One of the most interesting aspects of The Real Ghostbusters has always been the three-minute promo used to sell the series to ABC in 1986. The promo was unique in that it showed a series still very much in development with numerous design and character alterations forthcoming, giving the viewer an idea of how the series would work, whilst later influencing the introduction sequence to the actual series.
I first encountered the promo in 1989. In the UK a brief craze involved handheld reel players with a variety of thirty-second silent film reels of various animated series. Oddly a few of these reels featured The Real Ghostbusters promo. Those of us who watched this footage were left rather confused. Why did the Ghostbusters sport their movie costumes? Why was Slimer a bad guy? And why did Peter Venkman look different? As brief as the footage was, many elements did not ring true, and the madcap style of action (Ecto-1, driven by Slimer, riding up a bridge's support wires) seemed rather over-the-top when compared to a typical episode of The Real Ghostbusters.
Years went by and I forgot about the promo until the late nineties when I saw images on Paul Rudoff's Spook Central website. I recognized certain images from the aforementioned film reels, but there were other scenes that I had never seen before. It soon became apparent that all of this footage was taken from an animated promo used to sell the series.
In June of this year I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Altieri who, after all these years, still had the promo in pristine condition on the very video tape he had originally transferred it to. I was thankful that someone had held onto the promo, but Kevin had done so with good reason; not only did he storyboard the promo alongside Eddie Fitzgerald, but he also directed it!
Back in late 1985 Richard Raynis informed Kevin that DiC were going to pitch a show based on the movie Ghostbusters to the ABC network. Being a fan of the movie Kevin leapt at the chance to work on it. Due to the incredibly quick turnaround there was no planned structure to the promo; Kevin and Eddie literally drew scene after scene as the ideas came to them. Eddie storyboarded the Ghost walking down the street as a direct homage to John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, while Kevin illustrated the heroes in many action-packed scrapes. The pair had no models to work with and based all of their designs on the movie, which is why in the storyboards the characters look like their movie counterparts, Winston even sporting a mustache!
Even though animation models were created for the animation team by Gabi Payn, these would later be changed when work commenced on the actual series. These early designs used in the promo closely follow the movie, with the Ghostbusters all wearing the same colored uniform, and their equipment looking a lot more cumbersome, and technical.
Aside from Slimer playing up his movie role of "villain" in the promo, as well as Egon's hairstyle illustrated slightly tamer than it would be in the series, one of the most important character changes was that of Peter Venkman. Early on in the production of the promo DiC had been told not to have the animated Ghostbusters resemble the actors from the film. However the Peter Venkman character that appears in the promo still bore some resemblance to actor Bill Murray, and when the time came to work on the series Peter's face and hairstyle were redesigned to look more angular and less round.
It is worth mentioning that the animation throughout the promo is of an incredibly high standard, and while it is clear that there were numerous Japanese animation teams working on it, they all appeared to be producing their best work.
To ask the question whether or not the promo served its purpose would be redundant. Not only did DiC manage to successfully sell the show to ABC, but it also became one of the longest running eighties cartoons with a staggering six years of production, including sixty-five syndicated episodes.
For an animated short that ran for three minutes and forty-nine seconds this was an impressive feat!
The opening scene shows individuals reacting to something off-screen. When an entire crowd scatters we see for the first time the ghost strutting down the street. The ghost turns sharply and is imprisoned within the no-ghost logo. Next we see the firehouse, with Ray, Winston, Egon and Peter awoken by the alarm. The guys waste no time in suiting up and hurriedly slide down the fire pole. The firehouse doors open, and Ecto-1 screeches towards the camera with Ray on the roof. As the logo fills the screen Ecto-1 swerves away from the camera and speeds past traffic. The next three shots perfectly sum up the Ghostbusters with Ray eagerly ready for action, Winston determinedly on the job, Egon calculating, and Peter in the backseat reading a comic. The camera follows Ecto-1 before zooming underneath the car and revealing their target; a Stay Puft truck spilling marshmallows, with a certain green ghost as the culprit.
As the guys begin to catch the Stay Puft truck, Ray, still atop the roof, fires his Proton Gun, the force of which throws him backwards. The green ghost flies out of shot, just as the beam strikes the truck, causing it to explode, liquefying the marshmallows. As the marshmallow sludge covers the windshield Peter attempts to catch Ray, but the pair fall out of the car. A confused Egon looks at Winston, last seen at the wheel of Ecto-1. Both turn in horror as they see the green ghost now in control, driving rather erratically towards a bridge. Within seconds Ecto-1 is being driven up the side of the bridge at increasing speed. When it reaches the summit the vehicle is catapulted into the air towards the city. Meanwhile a woman bothered by a horde of ghosts calls the Ghostbusters, who subsequently come crashing through her window. Egon and Winston are thrown from the car as the menacing ghosts loom over them.
Ray and Peter recovering from their fall from Ecto-1 spot a small demon pestering a man in a phone box. The pair race after the demon, but are stopped in their tracks by a large blue demon that leaps out of a manhole cover. Seconds later a large pink demon falls from the sky and lands on the ground with great impact. The floor beneath Ray and Peter collapses and the pair fall into the darkness below. They land on a subway track unhurt, but immediately notice an oncoming train. With seconds to spare a large hand grabs them, saving them from the speeding train. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man looks at Ray and Peter, but a passing plane picks them up. The plane piloted by a ghost flies wildly over the city before leaving the guys hanging onto a drainpipe, which begins to tilt. Meanwhile Egon and Winston are running for their lives pursued by the group of ghosts, and exit the building with great haste.
Ray and Peter, still holding on to the drainpipe fall on top of Egon and Winston. Reunited the guys turn to see the large group of ghosts led by the green ghost and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. A determined Peter calls the guys into action, Egon throwing down a trap in front of the ghosts. The guys grab their Proton Guns and activate them, prompting the green ghost to escape just as the Ghostbusters fire. As Mr. Stay Puft watches Slimer fly past he reacts to the beams now surrounding him with great fury. Just as it appears that the green ghost is going to escape a beam grabs him and pulls him back. The trap sucks up all of the ghosts in, including the green ghost and Mr. Stay Puft, whose hat falls onto the floor. The green ghost's hand emerges from the trap and snatches the hotdog he had dropped, as Peter raises the trap and the Ghostbusters celebrate their victory.