death of John Belushi, Aykroyd was encouraged by director Ivan Reitman to work with Harold Ramis to rework the script to a much more financially viable story about the origin of the group.

During production, alternate takes were done any time the name "Ghostbusters" was used due to a rights dispute over the name with the 1970s television series 'The Ghost Busters'.  Check out some of the alternate takes HERE.

 

'Ghostbusters' by Ray Parker Jr.

 
 

The title track for the soundtrack by Ray Parker Jr. has become a staple of Halloween compilations in the thirty years since its release.  Originally, producers approached Lindsey Buckingham to record a song after his success with the song 'Holiday Road' from 'National Lampoon's Vacation', but he turned the offer down as to not be labeled as someone who just works on soundtracks.  Ray Parker Jr. agreed to record the song, which originally posed a challenge until he saw a late-night infomercial and was inspired to perform the song and the music video in the same tone.  The music video featured cameos from many celebrities, including Chevy Chase and John Candy, who were considered for the roles of Dr. Venkman and Louis Tully, respectively.  The song hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on August 11th, 1984 and stayed there for the three weeks and was ultimately nominted for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.  Huey Lewis, who was also approached about recording the film's title track, filed a lawsuit over the similarities between Parker Jr's and his hit 'I Want A New Drug.'  The case was settled out of court.

 

'The Real Ghostbusters'

(1986 to 1988)
 
 

Nearly two years after the release of the original film and the resulting success, an animated adaptation was designed to continue the story for a younger audience.  The title was slightly adjusted to 'The Real Ghostbusters' to avoid confusion with the animated follow-up to the 1970s live-action show mentioned before.  The characters were originally designed to look more like their movie counterparts, wearing the beige jump suits and Peter Venkman looking more like Bill Murray than the later design.  The short promo would not be aired, but would later be released along with the DVD sets.  Watch it HERE!

Voice actor Maurice LaMarch (Brain from 'Pinky and the Brain') was told to not immitate Harold Ramis in his audition for Egon, but did so anyway and ultimately got the role.  Ernie Hudson was the only original cast member to audition for their animated character, but lost out to Arsenio Hall.  Bill Murray was reportedly put off by Lorenzo Music's performance of Peter Venkman, saying the voice was too similar to Music's other famous voice work, Garfield.  Music would be replaced after the first season by 'Full House' star Dave Coulier as Coulier could perform the role more in a Bill Murray

 

'Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters'

(1988 to 1991)
 
 

At the start of the third season of 'The Real Ghostbusters', the title and format was adjusted focus on the popularity of the ghost Slimer, the first ghost busted in the film.  The show was extended to one hour, with the standard Ghostbusters episode and a new half-hour more child-friendly show about Slimer.  The overall tone of the Ghostbusters show would also be lightened to accomodate the younger demographic.  Several of the characters were also redesigned in the change, such as Ray being slimmed down, Slimer being given a tail, and Janine having a complete hair and clothing style overhaul.  The show was ultimately cancelled after the change in tone and lower production quality (poor animation and reuse of old scenes) resulted in a drop in ratings.

 

'Ghostbusters' Video Game

Activision
 
 

Distributed by Activision and created by game designer David Crane, a Ghostbusters video game was released shortly after the film on early home computer systems and later on home video game consoles.  Crane had been hired to work on the game and actually completed a majority of it before even seeing the film.  The game was criticized for poor gameplay and game points not in the film, such as purchasing equipment and having a ghost vacuum on the top of the car.  The most infamous version of the game is the version on the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Due to the game being ported to the NES by a non-English speaking Japanese company, several translation errors ended up in the final product, especially in the notorious end game screen text...

"CONGLATURATION!!!

YOU HAVE COMPLETED A GREAT GAME.

AND PROOVED THE JUSTICE OF OUR CULTURE.

NOW GO AND REST OUR HEROES!"

 

'Ghostbusters 2'

(1989)
 
 

Originally, Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis refused to entertain the idea of a sequel, wanting the first film to stand on its own.  They were later convinced by the studio and began working on the film that would show the aftermath of the first film where the destruction to the city resulted in the Ghostbusters going out of business.  Though popular among fans, the film was not well-received critically, getting "Two Thumbs Down" from Siskel & Ebert and being considered a financial failure by the studio.  Bill Murray was also upset by the final product, so much so that he's refused any offer for a third film ever since.

 

'Ghostbusters' by Run DMC

 
 

While Bobby Brown's song 'On Our Own' is considered the main single from the soundtrack to 'Ghostbusters 2', the video is a horrible mess that has little to do with the movie itself.  If you want to see for yourself, click HERE.  However, another featured song in the movie is a remake/remix of the Ghostbusters theme from Run DMC.  This video pays homage to the film better, with Sigourney Weaver (Dana) and Annie Potts (Janine) accompanying Run DMC, wearing Ghostbusters gear, to a concert where their perform the song intercut with clips from the movie.  And look closely at the guy who opens the limo door and the security guard keeping people back as Run DMC walks into the building for quick cameos by Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray.

 

'Extreme Ghostbusters'

(1997)
 
 

The new Ghostbusters animated series debuted in September of 1997, this time centering on a new crew.  In the years since the original series, the reduction in paranormal activity caused the original Ghostbusters to go out of business and go their own ways, except for Egon who stayed at the firehouse to monitor the containment unit and take care of Slimer.  When ghosts return to New York, Egon recruits four of his students from the local college to be the new crew, with Janine returning as their receptionist.

The new series ran for only 40 episodes but was praised for its new take on the franchise and diversity of the crew, made up of a woman, Latino, African-American, and a paraplegic athlete.  The series ended in December of 1997 with a two-part finale that united the new crew and the original Ghostbusters.

 

'Ghostbusters: The Video Game'

(2009)
 
 

Nine years after the end of the last Ghostbusters product, several companies began working on a Ghostbusters video game that would finally accurately depict the Ghostbusters from the original films, with the intent of using the voices and likenesses of the original actors.  Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis assisted with script doctoring, using several plot elements from their original 'Ghostbusters 3' ideas in the story for the new game.  Finally released in 2009, the game took place nearly two years after the events of 'Ghostbusters 2', with players taking the role of a nameless rookie who has joined the crew as their new experimental equipment tester.  All four original Ghostbusters returned to voice their characters, as well as Annie Potts as Janine, Max Von Sydow as the voice of Viggo, and William Atherton as Walter Peck.  A cartoon animated version of the game was produced for lesser powered systems like the Wii and Playstation 2, with slight changes in the overal story.  The game was a critical success and sold over one million copies.  Bill Murray has even said he greatly enjoyed working on the game, though his performance is regularly criticized for being completely unlike his original film performances.

 

Ghostbusters Action Figures

by Kenner, NECA, and Mattel
 
 

Over the past thirty years, three different companies have been the primary creators of Ghostbusters action figures.  The toy line from 'The Real Ghostbusters' by Kenner was so popular and successful that it actually lasted longer than the cartoon series it was based on.

Years later, NECA was contracted to create a line based on the original films, but issued with likeness rights (Bill Murray refusing to allow his likeness to be used) resulted in the line being cancelled after the release of figures of Gozer and the two terror dogs.

Mattel debuted their internet exclusive line with the 25th anniversary of the first film.  With their participation in the video game that year, all cast members signed likeness deals that included action figures, allowing the long-desired toys to finally be made.  Initially popular with collectors, the figure line was criticized for no variation in the body molds of the characters, with the Ghostbusters or anyone in a business suit having the same body mold but just a different head.  Over the past year Mattel has ceased creating new figures, switching their attention to prop replicas of the PKE meter and other equipment.

 

'Ghostbusters 3'

(2015?)
 
 

A third film has been rumored for 25 years, with various actors rumored for the new crew including Ben Stiller, Chris Farley, Will Smith, Eliza Dushku, and Rainn Wilson just to name a few.  The script has been done by writers from 'The Office', with Aykroyd on board as a story consultant.  Bill Murray maintains his desire to not participate in another film, though the rest of the cast has expressed interest in returning.  The passing of Harold Ramis earlier this year and raised questions about the fate of Egon in the script, speculating that he will end up being a CGI ghost that haunts the firehouse (an original idea for the role of Venkman if Murray doesn't return).  While a lot of news on the new film is entirely speculation, Akyroyd is dead set on it being made and Ernie Hudson has said it should start filming this year.

 

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