The Real Ghostbusters hero action figure range saw a total of seven different incarnations over a five year period.
After the release of the original series in 1986, Kenner gave us three different sets of heroes that each had completely new sculpts (Fright features, Screaming Heroes and Super fright features) before reverting back to the original sculpts and adding some quirky uniform modifications (Power pack heroes, Slimed heroes and finally 1991’s ill fated Ecto-Glow figures).
Below are images of various pieces of preliminary concept artwork and also some final renderings for the heroes.
Here are some internal photocopies of the presentation boards for all four hero figures from the original series which Kenner sent to their advertising company in New York for reference.
The originals were created in April 1986 and used for a presentation on the upcoming Real Ghostbusters toy line along with other pieces of early concept artwork.
(Note- The incorrect spelling of both “Spangler” & “Zedmore” aren’t Kenners fault, they were actually misspelled on the original DIC model sheets which the designers were using as reference material)
According to the designer that created them, it was quite common at the time for Kenner designers to render their artwork on tracing paper for easier manipulation. Once the original images were drawn they could then be copied and cut out for use on multiple concept boards. This is why the nutrona wands, backpacks and even the no ghost logo shown are all identical, even though the characters and ghosts are all different.
The black and white photocopies are great because they give us a rare glimpse into the early days of the Real Ghostbusters toy line and those iconic, original four figures, but the artwork can’t really be appreciated until you see them in colour. So here are images of the actual boards for Peter and Winston.
From these images you can see that while the uniform colours do not reflect the ones that went on to appear in the show, there was some attempt made to differentiate the guys using greys, greens, browns etc.
The artwork for Peter’s grabber ghost is interesting too because not only was the original colour yellow but the arms were drawn in an outstretched position and not straight up like the production toy.
Packaging Mock Ups
Similar character artwork (drawn by the same designer) was also used to create these mock up cards which were in fact Kenner’s original pitch for the GB toy line:
You’ll notice that they both have the Ghostbusters logo from the film rather than the “Real” Ghostbusters logo from the cartoon and that’s because the designers didn’t have very much reference material from the cartoon to work with at the time (apart from a few model sheets from the promo pilot).
Although many toy lines based on cartoons launch after the show has proven to be a success, with the Real Ghostbusters, Kenner and DiC were actually working on things at almost at the same time. While DiC were creating the first 12 episodes, Kenner were hard at work designing the original wave of toys so that once the cartoon aired, the toys wouldn’t be far behind.
If you look closely you’ll notice a couple of other things about those pitch mock up cards. For starters, the trap Ray is holding is identical to the ones seen in the promo pilot and if you look at Egon you’ll notice that he’s holding a microphone which is something only ever seen in the well known promotional artwork created by the team at DiC:
Perhaps the most interesting thing about them though is that they show that the first series figures were originally pitched with “fright features”!
The pop out eyes and gaping jaws were obviously ditched in favour of a more simplistic design but thankfully the fright features concept was later revisited after the success of the original series.
Below are images of the final renderings for the Fright Features line.
The characters were all drawn by the same designer while the weapons & companion ghosts were done by another. The Janine rendering is the only exception as her accessories were included on the same board as her character art.
Finalised concepts like this would often show the intended colour scheme for the toy in the form of small pantone colour swatches which were applied to the art. The final renderings were usually drawn by designers in the product development team based on earlier concept artwork done by the preliminary design team.
I’ve also included some colour images of DIC Model sheets for each character because the poses are a direct match and I think side by side they perfectly demonstrate how closely Kenner’s designers followed the reference material that was supplied to them.
(Winston’s weapon accessory had it’s name changed from “Thwack Attack” to “Spud Thud” by the time the figure was released.)
I’ve kept Janine separate from the four guys because I also had an image of her preliminary artwork which allows me to demonstrate how a prelim concept drawing is used as the basis for a toys finalised look.
So, first up is the original concept art for Fright Features Janine:
While all of the toys main components are present here (the “Tickler” companion ghost, weapon accessory and even proposed action feature) you can see that it doesn’t quite look like the production toy (Janine is wearing a proton pack for starters and the colour of her weapon colour is blue instead of yellow). This drawing was then passed over to the industrial designers in product development who refined it and produced this final rendering of the finished product complete with it’s intended colour scheme:
Kenner’s third hero series were the “Screaming Heroes” which were released in 1989. Below are a few pieces of artwork which show the various stages of development for the figures including their intended action features and their different outfits.
This is an early design idea presentation board for Egon which was drawn up about a month before the costumes, colour schemes and companion ghosts for this series were finalised. Egon’s pose and cartoon accurate jump suit were directly copied from the DiC Style Guide/Bible (which Kenner’s designers were given for reference) and a ghost added at the back to indicate how it would be used to activate the intended “screaming” action feature.
Ray Stanz (sic) is shown here wearing what would go on to be Egon’s costume and demonstrating what appears to be Peter’s arm spinning action feature (no spinning head). About the only thing shown on this piece of art that carried over to the final Ray Stantz figure was the shape and style of the weapon but even that went on to be produced in a different colour.
In this unused concept art Janine appears to be in her secretarial clothes as she was usually seen wearing in the cartoon but doesn’t have any accessories or weapons. Her ghost is shown as attaching from the front rather than the back which unfortunately gives this concept art a rather disturbing visual! It was presented to marketing bosses along with the board below in order for them to choose the one they liked best.
This presentation board is far closer to the look of the finalised production figure. From the action feature, costume and colour scheme right through to the accessories.
Finalised outfits and colour schemes for Egon, Peter & Ray
For the Screaming Heroes series, designers came up with a far more futuristic sci-fi looking set of outfits for the Ghostbusters with each one having specific colour schemes and detailing. This board shows the final outfit styles for Peter, Egon and Ray. Winston’s outfit is obviously missing but check out who is modelling the other three!