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 internal photocopies of the preliminary concept drawings for all four hero figures from the original series.
According to the designer that created the concepts above, it was quite common at the time for Kenner designers to render their artwork on tracing paper for easier manipulation. Once drawn out, the images 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.
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 were both carrying the logo from the film rather than the cartoon and that’s because they are the earliest design idea for the action figures and their cardbacks.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about them though is that they show that the first series figures were originally designed to have “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 character artwork was drawn by one 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 artwork usually included the intended colour scheme for the toy in the form of small pantone colour swatches which were attached to the paper. These final renderings were drawn by designers in the product development team based on earlier concept artwork done by the preliminary design team.
For a bit of fun 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.
Here is a great example of how a piece of preliminary concept art is used as the basis for a toys finalised look. First up is the original concept art for Fright Features Janine:
While all of the toys main components are present (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 and the colour of her weapon colour is blue instead of yellow etc). This piece of concept art was then passed over to industrial designers in product development who refined the drawing and produced this final rendering of the finished product complete with it’s intended colour scheme: