Filmation's Ghostbusters (1986)

Welcome to Super Saturday, a new ongoing weekly column that will pay tribute to the animated classics of yesterday, and will be offered on Saturday mornings, a period that many of us remember being the only time animated kids’ programming was offered.  Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave any feedback or personal remembrances in the comments!


As chronicled last week, Filmation produced a live-action Saturday morning series called ‘The Ghost Busters’, which despite great ratings, only lasted for one season on CBS, from 1975-76.  In 1984, Columbia Pictures (now a Sony subsidiary) released the classic film ‘Ghostbusters’ which had nothing to do with the Filmation show, but the studio still had to pay Filmation to use the name.

Filmation actually put together art designs and test footage for an animated series based on the ‘Ghostbusters’ film, but Columbia Pictures opted to license the rights to DIC.  So Filmation decided to dust off their ‘Ghost Busters’ and reintroduce the concept as a cartoon in order to ride the coattails of the ultra-successful Columbia film.  For starters, Filmation smooshed the words “Ghost” and “Busters” together into ‘Ghostbusters’ just like the way it was spelled in the movie.

The new animated show arrived in 1986, two years after the movie, and featured the gorilla Tracy, from the live-action show, but the human leads were the sons of the characters played by Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch on the original.  Blond Jake Kong was the leader and was voiced by Pat Fraley.  Eddie Spencer was voiced by Peter Cullen (more famous for voicing Optimus Prime), while Filmation founder Lou Scheimer provided the grunts for Tracy.  A small pink bat named Belfry lived with them and was voiced by Susan Blu.

While the original ‘Ghost Busters’ were based out of a dilapidated building, and rode around in a sputtering jalopy that always broke down, their sons lived in what appeared to be a haunted house in the heart of a big city, with animated objects like a talking phone, TV, and elevator, and cruised around in the Ghost Buggy (or “G.B.”) which could also talk, and turn into an airplane or boat.

The Ghostbusters were often joined by red-headed TV news reporter Jessica Wray, and lavender-skinned Futura, a Ghostbuster from the future with superpowers.  Both were love interests for Jake.

Interestingly, Futura was originally meant to be African American.  The same thing happened with the character Huntara on ‘She-Ra: Princess of Power‘, another Filmation show.  Huntara was originally inspired by Grace Jones, but like Futura, was given lavender skin in the finished cartoon.  Another Filmation character, John Blackstar from the cartoon ‘Blackstar’ was also supposed to be African American, but was instead made somewhat racially ambiguous– tan/olive-skinned with straight black hair.

On the original ‘Ghost Busters’, the characters encountered new ghouls each week, but on the cartoon, the Ghostbusters had a recurring enemy and his pack of henchmen.  The main villain of the series was the robot-ghost-sorcerer Prime Evil, who also had a dash of the Phantom of the Opera as his main control panel resembled a pipe organ.  With his skeletal appearance, he slightly resembled Skeletor, and fittingly, both baddies were voiced by Alan Oppenheimer.

Prime Evil was aided by: Brat-A-Rat, a rat/bat hybrid (voiced by Cullen); Scared Stiff, a gold robot that resembled a skeleton and had a habit of falling apart (Fraley); Fangster, a werewolf (Oppenheimer); Haunter, a British ghost of a big game hunter (Cullen); Mysteria, the “Mistress of Mists” (Linda Gary, who also voiced Evil-Lyn on ‘Masters of the Universe’); Sir Trance-A-Lot, a knight that rode a skeletal steed named  Frightmare, and wielded the Trance Lance which put people to sleep (Scheimer); Apparitia, the “Spirit Sorceress Supreme” (Gary, impersonating Mae West); and Captain Long John Scarechrome, a ghost-pirate-cyborg (Oppenheimer).

But as menacing as Prime Evil was, he wasn’t the ultimate baddie on the show.  Eventually, his rival Big Evil lured most of his henchmen away (with the exception of Haunter, who remained loyal), and Prime Evil actually teamed with the Ghostbusters to defeat Big Evil!

But, as stated, DIC released a Saturday morning cartoon based on the Columbia film ‘Ghostbusters’, dubbed ‘The Real Ghostbusters’, and that series was a runaway hit, that expanded to daily airings in its second year, and lasted seven years total.  Filmation’s ‘Ghostbusters’ was done after one season.

In comparison, ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ was much hipper and was arguably written for an older audience.  Filmation’s ‘Ghostbusters’ was more slap-stick and perhaps a little too juvenile.  Though it’s probably debatable, I’d say that the DIC series also featured better animation.  Filmation continued the cost-cutting practice of recycling the same movements over and over– something Filmation was infamous for.

Arguably, the most tragic casualty of ‘Ghostbusters” short lifespan was the toy line, by small manufacturer Schaper.  Schaper released an extensive line of action figures including Jake, Eddie, Tracy, Futura, Jessica, Belfry and Brat-A-Rat (two-pack), Prime Evil, Fangster, Fib Face, Haunter, Mysteria, and Scared Stiff.  They also released the Ghsotbusters’ base Ghost Command, the Ghost Buggy, Prime Evil’s Bone Troller (his pipe organ), the bad guys’ Scare Scooter, and Futura’s Time Hopper.

Because the cartoon was a dud, the toys flopped as well, which as modern collectors have discovered, is a crying shame, as these were exquisitely made.  In particular, Ghost Command and the Ghost Buggy are highly sought-after.

Kenner produced the toys for ‘The Real Ghostbusters’, but strangely, considering the fact that Kenner had once ruled the world of action figures, their ‘Ghostbusters’ toys were kind of lacking.  The Ghostbusters firehouse had a garage that was too small for the Ecto-1 toy to fit inside, and the fireman’s pole gimmick almost never worked.  But it’s safe to say that these sold circles around Schaper’s ‘Ghostbusters’ toys, making the latter much harder to find today.

The entire Filmation ‘Ghostbusters’ series was released on DVD in two volumes by BCI Eclipse LLC in 2007, along with almost every series that Filmation ever produced.  The DVDs are of very high quality, with beautiful packaging and loads of bonus features.  Unfortunately, BCI Eclipse invested so much into releasing the Filmation library, that they eventually went out of business because the DVD sets didn’t sell well enough to justify the cost of producing them.

Low-budget manufacturer Mill Creek re-released some of the BCI Eclipse Filmation DVDs, but in cheap packaging and with none of the bonus features.  I am not sure if ‘Ghostbusters’ was among them.

It also appears that ‘Ghostbusters’ is available to view on Youtube:


Do you have any fond memories of Filmation’s ‘Ghostbusters’?  Comment below!