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A trip down Ghostbusters' merchandising memory lane....
Matt - 10/26/00


Growing up, it was virtually impossible to escape the Ghostbusters phenomenon. It was everywhere. It was the easiest movie to convince your parents to take you to see, mainly because of Bill Murray. Parents love Bill Murray. Of course, kids weren't interested to see how many SNL alumni could be fit into one movie, we were there for two things: ghosts and lazer weapons.

And we got 'em in abundance. By the time the Ghostbusters phenomenon truly came to a head, it was everywhere you looked: cartoons, toys, video games, books...hell, I can't be the only person who remembers the first three-liter bottles of Pepsi being called 'Ghostbusters'. Point is, with all the hooplah over the movie, kids needed a chance to fulfill their destiny and become Ghostbusters themselves. That's where Kenner came in. Our Savior. Kenner was the company who gave us the most chances to waste our parents' money on ridiculous toys and accessories seemingly since the beginning of time, so there was no way they were going to let us down in our hour of need. Thus, we got Ghostbusters toys.

The Ghostbusters Proton Pack! Okay, so we were going to need some inner animism to pick up the realism factor, but still, this was much better than pretending with cardboard tubes and black blankets like we did when we wanted to be Darth Vader. The Proton Pack was one of those rare toys that required you to have no shame....even other kids would laugh at you if they caught you walking around wearing this thing. They claimed it was because you looked stupid, but we know the truth. They're just jealous because they didn't have a 4' piece of foam to run around with.

Check out that action! Man, these commercial kids spared no expense at capturing the moment. We all played pretend, but I never hired some little schmo to run out of rooms citing trouble inside. Who knows what perils await inside that damned bedroom? Who knows indeed. These kids aren't going to go waltzing into haunted sanctuaries unprotected, so...

They boot up their Proton Packs! Looking back, the toy was pretty nonsensical. Just a giant piece of foam that shook a lot and a small plastic schoolbag. It was pretty hard to resist not hitting everyone in sight with the foam, so the toy didn't last very long either...someone always ended up destroying it after getting annoyed one too many times. Luckily, your Ghostbusters weapons center had backup...

The Ghostbusters...Gun...With...Shooting Foam...Thing! AKA, Ghost Popper. Now this served a purpose. Face it, you weren't going to catch any ghosts. Even pretending to find ghosts was boring. But that didn't mean you couldn't hit your friends and siblings! With the Proton Pack, you needed to be way too close to the action. Once you hit someone with that foam, they could easily rip it out of your toy and run away with it. But this gun gave you four clear shots before losing your ammo. You'd put one of the little foam 'bullets' in the hole, pump the gun, and pop it out!

The commercials suggested using cardboard cut-outs of Slimer as a target, but we knew better. First off, Slimer was a good guy. A hero to all. He even got his name in the credits of Ghostbusters II. We're not messing with that. Secondly, it's cardboard. There's no reason to high-five your brother after successfully knocking over a piece of cardboard. So we had to shoot people. Logic dictated so.

Course, you didn't have to go this far...you didn't need to actually dress like a Ghostbuster and lick Ripley action figures to get the effect...there were regular, normal action figures available too.

They came in all shapes and sizes. Movie figures, ghost figures, and later, ridiculous cop and monster figures. Many of 'em came with little tiny ghost figures you could torture, and most of the good guys at least came with mini-Proton Packs with 6" plastic energy bolts. And while they were all cool, none could compare to the king of the Ghostbusters action figures, the only one you really needed to have if you wanted to be considered a true force on the toy playground...

Yes, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I don't know what struck me as so wonderful about this guy, but I've always likened him to a god. This is one of the rare figures that I've never had throughout the years. He was pretty tough to come by back in the day, and for some reason I've never shelled out the 5 bucks on eBay so he could stare at me on top of my monitor while I type about him down below. When I went to go see Ghostbusters, my mother fully expected me to cower in fright when Stay Puft came on screen. After our previous experiences in the movies with Jabba the Hutt, I can understand why. But I cheered him on...this was probably the greatest actor I've ever seen in a movie. He was so huge, so edible, plus he crushed cars and got Winston covered in white goop. When I kneel down at bed to pray at night, I'm praying to a different god. The Dan Ackroyd god. Because if ol' Stay Puft wasn't the first thing that popped into his head, this could've been a giant Mr. Peanut for all we know.

As is the case with most popular lines, Kenner went a little insane and started marketing some pretty ludicrous stuff with the Ghostbusters logo brandished upon it...

You know, whenever I think about the heroics of Egon and Venkman, the first thing that comes to mind is how clean-shaven they managed to keep themselves throughout the whole fiasco. I have a hard enough time avoiding the five o'clock shadow when I just go shopping for a few hours...these guys managed to keep their faces smooth as a baby's ass even after 32 hours fighting gargoyles and giant, talking paintings. If that's not admirable, I don't know what is. Hence - The Ghostbusters Shaving Kit. Kids, if you're reading this, take it from me: enjoy your shave-free days while they last. I'm going to live in the woods as a hermit just so I can avoid having to shave. Anyway, this gorgeous set included a fake razor, (imagine the stories I'd have for you if it was a real one) a little brush, and a can of official, non-toxic Ghostbusters shaving cream!


I don't want to get too into the movies, because they'll both assuredly get their own posts at some point...but if you haven't seen 'em, you're insane. Yeah, the second one is kinda shitty compared to the first, but think about like this: you can't have a Ghostbusters marathon night with just one Ghostbusters movie. The repetition would be...insane.

Click on each of the four Ghostbusters' heads to hear one of their best lines from the movie. Keep in mind, this was the 80s, and jokes rarely had to be 'haha!' funny.


Ghostbusters was also immortalized in a video game that made it's way to a lot of various old systems. I could never figure out the fucking thing.

The toys also came with a free watch offer. In the commercials, the kids acted as though Kenner invented time itself. You've never seen a bunch of seven-year-olds go this nuts over the possibility of telling time without looking up at a clock.

So, will there ever be a Ghostbusters III? Rumors persist. Course, there's also rumors for a Gremlins III and Jaws V, not to mention Rocky VI and Transformers II, so don't get your hopes up. Besides, Winston's too busy with Oz and Egon's too busy...well..Winston's too busy.

- Matt
matt@x-entertainment.com
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