‘Who You Gonna Call?’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘The Real Ghostbusters’
An animated spin-off sequel to 1984’s Ghostbusters would expand on the adventures of Dr. Egon Spengler, Dr. Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore and Dr. Peter Venkman, who now sounded like Garfield. Running for seven seasons, from 1986 to 1991, the show made Slimer the character we know today and continued the franchise’s awful trend of screwing over Ernie Hudson. Read on about the making of The Real Ghostbusters, including how Bill Murray got a voice actor fired from the show...
Where the ‘Real’ Part Comes From
The series would’ve had the same title as the movie if it weren’t for Filmation. The company had a live-action series in 1975, The Ghost Busters, about a goofy pair of paranormal investigators and their gorilla assistant. They claimed that the Columbia Pictures film was a rip-off, leading to Columbia having to pay licensing fees. In 1986, Filmation released an animated series based on their 1975 show called Ghostbusters. Columbia would respond by adding “Real” to the title of its animated series.
Another Name Tweak
Season Four saw the show’s title switch to Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters. Now running in an hourlong time slot, half was dedicated to The Real Ghostbusters, while a new Slimer! series of shorts filled out the rest.
The Bizarre Reason Ernie Hudson Didn’t Get to Voice Winston
After telling Winston’s live-action actor that the animated role was his, the studio still asked him to read for the part. During the audition, Hudson, who played Winston Zeddemore in the movies, was told he didn’t sound like “when Ernie Hudson did it in the movie.” According to Hudson, they still told him he got the part, only for him to find out through the grapevine that they had, in fact, cast Arsenio Hall instead.
Iconic Voice Actors
The show did at least cast a few genuinely iconic voice actors. Maurice LaMarche, the voice of the megalomaniacal mouse Brain and the titular character on Inspector Gadget, played Egon Spengler. Meanwhile, Frank Welker, the voice of Scooby-Doo’s Fred Jones and Nibbler on Futurama, played Ray Stantz and Slimer. Cree Summers, who played Elmyra on Tiny Toons and Susie Carmichael on Rugrats, also contributed various voices to the series.
It Was Laura Summers’ First Audition
“That was the first cartoon I ever auditioned for,” recalls the voice of Janine Melnitz. “I never would have thought we were going to be talking about it all these years later. I got out of the voiceover part of the business for a long time, and I had done a lot of on-camera stuff, but it was like, ‘Audition for this.’ ‘Okay.’ And when I got it, I was talking way more like this, not New York or anything like that. And then the first session, they just said to me, ‘Hey, could you do a New York accent?’ And that’s what happened.”
A Mix of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror
Writer J. Michael Straczynski shared that the best part of working on The Real Ghostbusters was the freedom to “cut loose and be very obscure” while diving into all the classic tropes of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Like getting to call an episode “The Collect Call of Cthulhu.”
The Big Difference Between the First Season and Everything After
If you guessed studio interference, you’re a winner. “The network got consultants involved who wanted to ‘help’ the show,” Straczynski explained, “and their idea of helping, for instance, was that they said, ‘Well, Janine has these sharp glasses, and kids are frightened by sharp objects, so we want to make them round.’ They said that Janine, who was the secretary — and you’ll recall from the movie that Janine’s character was feisty and her own person — needs to be the mother of the group, so make her more feminine and take away those aspects of her personality that make her not a mother. Give each of them identifiable roles so that Peter is the con man, Egon is the brains, Ray is the builder, and they said, ‘Make Winston the driver.’ Winston being the Black guy.”
Ray Was Almost Cut From the Show
The consultancy group who made the idiotic suggestions for Janine and Winston also thought the show should cut Ray. Their reason being that the Ghostbuster “does not appear to serve to benefit the program.” Writer Michael Reaves said, “That’s like ‘terminate with extreme prejudice.’” He continued, “Ray is the dreamer, the idealist; he’s very useful as a foil. They could not find any reason at all for this to be necessary.”
“I sat there in dumbstruck shock at what they were saying,” Straczynski added about all these suggestions. “We (Straczynski and Reaves) just looked at each other and started laughing. We couldn’t deal with it anymore; it had gone so far into the realm of the absurd.”
The Harold Ramis Voice
LaMarche got the part of Egon doing Ramis’ voice even though he was explicitly asked not to. “(Executive producer) Michael C. Gross came out and said that — ‘Don’t do impressions of any of the Ghostbusters — and I was like, ‘I’m screwed.’ I have no ideas besides that,” the actor told The A.V. Club about his audition.
“Egon doesn’t look like he sounds any other way. I looked at the model sheet, the drawing of the character that’s the visual bible to what the characters look like, what he’ll move like, what his expressions will be. And they had that there for us, and I said, ‘I can only hear Harold Ramis. I’m screwed.’ I go in, and it’s the only thing that comes out of my mouth. I try a sort of (extremely weedy nerd voice) a poindexter-y voice, and I’m like, ‘That’s not him. I just can’t do it.’ And I get in the booth, and Gross goes, ‘Go ahead.’ And I wind up doing my best sort of globble-bubble Harold Ramis, and they went, ‘Okay, thanks a lot.’ And that was it. They’re like, ‘Did you have any other ideas?’ And I said, ‘No, not really.’ ‘Okay, thanks.’”
Yet, they cast him anyway. “Michael Gross said to me, ‘We know you were just doing a Harold impression, but you know what? We figure one guy has to sound like somebody from the movie to anchor it, so you’re the guy.’” All of which makes the Ernie Hudson story even stranger.
The Many Voices of Garfield
Lorenzo Music, the original voice behind the famous grumpy cat, did the voice of Dr. Peter Venkman in the animated series. Bill Murray, the face of Venkman, would go on to voice Garfield in the 2004 movie, and Frank Welker (voice of Ray Stantz and Slimer) would voice the orange tabby in The Garfield Show (2009).
The Show Happened Because Kids Enjoyed the Movie
As Gross once explained, “The first movie was made when there was no idea of doing a second movie. One of the surprises of the first movie was the appeal to kids. In fact, at the first preview screening, we saw kids there and thought they might find it too scary. When the scary parts (to a kid) were then diffused by a joke and silly laughter. Kids loved the release. So here we were, no sequel in mind, kids, a few toys (nothing much because we didn’t pre-sell something that didn’t seem okay to kids). So, folks who made a living from developing cartoons from movies came along and convinced us.”
Someone Turned the Animated Characters into Live-Action Sitcom Characters
Because that is just a thing we do with everything now.
Bill Murray Basically Got Lorenzo Music Fired from the Show
Music only played Peter Venkman in the first two seasons before Dave Coulier (Joey from Full House) took over. Gross revealed that the switch happened following a lunch date between his fellow executive producer, Ivan Reitman, and Bill Murray. “Midway through production, Bill was having lunch with Ivan Reitman and said how much he liked the show and said, ‘Why doesn’t he sound like me?’” Gross explained. “Ivan came and told us to change it.”
Gross added that he missed Music but that “some people didn’t care for him because his voice was so well known for Garfield.”
The Spin-Off Show
In 1997, a spin-off titled Extreme Ghostbusters was produced and ran for three months. The show took place several years after the ending of The Real Ghostbusters, with Egon leading a group of new and young recruits to bust some ghosts along with Slimer and Janine. The spin-off spawned a toy line, a couple of video games and a website.
The Show Gave Slimer His Name
While the green blob appeared in the original movie, he didn’t get a name until the series came along. In the episode “Citizen Ghost,” Ray first named him Slimer — mostly to annoy Peter.