8 Facts About The Real Ghostbusters
By Jake Rossen
In the five-year gap between 1984’s Ghostbusters and 1989’s Ghostbusters II, the supernatural comedy franchise found a new home in animation. The DiC production The Real Ghostbusters, which aired from 1986 to 1991, followed the continuing adventures of Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore, a quartet of ghost-trappers aided by their secretary, Janine, and a friendly green blob of protoplasm named Slimer. For more on the show—including why it needed that odd “real” adjective in the title and which original film cast member got turned down for a voiceover role—check out these proton facts.
1. A legal dispute put the “real” in The Real Ghostbusters.
When Ghostbusters debuted in 1984, some moviegoers may have thought it sounded a little familiar. In the 1970s, the animation company Filmation produced a live-action series called Ghost Busters about a squad of paranormal investigators and their gorilla sidekick. (It lasted for one season in 1975.) When Filmation president Lou Scheimer confronted Columbia Pictures about the title and premise similarities, the studio entered into an agreement that paid Filmation for use of the name.
Later, Filmation decided to produce an animated version of their Ghost Busters, which they were well within their legal rights to do. In order to maintain control of the audience’s perception of the feature franchise, Columbia pursued their own project with the DiC animation company. They titled it The Real Ghostbusters as a way to differentiate it from the Filmation version, a move that minimized—but probably never eliminated—audience confusion.
2. The show turned down Ernie Hudson.
It may sound like an urban legend, but it’s unfortunately true. Hudson, who played everyman Ghostbuster Winston Zeddemore in both feature films, was willing to reprise his role for the animated series and was asked to audition for the show’s director as a formality. In 2012, Hudson told The A.V. Club that when he showed up for the reading, the director told him that the performance “was all wrong” because “that’s not how Ernie Hudson did it in the movie.” The man was apparently unaware he was speaking to Hudson. The producers never called him back and the role ended up going to Arsenio Hall.
3. Network executives were concerned Janine’s glasses might scare children.
According to writer J. Michael Straczynski, the creative team behind The Real Ghostbusters was largely left to pursue their own iteration of the story in the first season with only minimal network interference from ABC. But by season 2, executives started to worry over some seemingly trivial details, motivated in part by their working relationship with the research consulting firm Q5 Corporation: Q5 monitored children's programming and offered suggestions to make shows more appealing to juvenile audiences. Straczynski recalled that there was a fair amount of controversy over the design of Janine (played by Annie Potts in the films), whose eyeglasses appeared to be too pointy for their comfort.
"Well, Janine has these sharp glasses and kids are frightened by sharp objects, so let’s make them round," one executive said. They also wanted Janine to be less confrontational and more of a mother figure to the group. Fed up with the mandates, Straczynski left the series.
4. The show almost canned Ray Stantz.
In addition to expressing concern over Janine, ABC had other suggestions for changes in the series. Q5 recommended the show write out the character of Ray Stantz, played by Dan Aykroyd in the film, because he didn’t appear to serve any benefit to the program in their metrics. The showrunners laughed off the suggestion.
5. The Egon actor was told not to do a Harold Ramis impression but got the job anyway.
Veteran voiceover actor Maurice LaMarche was one of several performers to audition for the series. When he arrived, he was told by producer Michael C. Gross not to try and impersonate Harold Ramis, who played Spengler in the films. LaMarche couldn’t think of another approach and wound up approximating Ramis in his audition. He left, thinking he’d bombed. But he was hired for the role after Gross told him they probably needed at least one actor to sound like someone from the movies.
6. The voice of Peter Venkman got replaced for not sounding enough like Bill Murray.
Despite the game plan to keep the cartoon voices separate from the feature film actors, there were continued concerns that the show’s performers weren’t enough like their movie counterparts. Voiceover actor Lorenzo Music, best known as the voice of Garfield, was replaced halfway through the show’s run when Bill Murray commented to film director Ivan Reitman that Music didn’t sound anything like him. Murray wasn’t looking to get Music replaced, but the edict came down regardless: Full House star Dave Coulier stepped in as Venkman.
7. It was retitled Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters.
Owing to the popularity of sidekick Slimer, the green ghoul who roams the fire station that doubles as Ghostbusters headquarters, the show was renamed Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters in 1988. A Ralston cereal of the same name followed in 1990.
8. There was a spin-off.
The Real Ghostbusters stopped production in 1991, two years after Ghostbusters II left theaters. With a third movie seemingly grounded, Columbia decided to try and keep the franchise’s fortunes flowing with Extreme Ghostbusters, a 40-episode series that was a direct continuation of the first animated series. In Extreme Ghostbusters, Egon leads a new team of investigators—mostly early twentysomethings—with support from Janine and Slimer. The original Ghostbusters make appearances in the two-part finale.
The series is also notable for including a nod to the Hellraiser film franchise, a decidedly non-kid friendly creation, in the “Deadliners” episode. Some of the protagonists are designed in homage to the Cenobites seen in the 1987 Hellraiser film and its sequels.