There are various different types of 3D prototypes out there for the Real Ghostbusters line and each one represents a specific stage in the prototyping process. Below is a brief summary of each of the main stages as well as pictures of some examples.
The earliest three dimensional incarnation of a toy is always the initial sculpt which is made from either clay or wax. This is where a figure first becomes a 3D object and can be refined and changed until the look of the figure is perfected.
Pull Speed Ahead & T-Stick Ghost
Slimer (Gooper Ghost)
Haunted Humans Terror Trash
Haunted Humans X-Cop
Haunted Humans Mail Fraud
Below are some shots of a rather interesting prototype of the Mail Fraud figure. The arms, legs and teeth appear to be sculpted in wax while the torso, shorts and head are made from dynacast. It’s almost a sculpt/hardcopy hybrid.
HARDCOPIES & PROTOMOULDS
Following the sculpt, a hardcopy is made. At Kenner this was often done using a green material called dynacast but some were also created using an off white/milky coloured urethane material too. If a change was made to a figure after the hardcopy was created, wax could be added to the existing hardcopy to produce the desired look or add a specific alteration. Hardcopies served various purposes within Kenner and were often painted and used in early catalogue photography.
Sometimes Kenner would also produce prototypes which we refer to as “protomoulds”. Protomoulds became a cheap and easy way to prototype figures in-house at Kenner using low yield silicon moulds. These figures often had solid torsos and were usually produced using an off white coloured material. Many protomoulded figures were also painted for photography purposes.
Shown below are some internal Kenner photographs featuring the hand painted hardcopy figures of Egon, Peter and Ray from the Screaming Heroes series.
Toy molds were used both internally at Kenner and during production at the factories overseas. Typically, the molds created at Kenner would be low yield molds often made out of silicon while the factory molds were made out of steel to withstand the amount of use that was required from them. Due to the variety of toys in the Ghostbusters line, many of them required different tooling. Rotocast molds were created for the larger, more “squishy” monsters while action figures were injection molded using multiple molds and then assembled using a process called sonic welding.
This is a metal rotocast mold for Kenner’s “Gooper Ghost” Slimer toy which was obtained from a former Kenner employee.
Rotocasting is a process which allows you to create hollow, one piece toys (like stay puft, bug eye ghost and the Slimer above) which do not require further assembly (unlike injection molded parts that I mentioned earlier).
Once an electroform rotocast mold is created (which is often produced using the original sculpt) it’s attached to a metal fixture which then spins around. This continual motion allows the rubber silicon compound that is poured inside (via the circular hole on the back) to be evenly distributed and fill all the creases and cavities which form the finished product. Once the process is finished the excess material can be cut off and any necessary holes made. On this particular toy the “stubs” on the sides were cut away to allow Slimer”s hard plastic arms to be attached.
After the prototyping stage was done at Kenner, production would soon begin in the factories of the far east. Due to the amount of figures that needed to be produced, robust steel moulds were made which were capable of producing vast numbers of figures without breaking or suffering damage (unlike the low yield Silicon moulds used for protomoulds for example). It was very common for the “first” figures “shot” using these moulds to be sent back to Kenner for approval (hence the name first shots).
Characteristics: First shot figures can be found both unpainted and hand painted and often lack dates/copyright information as that information was usually added to the mould after they were produced. It’s not unusual for a first shot to be shot in non production colours too because for the most part they were just meant to check the mould for quality before production began, so the colour of the plastic used at that stage was not so important.
On first inspection the only immediately obvious difference between this undated first shot and the production ghost is the colour. However, it is in fact what’s known as a “2-UP” which means it’s actually 2 times the size of the production toy:
What’s even more interesting about this piece though is that it actually glows in the dark:
Due to the glow feature, I initially believed this ghost was somehow linked to the final Ecto-Glow series (as Kenner had repurposed several other earlier ghost sculpts for that range of figures). However, fellow collector Josh Blake pointed out to me that it actually matches the size of the original Grabber Ghost prototype shown on the back of some of the early cardbacks as well as the 1987 Toy Fair Catalogues:
Here it is again pictured with the mock up containment unit:
This definitely dates it much earlier than the Ecto-Glow line and possibly even means that Kenner had considered producing glow in the dark companion ghosts for the very first figures released, before finally settling on translucent plastic.
The term Engineering pilot (or EP for short) is used for samples of both the toys and their packaging. Loose toy EP’s are samples of the final product which closely resemble their production counterparts save for a few minor differences (paint scheme, plastic colour) and are usually marked or numbered to correspond to a certain test batch.
Packaging EP’s are a little different and are often just white boxes cut to the same overall dimensions as the production box in order to check the sizing is OK. They usually contain a production toy and other things like pack in catalogues & decals.
Boo-Zooka & Boo-Lets
This is a collection of bagged engineering pilots (EP’s) and first shots for the Boo-Zooka & Boo-lets mini ghost set. The first image shows a production painted toy with a bag that is marked “1st EP” and the other two appear to have been rejected EP samples (one bag states that the toys are “not clean enough”). The Boo-zooka ghost from that particular bag is an unpainted translucent first shot.
1st EP Boo-Zooka
Unpainted translucent first shot
QUALITY CONTROL (QC) SIGN OFF’S
Quality control sign off’s are early production quality toys that were sent back to Kenner and pulled from their shipping cases to inspect quality. These samples are almost always found with an employee signed sticker attached to the packaging.
Fright Features Janine Melnitz
Super Fright Features Egon Spengler
Screaming Heroes Ray Stantz
PLUSH/SOFT GOODS PROTOTYPES
This is an example of the very first prototype for the plush Slimer hand puppet. It has much darker fabric than the production toy as well as different eyes, stitching and overall dimensions.
When I purchased the prototype Slimer I also received various reference photos of the toy. The one shown in the photographs appears to be a slightly later prototype to mine however as it has both a no ghost logo and a white tag on the reverse whereas mine does not have either.
Similar prototypes were also used as photo samples in the ’87 Toy Fair catalogue where they can be seen “in action” and also in mock up packaging.
Here is another internal photograph of a prototype from the Kenner plush range, Stay Puft! Still looking for a prototype of this guy if anyone can help!