"I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something that could never destroy us. Something I loved from my childhood. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man! He was on all the packages we used to buy when I was a kid. We used to roast Stay Puft marshmallows at Camp Waconda!"
I was just five years old when my parents took me to see Ghostbusters. At that age, I wouldn't have been requesting to see a movie like this -- they probably just wanted a night out and picked something that seemed like a compromise. Awestruck even before the movie began because I was five and everything's awestriking when you're five, I had no idea that the story about to be told onscreen would stick with me for the rest of my natural life. I couldn't have known that I'd spend several future Christmas seasons asking for toys based on a cartoon based on the movie I was about to fall in love with. Ghostbusters was and remains one of my favorite and most-watched movies ever, and for that distinction, I'm giving a three-way credit to each of the following bullets: 33.3333333% for just being a generally amazing movie. 33.3333333% for the "Do Re Egon" sequence, because even though that happened in the sequel, there would't have been a sequel without this film. And 33.3333333%...for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
You're young when you're five-years-old, and being young means an envious-only-in-retrospect inability to truly separate fact from fiction. I'm not saying that I believed the Ghostbusters were real people living in a converted firehouse a borough over from our neighborhood; I'm just saying that when the library ghost shoved her nasty face up the camera's crotch, I had trouble sleeping for weeks. Though hip to the idea that the movie wasn't really intending to be scary and that nobody in the theater took it to be scary, my apprehensions grew to scary sizes when Gozer turned up during the film's climax. Gozer was the film's lead villain, or maybe the film's second string villain if you're going by screen time and want to credit Walter Peck as bad guy #1. Youuu idiot. Looking like Annie Lennox after a six year bender and talking like I do whenever it's time to scare our cats, Gozer was going to fuck my shit up regardless of how many jokes Bill Murray made to ease the tension.
Telling the Ghostbusters that it will assume the identity of whatever they first thought of, Gozer took the form of Ray's favorite advertising mascot, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Blame Ray. Looking like the Godzilla-sized cousin of the Pillsbury Doughboy and smashing cars and people with equal prejudice, my Gozer-related fears were quickly replaced with the sweet yummy butterflies that come with love at first sight. Sure, Stay Puft was wrecking the city and making devil-level evil grimaces, but my God, I never wanted a bag of marshmallows so bad in my entire life.
Brought to life by special effects that seem just as impressive today as they were in their time, I have never once thought about or seen the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man without getting just a little bit happier. Bon Jovi called me this one time, and he was all like, "Sheet, good guys don't always wear white." And I'm like, "No, you're a sheeeet, Stay Puft wears white and is white and he's a good guy." And then he kept buggin' out and telling me that he didn't mean that no good guys wear white, just that some don't. Then I woke up, and my pillow was gone.
I can't remember the exact emotions or reactions; I can only remember having them, and I can only remember leaving that theater wanting to become a Ghostbuster because it would've seriously increased my chances of seeing the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man live and in person. So began a lifelong...well, I wouldn't call it a lifelong obsession -- it sounds too strong -- but it's safe to call it a lifelong fascination. Stay Puft didn't pop into my life on a daily basis, but he popped up often enough -- in mindless marble notebook doodles, in video games, toys, cartoons and, of course, whenever I opened a bag of marshmallows.
My family owned a Commodore 64. I was too young to really do much with it, but that didn't keep me from trying. Having worked out a system of copying disks and trading with their friends, my brothers amassed a big cardboard box full of floppy video games. Aside from Monopoly, the only kind of "family game night" I can remember us having was in front of the C64, making brown men with no facial features pole vault terribly in Summer Olympics. I'd go into greater detail there, but that's for another article. Among the games in the dusty, wet dog-smelling box was one I never understood but could never resist playing anyway. It was called "Ghostbusters."
I know more about the game now than I did then. The focus was much more heavy on balancing finances than it was on hot action sequences, with players forced to endure a tortuous and constant budget-watch as they tried to make their ghostbusting business successful. I'd call it a lame feature, but I'd really only be saying that because I COULD NOT figure it out. I WAS FIVE. I still thought you could draw dollar signs on green construction paper and have it be real money -- there was no way I was going to figure out that I needed to buy a P.K.E. meter for X amount of dollars before moving onto ghost traps for X amount of dollars, much less the idea that X amount of dollars were more important that driving the Ecto-1 into any building with a word on it. I kept on trying to make the game do anything interesting and failing miserably, and why? Because I'd seen the manual. I knew there was a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in there somewhere.
Never did find him. Not until I was like 50 years old and downloading emulators. Stay Puft, who by design was less affected by the limited graphics technology than the Ghostbusters, their car or any other visual in the game, wandered around the big street map screen waiting to kick your ass like so much Everclear on so many Shacks from Freddy Vs. Jason. The guardian of Zuul's lair, you had to kind of tip toe your way around him while wondering how anyone could create a Ghostbusters video game and not make a bigger deal out of the Stay Puft. If I made a video game, even a Sonic the Hedgehog sequel or something based on a new Barbie sub-brand, it'd have a lot more to do with Stay Puft than this one did.
With a franchise so kid-friendly and perfect for merchandising, The Real Ghostbusters animated series couldn't possibly miss. So named because there was already another cartoon called "Ghostbusters" that had little to do with the movie it stole from (in content and in ownership), here were the "real" stars of the film, in all their glory. When I reflect upon the lost dynasty of Saturday morning television, RGB is always the first show that springs to mind. It was a little darker, a little more hip, and it just felt like a bigger deal than most of its cartoon cousins. Once you came to terms with Egon being a blonde, The Real Ghostbusters was something to latch onto and love. In varied formats, the series survived for around five years, and for a cartoon based on a movie, its success story is one for the books.
Though the show was very much its own and ultimately felt very much separate from the films that fed it material, most of the movie elements sneaked in. Same characters, same equipment, same firehouse, same Janine. Slimer was the show's breakout star -- so much so that when Ghostbusters II hit the big screen, his classic-but-throwaway gag scene from the first film was expanded to a larger, more heroic role. But, I remind you, this isn't a tribute to Slimer. I've done enough of those.
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man turned up on RGB several times, but you'll have to forgive me for only having seen a few of the episodes he appeared in. Retconning the idea that Stay Puft was merely an alternate form of Gozer and not an entity all his own, the show's creators were also faced with the fact that, at heart, kids really liked Stay Puft. So, during a second season episode, they finally caved and played to the crowd by making the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man...a good guy.
THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS EPISODE REVIEW: Episode #49: "Revenge of Murray the Mantis"
I knew I was going to like this episode the second I saw Winston polishing the Ecto-1 in preparation for the Ghostbusters' appearance at The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. During the series, the heroes' status with both the general public and the authorities was always in question. Sometimes, you got the impression that they were endorsed and funded by the government. Other times, cops would bust down the door and make a bee-line straight for the containment unit, apparently sent with orders to "hit every button until the building explodes and ghosts saturate the city." This happened at least once for every five episodes.
Since the Ghostbusters have been invited to march alongside the giant Garfield balloon and floats full of clowns, I guess they were in everyone's favor in this particular episode. The attractions in the cartoon parade were made more generic than I was hoping for, but that's more of a complaint I only had up until the point that I realized this was going to be a Stay Puft episode. Small gripes go away when it's a Stay Puft episode.
What the Ghostbusters don't know is that "Murray the Mantis," a giant balloon celebrating Ray and Egon's favorite TV show, was earlier possessed by the cumulative effort of a thousand ghastly spirits. The still-normal balloon first raises suspicion by escaping its handlers and lumbering much higher than any parade balloon should. Peter is ordered to "shoot it down," which seems weird, and indeed, the orders were given by someone definitely NOT in the position to make a call like that. I can't remember if a rent-a-cop or Peter's love interest du jour told him to fire, but certainly girlfriends and rent-a-cops are in no way, shape or form high enough up on the chain to make anti-heroes shoot 1,000 pound balloons out of the sky. Peter does it anyway, and that's what always bugged me about Peter. He was constantly shooting at giant praying mantises.
Sure enough, the evil spirits from within the balloon are brought to life by Peter's death ray, transforming a once-harmless parade balloon into a Kong-sized mantis that existed only to smack mah bitch h'up. Everyone flees and the Ghostbusters quickly determine that they are no match for a 100' praying mantis. All in all, this was a shitty ass Thanksgiving and I feel for all the tourists who made a state-crossing pilgrimage just to see a floating Snoopy big enough to live inside.
Egon spells trouble with the P.K.E. meter, telling the team that the mantis is as powerful as Gozer was. Pfft. Seriously, Egon was always saying that. Every time a big, bad ghost debuted on the show, it was "worse than Gozer!" Doesn't matter if it was a grandma ghost pushing a baby carriage full of pumpkin spiders -- it was "worse than Gozer!" I think we could've dealt with twice or maybe even three times without an impact loss, but when Egon's calling every wet newspaper and clogged drain "worse than Gozer," he's just the boy who softly said wolf. On the other hand, this is a praying mantis the size of a building we're talking about here.
I gotta hand it to Winston. From the second the balloon turned into a bug, Winston told everyone that they had to "call the big guy." It took seven set changes and a commercial break for Egon to concede, and then everyone acts like it was his idea. Uh, hello, WINSTON KEPT SAYING THAT, remember? I guess he's good enough to polish the car, but not good enough to know when a situation calls for releasing the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the containment unit, right? I'm not gonna play the card, but I think we all know what card Winston should've been playing.
Yup, it's time to break out Stay Puft. Here's where things get sticky. When the coppers become hip to the Ghostbusters' plan, they're all pissed off. They remember what Stay Puft did to the city "last time." Ray assures them that the monster has reformed and is now a friend to the city, thus providing one of the show's only instances of a full-fledged face turn. A couple of explosions and some windy theatrics later, and heeeeere's Stay Puft!
In demeanor and speech, Stay Puft is more like a well-meaning but big stupid dog than anything you'd expect based on seeing the live action films. With blank stares and a constant smile, Stay Puft "arghs" and "blarghs" while causing miniature earthquakes with every step. The Ghostbusters use Slimer to communicate with Stay Puft, but how that's done is kind of vague. Like, Egon will tell Slimer to "GO," Slimer will whisper incomprehensible gibberish to Stay Puft, and Stay Puft will run straight for the giant mantis even though said giant mantis is hiding 20 miles away. We accepted this because even as children we understood that plausibility needed to be chucked if one was going to watch a cartoon starring a ghost made entirely of marshmallows.
If you think Stay Puft looks a bit "rushed," you should see some of the other ghouls from the series. One weird thing about RGB was the somewhat lax attitude when it came to ghost art. Calling it "abstract" would just be a nicer way of saying that there was no consistency in a particular ghost's appearance from scene to scene. Since most two-year-olds could draw him with a less-than-1% margin of error, Stay Puft wasn't hurt too bad by all of that.
During their first meeting, Stay Puft is totally open to friendship, but the stupid mantis wastes no time in slicing at the Marshmallow Man's stomach and making him less sightly. Stay Puft can't STAND being unsightly, so it's pandemonium as he winds his fist and pops Murray Mantis into next Tuesday. At least, that's how Gorilla Monsoon's ghost described it after I let him out of the containment unit.
One thing missing from the story is a clear cut reason to hate the praying mantis. Yes, he's big and snarling, but aside from chewing on a dead tree in an abandoned park, his crimes were left off-camera. I wanted to root for Stay Puft because I'm predisposed to root for Stay Puft, but if the mantis's only crime was being large and noisy, his destruction is something I can't support. I don't blame Stay Puft for any of this; he was merely a puppet for the fascist dickhead Ghostbusters. Though I shouldn't complain too much, because the sight of Stay Puft boxing a giant green bug is what I'll probably watch to ease the pain when my first child is stillborn.
After forever, the Ghostbusters take advantage of Murray's diverted attention by blowing him up. Nope, they don't ghost trap him and save the spirit in a box -- they just blow the motherfucker up. Man. If I ever sprout spears and grow really tall, remind me not to chew on any dead trees. The mantis was only used here to justify Stay Puft's appearance and newfound heroism, but since he was treated like so much shit through the course of this episode, I'm not going to fuel his fire by telling him that. If you're braver, e-mail him.
With Murray the Mantis decisively destroyed, the Thanksgiving Day Parade is back on. What?! No way! First off, it's been hours -- everybody would be eating holiday turkey by then. Second off, NO, if a giant praying mantis attacked the parade route, I think they'd just consider having a parade a lost cause that year. I could go all the way to "fifty off" with this, but long paragraphs with an arial font this big always end up looking dumb. The Ghostbusters march again, with Stay Puft playing dead and replacing the Murray balloon, solidifying his role of a hero and giving him a chance to wink to those of us at home who know that he ain't no balloon. What, was everyone else at the parade hiding in the sewers during all of that?
A "Stay Puft episode" of The Real Ghostbusters was always a reason to turn down a round of Saturday morning kickball at the schoolyard. Did you walk away from Roseanne whenever Ziggy was slated to show up? Fuck no, and all Ziggy did was plant bike shop seeds and fuck Jackie. If Stay Puft was going to be on television, that's where you needed to be.
Kenner's Real Ghostbusters toy collection somehow seemed to debut before the series ever aired. I know it couldn't have, but it seemed like it did. I have to remind myself that this article is supposed to pay tribute to Stay Puft and Stay Puft alone, but I can't stop short of reminding everyone of what an absolutely amazing line this was. So, so unique. The figures were insanely cool and never once fell into a "mold trap" where they were all basically the same figure in different colors -- every ghost toy was a new work of art, and though the Ghostbusters themselves were forcibly less interesting because they had to look like human beings, Kenner did everything in their power to make 'em awesome, with the addition of proton pack guns with spinning plastic laser streams and later edition figures that were covered in glow-in-the-dark splotches. By the time you factor in all of the "pretend play" accessories (there's few men in my age demo who wouldn't reflect on the RGB "Proton Pack" as one of their all-time favorite toys), you're dealing with a plastic monster that very wrongly isn't ranked among the Star Warseses and the G.I. Joeseses and the Transformereseses. Heck, most would even throw Lion-O ahead of Venkman. I understand that these were all great lines, but I've got 50,000 bonus points in my pocket and I want to give them to the guys who tried something different.
I lost track of the RGB toy series quickly enough, but I'm okay with that, since the really good stuff came out early. For me, it all started on the first minute of Christmas, 1986. (My family's tradition involves a celebration on Christmas Eve that culminates with everyone opening their gifts at midnight, sharp.) It was one those Christmas parties that forever instilled my love for the holiday, and it's a Christmas I remember vividly for a zillion reasons.
When it came time for presents, I got a little of this, a little of that and my first taste of The Real Ghostbusters. My mother gave me "Bad To The Bone" (a skeleton dude with a ribcage that worked like a hair clip) and "Bug Eye" (a bulbous, purple monster with a pop-out third eye). My sister gave me "Slimer." You know Slimer. We all know Slimer. His first action figure came packaged with three accessories: A steak, a pizza and a watermelon. I loved that. I also loved saving the card-backs of my action figures, and when I finished the preliminary round of play out by the Christmas tree, I gathered up my toys and retreated to the bedroom. Looking at Slimer's card-back and seeing the rest of the RGB toys available, it became immediately clear that my new mission in life was to own Kenner's Stay Puft Marshmallow Man figure.
But I never did. X-E loves toys, but for every chest full of memories stemming from some long lost toy, there's another chest for the one that got away. Collectors' market prices do not indicate to me that the Stay Puft figure was rare, but I could never find him. And it killed me. A perfect representation of the character, with palatable white "skin" and a face that made me want to kiss things more often, I knew that everything wrong with my life would be instantly repaired with the addition of Kenner's Stay Puft.
To this day, I've never owned that toy. Maybe that's part of the reason why I'm always ranking it among my favorite action figures of all time. It's the one that got away, the one that might have been, the one th-- oh, fuck this. I just wanted it because it looked like marshmallows.
Never had Kenner's awesome Stay Puft Marshmallow Man plush doll, or their nite lite, or their character watch, either. All I had was some dumb RGB McDonald's Happy Meal set that came with a Stay Puft figural pencil sharpener about half as tall as babydick. I am maladjusted, and I do know why.
Hope is not lost for the people who still call themselves fans of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. NECA, a toy company that caters pretty much exclusively to people who are really too old to buy toys, bought the rights to make new Ghostbusters products. And they knew just how to use those rights. Aside from excellent action figures that beat Kenner's old line in every area but naive charm, they've finally given the world what it needed most -- a huge ass Stay Puft figure with a mean face.
I first spotted this 15" beauty at the 2004 Toy Fair event, and it took .001 seconds for me to christen it the best thing in the universe. Jumbo sized with articulated limbs and the kind of smirk only a bastard who knows he can ruin your life with a single step could get away with, the super awesome Stay Puft figure joins NECA's "Headknockers" Stay Puft (a bobblehead) to provide my secret Ghostbusters club hope that the Marshmallow Man can live on in more than just memories and eBay hunts. It's for this reason that I'm SHUT UP BITCH
SHUT UP BITCH
CUZ I'M GOING TO STEP
ON YOUR OLD BAG OF CHIPS
I HAD THIS IDEA FOR A COMIC SKETCH. TWO GOLDFISH IN FISH TANK. ONE SAYS, "IS IT TRUE THAT WE ONLY HAVE SEVEN SECONDS WORTH OF MEMORY?" OTHER SAYS, "I DUNNO, LET'S TRY IT OUT. 1..2..3..4..5..6..7. OKAY, DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT YOU ASKED ME?" OTHER FISH SAY, "SHIT, I DO NOT! MAN! ARGH! WHY'D YOU HAVE TO PROVE ME STUPID?" SECOND FISH ASK, "WHO THE HELL ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?"
HA HA HA HA
I've loved the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man for over 20 years now. I still don't get how list-makers forget to include him with Godzilla, King Kong and Gamera whenever they're naming off the best of the big monsters. I needed to write this mile-long article because that's what Stay Puft deserves for bringing me two solid decades of happy thoughts and inspirations for marshmallow pop art.
We salute you, Stay Puft. We think you deserve a spinoff series. Until that day, there's always Ghostbusters movie trivia...
1) During the scene where Dana is shocked to find her eggs cooking themselves on the kitchen counter, look close at the bag of marshmallows -- they're the official Stay Puft brand! And they hyphenate between "Stay" and "Puft!"
2) When the police force teams up with Con Edison to bring down the Ghostbusters' headquarters and kill the power to the containment unit, the firehouse explodes with escaping ghouls. During the wide shot, push your eyes to the left and you'll notice an old Stay Puft billboard painted onto the side of a building.
3) The Ghostbusters DVD includes a somewhat famous deleted scene. After being blown to goo, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man's hat falls to the city streets, where hundreds of celebrating citizens wait to tear it to pieces. Though the scene definitely would've helped put that final visual nail in Stay Puft's coffin, the hat itself looked to be made of cheap cloth that cheapened the impact of the magical special effects seen during Puft's rampage.
One love, Stay Puft.
"He's a sailor, he's in New York...we get this guy laid, we won't have any trouble!"