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Saturday Morning Cartoon Club: The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991)

 Grab your bowl of cereal and put on your PJs and join us for Saturday Morning Cartoon Club, AFA's feature that celebrates the cartoons we grew up with (and the modern shows that keep their spirit alive).

If there's something strange, in your neighbourhood. Who you gonna call? Not the Ghost Busters apparently, as that was an entirely unrelated 1970's sitcom and animated remake from Filmation about two bumbling detectives and their pet gorilla investigating spooky goings-on. Which is why when the cartoon spin-off of the 1984 Ivan Reitman film Ghostbusters was being planned they had to change the title- hence the Real Ghostbusters.

Every 80s movie worth its salt got an animated spin-off, no matter how inappropriate for kids the source material (Rambo and Robocop, I'm talking to you).  Ghostbusters lent itself much more to animation then many of its fellow film franchises, and it was one of the most successful of all the movie-based cartoons, running for 140 episodes between 1986 and 1991.

The series mirrored its big-screen inspiration, following Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Egon Spengler, Dr. Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddemore, in their further adventures, busting spooks in New York- or sometimes much further afield, with episodes set in Hollywood, Tokyo and Paris among other places.. Secretary Janine got a slightly expanded role. The characters were all based on the likeness of their live-action counterparts, but with some difference- Egon is now grey-haired.

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson did not reprise their roles and they were replaced by a cast of experienced voice actors. In a satisfying bit of symmetry, Bill Murray's Peter Venkman was voiced for the first two seasons by Lorenzo Music, best known for voicing Garfield. Years later, when the Garfield movie was made, Murray voiced the Monday-hating moggie. It's a shame Music didn't live to see this coincidence come to be.

The show's opening and closing featured a version of the classic theme song and an appearance for the iconic Staypuft Marshmellow Man.

Probably the biggest change that the animated series made from the movie was turning Slimer, a malevolent force in the original into a lovable mischievious mascot. The green ghost was essentially now the Ghostbusters pet, but caused plenty of chaos, particularly for the perpetually unimpressed Venkman. Slimer's habit of 'sliming' Venkman became a running joke on the series.

Helped by the vocal stylings of the legendary Frank Welker (who also voiced Ray for the entire run), Slimer was a breakout hit with the kids, starring in mountains of merchandise. He was so popular that the fourth season saw the show renamed Slimer And The Real Ghostbusters, and paired regular episodes of the show with segments of a spin-off following Slimer's antics making trouble for the staff and guests at a hotel.

For a lot of 80s/90's kids, the Real Ghostbusters would be their first brush with the franchise in any form. They would have got quite a surprise to see the live-action movies to see a mean Slimer and Egon with brown hair. 

Despite making Slimer cute, The Real Ghostbusters wanted to scare its young audience as well as make them laugh. The series was able to feature many different ghostly threats than the films could, and it was genuinely pretty effective at creating spooky atmospheres.

A lot of credit for that had to go well-executed animation. It was produced during the era where it was standard to outsource animation to studios in Japan. The majority was produced by KK DiC, the studio owned by DiC founder Jean Choplin. Additional animation was produced by studios including Toei and TMS. The work done by TMS is considered to have been particularly impressive. For the final season, with costs in Japan on the rise, animation was moved to South Korea instead. Later season of the show suffered from Network tinkering, imposing character changes and recastings on the producers, as well as a decrease in animation quality.

The Real Ghostbusters has received DVD releases in the noughties and 2010's, with the only full release being in the US in 2006 (now long out of print). The series has been previously been streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime but is not currently available, although it can be purchased digitally on video services including Amazon and Apple TV.  In February of 2021, in the anticipation of the release of new movie Ghostbusters: Afterlife,  episodes of both The Real Ghostbusters and the later Extreme Ghostbusters series starting to be uploaded to the Offical Ghostbusters Youtube channel weekly. With the 'busters back on the big screen soon, what better time to rediscover the animated version?