- Based on Ghostbusters by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
- Produced by DIC Enterprises and Columbia Pictures Television
- September 13, 1986 to October 5, 1991
- Peter Venkman-Lorenzo Music (Seasons 1 & 2), Dave Coulier (Seasons 3–7)
- Egon Spengler-Maurice LaMarche
- Ray Stantz, Slimer, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man-Frank Welker
- Winston Zeddemore-Arsenio Hall (Seasons 1–3), Buster Jones (Seasons 4–7)
- Janine Melnitz-Laura Summer (Seasons 1 & 2), Kath Soucie (Seasons 3–7)
- Louis Tully-(Seasons 5–6)-Rodger Bumpass
This tells the continuing ghostbusting adventures of Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, Ray Stantz, and Winston Zeddemore along with mascot Slimer.
I must say I will not address the Slimer! cartoon as I never had any interest in it.
The Real Ghostbusters is perhaps one of the best if not the best live action to animation translations ever. It is certainly the best from the 80s anyway. Much of what you see in this cartoon in my opinion perfectly captures the essence of not only the characters but of the first film itself.
A great many films during the 80s got converted into television shows aimed at children. A lot of those properties though were not aimed at children. As juvenile as the humor got, Ghostbusters was not for kids. Some worked better than others in that if you saw the source the kid friendly reboot did not feel like a comedown. This quite possibly worked the best of them all. But it also was not just something that just rode the coattails of a successful film. Much like other cartoons of the 80s it was there to sell toys though truthfully the bulk of the toys that I can think of that came out under this shows banner never appeared in the show.
And much like some of the better remembered cartoons of the 80s it had better than what one would expect writing. I am guessing it was the talent behind the camera. For example J. Michael Straczynski, creator of the well regarded Babylon 5, worked on the show for a bit. The stories were sharp and witty and the show itself had a few running gags. The most interesting of which for me was the random growth of Ray’s family. He developed relatives as the plot dictated. That’s something that I quickly picked up on and something that I found funny.
Growing up I had a near daily comparison between the film and the series. My oldest nephew was rather obsessed with Ghostbusters at the time and was able to convince my poor mother (and occasionally me) to watch the film on videocassette through his position as first (and then only) grandchild on a nearly daily basis. The cartoon was a little easier sell. He had not memorized the dialogue to those.
Peter Venkman was much less of a womanizer here than in the films though he was still unafraid to flirt with or outright hit on any attractive woman the characters encountered. He was still the most sociable and street-smart member of the group as well as being exceedingly cynical. Peter here was much more of a leader of the Ghostbusters-as much of a leader as they had anyway.
Much like in the first film Egon Spengler in the series is the love interest of Janine Melnitz. There are points where he is oblivious to her feelings for him and at others he appears to reciprocate them. One of the more interesting developments with Egon was his reason for becoming focused on the paranormal. As a child the Boogeyman who fed on fear took a liking to Egon’s fear and terrorized him.
As mentioned before Ray Stantz has a convoluted extended family tree here that ranges from Swiss to Scottish to Russian as the plot dictated. Inexplicably the spelling of his last name was spelled Stanz and not Stantz. Why the change is unknown.
In the show Winston Zeddemore is revealed to have worked in construction prior to joining the Ghostbusters in possibly a family business. He has a love of baseball, mystery novels, classic literature, and The Alan Parsons Project. He is also the reincarnation of a shaman caught in an eternal battle with a demon. Ernie Hudson was the only actor from the film to audition to reprise his character from the movie but the role went to Arsenio Hall initially instead.
Janine Melnitz was originally portrayed similar to how she was in the films but that was all dumped in Season 3. It was then she got a new voice actress and a complete redesign. In the episode “Janine, You’ve Changed” they address this by revealing she has been granted wishes by a demon posing as a fairy godmother. Slimer realizes this and after their adventure Egon finally asks Janine out on a date.
In reality the changes were the result of network consultants who were clueless about the movie it appears. They wanted her less abrasive and more of a mother to the group because four grown men need a mommy around all the time. There is a reason the movie could become an animated series so it might be wise to keep elements of the movie in the show.
In the series Slimer, after being released during the failure of the Containment Unit, stuck around the firehouse having nowhere else to go. This is explained in the episode “Citizen Ghost.” In the series he gains a level of intelligence and his new name (having been called “The Onionhead Ghost” previously).
Surprisingly there were genuine laughs in this series. While The Real Ghostbusters was a much more family friendly version of the film, its humor was still often in line with what had been done in the original Ghostbusters. It came off as a natural outgrowth even if you would not for example see Ray in a sexual situation with a ghost.
They were points where the series could even mix in more serious stuff. There were elements like Peter’s absentee father. His father was a bit of a con artist and often away trying to make a (dishonest) buck while Peter was younger. Their relationship can be called strained at best. That is not something common in a cartoon back then.
I personally think the films should have followed the example set by the show. I am not saying the second film should have fit into the continuity of this but rather it should have started with the Ghostbusters still being in business and dealing with ghosts. But that’s a discussion for another time…
I am not exactly sure why nobody looked like they did in the movie. I am guessing it had something to do with getting permissions to use their likenesses as well as making the characters easy to differentiate for children. Instead the characters were designed in a way that reminded you of who they were supposed to be but did not necessarily look like who they were supposed to be.
The Real Ghostbusters is one of those rare well-done film to animation translations. It perfectly embodies the film that inspires it and organically expands upon it. This is a classic piece of Saturday morning animation that you should all take a look at.