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Altered Ghostbusters Historical Photos

 By Paul Rudoff on Sep. 8, 2018 at 11:30 PM , Categories: Ghostbusters 1, Miscellaneous, Ghostbusters 2
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When you've been doing this for as long as I have - last month marked Spook Central's 22nd anniversary - you tend to become intimately familiar with historical Ghostbusters photographs. I've seen the same images over and over again in various publications from 1984 to the present. So, I tend to notice when they've been altered. Starting sometime between 2009 and 2014, Sony's lawyers decided that historical Ghostbusters photographs now need to be altered to blur the faces of background extras and to remove any commercial branding on objects, no matter how slight or illegible they may be. The reasoning, we assume, is because they don't want to pay for likeness rights or licensing. Bear in mind, these same photos have appeared in print and online in their original unaltered form for 25 years (from 1984 to 2009). I'm sure that Columbia and Sony never paid anything to anyone for their use all that time.

I first became keenly aware of the issue in November 2015 when I reviewed the Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History book. At the time I thought that Insight Editions blurred the photos. I would later come to realize that Sony blurred the photos before they gave them to the publisher. A few months later, in February 2016, the Ghostbusters.com website was updated with a new photo gallery. I actually posted a list here on Spook Central of which photos in the new gallery were altered.

A few years ago, I thought this whole issue was a small, limited affair that could be easily covered by a small section I added to the Ghostbusters Wiki's page for the official website. Unfortunately, that won't be enough to cover the matter anymore. Recently, I've had a discussion about the matter with several other members of the Ghostbusters Online Community (trademark pending), such as Alex Newborn and Matthew Jordan - and they, in turn, discussed it with several others. We've each discovered "new" altered photos that each other was not aware of. Alex covered a few in his latest Pet Peeves video (also embedded at the end of this post), and I'll cover a whole bunch here after the jump.

Before we look at the photos, let it be known that the originals and the altered photos come from different sources. Cropping will not be the same between the two, and the quality will vary. With the exception of one photo, cropping is not being considered as an "alteration". Most photos can be enlarged, but not all of them. Unless otherwise stated, all alterations were noticed by me, Paul Rudoff. Finally, this is not meant to be a complete list of all altered photos, but should provide enough examples to demonstrate how pervasive this problem is.

Let's start with a quick peek at some blurred photos from the Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History book.

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One blurred photo from that book is interesting because I've now seen two different alterations of it. First, here's the original behind-the-scenes photo of the guys filming on the Columbia University campus.

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When it was used in the Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History book, the guy in the far background was blurred out, even though his face couldn't even be reasonably recognized in the original.

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If you don't see it, look in the area to the immediate left of the camera. Here's a close-up comparison

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Recently, the photo has appeared in an even MORE altered state (and no William Hurt in sight). They have now taken to erasing the "The Ball Palace Center" (or whatever it says) text at the top of the signboard to the right of the guys. They even erased the unreadable content on the papers posted to the signboard. If THAT wasn't enough, they erased the "Panaflex" name and all other unreadable tags on the camera and filming equipment.

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Oh, and that previously-blurred man has now been turned into a BUSH! I guess that makes him a presidential candidate. There have already been two Bushes in the White House, and I hear that in 2040 the president will be a plant.

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This is far from the first time that Sony has erased company names from products. Here we see the name "Pro-tec" written on the chin strap of the collander hat that Louis Tully wears in the film.

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Alex Newborn pointed out to me that it's been erased in recently-released copies of the same photo. The altered photo was used in the Cryptozoic trading card set that was released in May 2016.

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For this next altered photo, I can't find the original, but I do have a similar frame from the movie which is good to work with. It's Louis Tully, wearing the colander hat, holding the hot coffee pot.

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Sony not only erased "Pro-tec", they blurred the entire bulletin board of clippings in the background, along with the orange and white box to the right of Louis on top of the microwave, and the pizza box on the far right. I wonder if there's also been some messing around with the label on the blender. The altered photo was used in the Ghostbusters 2017 Wall Calendar.

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Another altered photo used in that calendar is THE most iconic Ghostbusters image ever. You've all seen the original.

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Now here's the new "normal" version of it.

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If you don't see the difference, look at all of the equipment each guy is holding. Peter's camcorder has been subtly altered. More significantly, the name "Sniffer" and company placard were digitally removed from the equipment Ray is holding.

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Even Egon's Radio Shack calculator doesn't escape the eraser, even though you couldn't read the name "Radio Shack" or any of the other details in *any* copy of this photo I've ever seen.

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Just as iconic as the "We're Ready To Believe You" photo is a shot of Ray and Winston getting out of the Ecto-1 in front of Fort Detmerring. Although the scene doesn't appear in the film, this photograph has been used in nearly every print material from 1984 to the present. It's shown up in Anne Digby's storybook and the official 1986 calendar (both available on the Ghostbusters Books page), it was used in a cropped capacity on the back of the 1999 DVD case art, and is still used to this day in various media.

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The altered version is one example of an ecto epidemic that plagues the otherwise excellent Ghostbusters: Ectomobile Owner's Workshop Manual. Alex Newborn pointed out to me that EVERY SINGLE PHOTO of the Ecto-1/1A in the book has had the Cadillac and V8 "V" emblems removed from the hood of the car. Again, the photo below is just one example of erased emblems. More can be found on Spook Central's Fort Detmerring and Possessed Ray Driving deleted scene pages.

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All of this photo editing actually causes a very serious problem for the fans. In his Pet Peeves video, Alex regales the tale of a new fan who was serious confused about the missing emblems. This fan asked if the emblems fell off between scenes because he saw it in some scenes and not in others. What happened is that he was comparing frame grabs from the film with the altered photos from the book. Yes, the Ectomobile book that is MEANT TO BE REFERENCE MATERIAL has been rendered semi-useless by Sony simply because they did not want to pay for the one thing you would expect to see on a Cadillac vehicle - the Cadillac emblem! So, if you're a new fan, don't bother using anything published from 2010 to the present as a reference for anything because there's a near-100% chance that any photos in it have been altered.

I could end this article right here, as I think I've made the point quite successfully, but there are so many more altered photos - some quite badly - that I just have to continue on and fully document this issue.

Let's look at another Ectomobile photo that has been altered in a different capacity. It's a shot from behind of the Ecto-1 from the beginning of Ghostbusters II. Likely, this is a publicity photo as this shot doesn't appear in the film, and the car isn't in the "worn down" state it was in the film.

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The alteration here isn't to the Ecto-1, but rather to the "Kurzon" green truck in front of it. All signage has been cleaned off.

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("ghostbusters_1984_image_018.jpg" from Feb. 2016 Ghostbusters.com gallery)

I've shown some examples at the start of this article of Sony's rampant blurring of background extras. But what happens if they take that to the EXTREME! No, I'm not talking about blurring Kylie, Eduardo, Roland, or Garrett - but they DID blur one of the stars of the first Ghostbusters movie. This never-before-seen candid shot of the Ghostbusters cast relaxing between takes of filming the firehouse explosion was first (to my knowledge) released by Sony as part of their February 2016 website update. As you can plainly see, the faces of every single crew member has been blurred out, including the "crew member" on the far left in the suit who just so happened to play Walter Peck in the film. Yeah, you could say that Sony didn't have the likeness rights for the "anonymous" crew members, so they had to blur their faces, but surely they know how to get in touch with William FREAKIN' Atherton! (Thanks, as usual, to Alex Newborn for bringing this to my attention.)

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("ghostbusters_1984_image_026.jpg" from Feb. 2016 Ghostbusters.com gallery)

As bad as that example of background blurring is, Sony would do much MUCH worse. You see, whereas all of those other examples could be attributed to likeness rights issues, this next photo is an example of altering a photo to change the composition. In this case, let's take a look at the altered photo first. Without knowing that it's been altered, it's a great shot of Ray, Peter, and Egon in the jail cell looking seriously into the camera. When I originally saw this, even I was fooled into thinking it was a great shot.

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Then I saw the original. HOLY SHIT! That is quite the editing job. For starters, they cropped out one of the main stars of the film, Ernie Hudson, along with the only other black man in the photo. Racist much, Sony? Then they digitally-erased the two inmates behind Peter and Egon. In doing so, they completely changed the subject of the photo.

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The person at Sony altering these photos must be anally-obsessive, because he/she also removed the two screws (or reflections) from Egon's wristwatch! There is no way in Hell anyone at Sony could justify that edit. No likeness rights or licensing issues there.

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It's not extremely common to see candid photos with the cast on the temple set, but a few have popped up from time to time, such as this great shot of the guys fawning over Slavita Jovan.

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Sadly, even parts of the sets that SONY OWNS are not beyond their blurring machine. Why did they feel the need to blur the design on the temple doors? Sony/Columbia Pictures owns this set. Columbia Pictures paid people to design and build it for them. They don't need to blur it.

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("ghostbusters_1984_image_041.jpg" from Feb. 2016 Ghostbusters.com gallery)

If you don't see the blur that well, here's a close-up comparison.

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The temple door blur would rear its ugly head again in this photo.

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("ghostbusters_1984_image_024.jpg" from Feb. 2016 Ghostbusters.com gallery)

Some of the edited photos from the February 2016 Ghostbusters.com update appeared in the 2009 version of the site in their original unedited form. I've already covered two such photos: the "We're Ready To Believe You" photo from Ghostbusters, and the Ghostbusters II photo of the Ecto-1 with the green truck in the background. However, the 2016 update was not the first time that edited photos were used on the site. A photo of a library ghost marquette/puppet was heavily altered when it appeared on the site in the 2014 update. Below is the original photo as it appeared in the 2009 site's photo gallery.

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Here's how the same photo looked when it reappeared on Ghostbusters.com in 2014. As you can see, in those five years, the Coke can and photos on the wall of production artwork and Ruth Oliver (the actress who played the library ghost) have all been removed from existence. The artwork on the purple background has been blurred out, as have the Polaroid photos in the background on the top right. The altered photo was used in the Cryptozoic trading card set that was released in May 2016.

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This is a beautiful photo of the guys leaning against Ecto-1 between takes outside 55 Central Park West. Yes, this is a slightly different photo than the altered one that follows - as evident by Egon's expression - but they are near-identical, so they will work for our purposes.

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In the edited version, the two labels on the yellow tank on the car's roof have been erased.

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If that wasn't asinine enough, they even went so far as to erase the face on Ray's wristwatch! Why, Sony, why?

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As bad as it is that historical photos are now being altered, at least Sony has left the movies themselves alone. So, thankfully, we don't have a Grease Blurred Coke Poster situation on our hands. (The blurred Coke posters in Grease were digitally changed into Pepsi posters in the 40th Anniversary release.) There is one instance of Ghostbusters video blurring that I know of, and coincidentally, it also involves Coke. Sony blurred the Coke logo on the firehouse fridge in the Ghostbusters II Louis/Slimer deleted scene on the Blu-ray. Here's the original image (albeit in black and white), courtesy of video released by William Forsche. It says "Better With Coke" on the fridge.

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This instance of blurring I can understand. A deleted scene is not part of the movie, so it doesn't fall under the rights agreements the movie has.

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I've just spent a helluva lot of time detailing how Sony has gone out of their way to alter historical Ghostbusters photos to remove even the slightest whiff of anything they even think they may have to pay for now. So, how is one to explain the Ghost Hunters International billboard that appears in a piece of Chinese restaurant headquarters concept art on the Ghostbusters 2016 Blu-ray gallery? How did Sony's lawyers let that slip though?!?

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(click for uncropped full size image)

In conclusion, Sony has gone completely overboard on this whitewashing of the vintage Ghostbusters photos, most of which have appeared unaltered in books and magazines for a 25 year period from 1984 to 2009. What's the point of even publishing these photos anymore if you're just going to scrub them clean of their content?!? You know, I once wanted Sony to include a nice high-def photo gallery on their Blu-rays, but now I would be aghast at how "sanitized" those photos would be.

2 comments

Comment from: Alex Newborn [Visitor]

That Grease Coke-to-Pepsi alteration was unknown to me, and is frankly terrifying.

Sep. 9, 2018 @ 09:18
Comment from: [Member]

Yeah, that was new to me, too. I just found out about the it the other day when I was writing this article. I always knew about the blurring - which has been present since the 1978 theatrical release - but did not know about the "better" alteration.

There are two stories going around about the blurring. One says that they went to Coke for permission and was denied due to the lewd content of the film. The other says that Pepsi was a sponsor of the film and was none-too-happy about the Coke signage. Either way, it was too costly to go back and re-film the scenes, so they resorted to blurring. The technology to do that in 1978 provided rather clumsy results.

Some say that the product placement contract with Pepsi has since expired, so if Paramount went back to the original unblurred negative, they could now use it as is. I don't know if that's true or not. I do think that if they went back to Coke now for permission, they would probably grant it since "Grease" has become a bit of a cultural institution.

Of course, Coke would probably want some money in return, and Paramount doesn't want to pay. They probably didn't have to pay Pepsi anything since they were an original sponsor, so changing them to Pepsi posters seemed like the cheaper option. As much as I hate alteration, I have to admit, changing the posters seems like a better option than noticeable blurring. I hope it looks seamless in motion. (I don't own the movie.)

The whole thing about all of this that makes me think is: Why did they film the movie with all of this Coke signage to begin with? It's not like it's one small little sign. There's a HUGE poster on the wall, a smaller one (I think), the logo on the side of a soda machine, and one more logo on a menu board. That's a LOT of Coke signage to simply "not notice" during filming!

-- Paul

Sep. 10, 2018 @ 15:42

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