It’s been nearly 37 years since the Manhattan Crossrip sent the East Coast into a frenzy with ghost sightings galore and chaos on every corner. It was in 1984 that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Walter Peck forced a shutdown of the Ecto-Containment Unit tucked into the basement of a Tribeca firehouse, literally blowing the roof off of the place and setting off a chain reaction that signaled the coming of an ancient Sumerian God known as Gozer the Gozerian.
The story of Ghostbusters is a famous one — a legendary tale that continues to inspire new generations of fans — but in-universe, has the Crossrip been forgotten? That’s a question that will be answered when Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Afterlife finally makes its way into theaters everywhere this November.
Following a few pandemic-fueled release date shifts, the film from Juno director Jason Reitman — son of Ghostbusters-helmer Ivan Reitman — will return audiences to the timeline of the original canon that was last explored in Ghostbusters II (1989), as a new generation straps on the Proton Packs for a supernatural adventure that pays tribute to the past while carrying the franchise into the future.
Over the years, the Ghostbusters fandom has been fueled by storytelling across film, animation, comics, and games. Legions of fans have amassed impressive collections of toys and props. There are even highly organized regional fan groups that have the uniforms, the gear, and in many cases, elaborate life-sized replicas of the iconic 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ecto-1 vehicle. And many of these local paranormal investigators also drive original, Ecto-inspired creations that modernize the classic ride. So what is the biggest source of the appeal?
“Ghostbusters is lightning in a bottle,” says Troy Benjamin, editor-in-chief of Ghostbusters HQ (GBHQ), a leading fansite that has been evolving since 1996. “It’s tough to pinpoint one single secret ingredient. Is it the characters? The gear? The timeless stories? Or is it the wish-fulfillment of everyday Joes and Janes being able to strap on a pack and trap some ghosts?”
Benjamin’s fandom inspired a career that’s come full circle from a kid who once bought Ghostbusters on VHS from a Kmart store in Parker, Colorado, to working as an on-camera host for Ivan Reitman’s production company Ghost Corps, to co-authoring Insight Editions’ 2017 Ghostbusters Ectomobile Owner’s Workshop Manual.
“Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ivan Reitman’s creation crafted endless possibilities,” Benjamin says. “We’ll always be obsessed with things not of this world. Ghostbusters made the paranormal accessible. It also made it into a fictitious, aspirational profession that just happened to turn the protagonists into rock stars.”
While the action on screen hooked viewers, the magic that happened behind the scenes is the secret sauce — or Ectoplasm — that’s really propelled Ghostbusters into being so much more than just a film.
The UK-based, brother-and-sister team of director Anthony Bueno and producer Claire Bueno tracked down and interviewed more than 40 members of the cast and crew over the course of a decade for the production of their feature-length documentary, Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters (2019).
According to Claire Bueno, the lasting legacy is due to the triple-threat of the right cast and crew being paired with the right setting and technology.
“We always think that Ghostbusters is as good as it is because a bunch of actors came together at exactly the right time, but it is so much more than that,” Claire Bueno says. “Every beat of the film moves the trajectory of the story from the basic idea of starting a new business, to dealing with the biggest interdimensional Crossrip since 1909! Being set against the grittiness of New York in the early 1980s adds to the appeal and the special effects still hold up. Ghostbusters is a timeless classic because it’s so well made.”
The Real Ghostbusters Return
Following the success of Ghostbusters, Columbia Pictures Television and DIC Entertainment launched The Real Ghostbusters as an animated spinoff that ran on ABC and in syndication from 1986-1991. The series spawned a Kenner toy line that was a huge hit and has since become sought after by modern collectors.
At Toy Fair New York last year, Hasbro revealed plans to launch a full range of new Ghostbusters toys inspired by the classic film and Afterlife, but one of the biggest head-turners was a range of reissues and updates based on the classic Kenner toys of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The first wave of Ghostbusters Kenner Classics brought The Real Ghostbusters versions of Ray, Egon, Peter, and Winston back into Walmart toy departments for the first time in nearly 30 years. This year, the line expanded with the addition of the Ghostpopper — “an essential piece of The Real Ghostbusters’ equipment” — with “poltergeist popping action.” Another wave of toys, including a cartoon-inspired Ecto-1 and a pair of ghosts — Fearsome Flush and Bug-Eye — will be available exclusively at Walmart this spring.
In January, Sony began tapping into the nostalgia vein by adding full episodes of the animated series and its late ‘90s follow-up, Extreme Ghostbusters, to the official Ghostbusters YouTube Channel.
Fun, Frights, and Family
Beyond the comedy, the action, and, yes, the frights, a common thread among Ghostbusters fans is a simple one: family.
In recent years, entire families have begun cosplaying together and that’s opened up opportunities for numerous companies to answer the call to deliver new products for all ages from baby and toddler costumes to adult flight suits and high-end, screen-accurate prop replicas.
“The most rewarding aspect of offering properties that are multigenerational is how we get to partake in a shared experience,” says Henni Kristiansen, PR specialist at FUN.com, a Minnesota-based purveyor of pop culture costumes, gifts, and apparel. “The ability to offer our customers a way to experience a moment when their children are the same age they were when they first saw Ghostbusters gives us immense joy. We consider ourselves lucky to play a small part in creating a bond between generations.”
Before there was “cosplay” there was playing dress-up, and the nostalgia that brings has made its way into popular culture with characters on ‘80s-set shows, such as ABC’s The Goldbergs and Netflix’s Stranger Things recently getting in on the action.
“With cosplay, you can be yourself,” Claire Bueno says. “When you cosplay as Batman, you’re Batman, but with Ghostbusters you can be Venkman or you can be Bueno and just make it your own.”
And making things your own — or tinkering as Ray Stantz was often seen doing — is also a growing part of the experience.
One of the biggest — and most elaborate — Ghostbusters collectibles ever released is one that can’t just be bought: You have to build it. The Ghostbusters Ecto-1 Build-Up from the Eaglemoss Hero Collector Die-Cast Club is a subscription project that pairs collecting with scale modeling. Each month, subscribers receive pieces for a 1:8-scale, die-cast Ecto-1 alongside magazines that get filed in an exclusive binder.
“The response to our Ecto-1 Build-Up has been incredible, and really shows the enduring appeal of Ghostbusters as we approach the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” says Chris Thompson, brand manager of Hero Collector at Eaglemoss. “Whether it’s Adam Savage customizing his model on Tested, or a father and daughter sharing their efforts on social media, we’ve seen an incredible uptick with thousands of subscribers starting their journey over the last 12 months. Since debuting the prototype at Ghostbusters Fan Fest in 2019, I’ve lugged it around the world to events like SDCC and NYCC, and it’s a joy to see others now sharing that experience.”
While the new film is still some months off, it’s said that the Spengler family (and the real life passing of actor Harold Ramis who played Egon Spengler) plays a central role in what is ultimately a passing of the torch between one generation to the next.
“There’s never been a better time to be a fan of the Ghostbusters franchise,” Benjamin says as he ponders what new toys and collectibles might be coming in the months ahead. Collecting for yourself is one thing, but now there’s a bigger purpose at play.
“Most importantly, I’m excited to share Ghostbusters: Afterlife and all of the toys and tie-ins with my daughter — to live vicariously through her, as the next generation of fan,” he says. “I can’t wait to see her grab a Proton Pack, heroically play-capture ghosts, and aspire to be as cool of a Ghostbuster as Mckenna Grace’s character Phoebe [in Ghostbusters: Afterlife]. That’s going to be quite a thrill.”
This article was original published in Issue No. 9 of the Pop Insider. Click here to read the full issue!