The Real Ghostbusters toy line ran from 1986-1991 and while it definitely hit the road running due to the success of the TV show, if it weren’t for the combined creative talents of some great toy designers, innovative artists and gifted sculptors at Kenner, it could have easily been a very different story.
Our favourite Real Ghostbusters toys all began their life in Cincinnati, Ohio where product concept designers & industrial designers worked together to conceive innovative ideas for new products. The workload for the Kenner design team was really quite astonishing at times with employees often working on multiple toy lines simultaneously, so employees learned to work and think fast. Amazingly, their work was anything but hurried and somehow they always managed to come up with beautiful full colour concepts one after another with incredible attention to detail.
Once a preliminary concept idea for a toy had been presented and approved, the product concept designers then handed over to industrial designers whose job it was to define the actual look or style of the final toy according to that particular brands specifications and guidelines. The industrial designers in the product development team produced a final rendering based on the earlier concept artwork and added things like pantone swatches so the final intended colour scheme was shown. These drawings would be presented for review before the engineers could start work on the toys control drawings. Control drawings are basically blueprints used by engineering to create the final tooling drawings from which production injection mould tools were made. They are a crucial part of the process because they enable the toy to be sculpted and prototyped in 3D form.
So how does a design idea go from a two dimensional drawing to a three dimensional piece? Quite often concept models and/or “mock ups” would be created by the model makers or more hands on designers before things were finalised but where a toy really begins to come to life and starts to look like the end product is in the sculpting department and luckily for us, Kenner employed some of the most gifted sculptors in the US.
Initial 3D sculpting for most toys was usually done by hand using clay or wax. Sculpts were then followed by something called a hardcopy which is literally a copy of the sculpt made from a silicon mould. Hardcopies served various different purposes but if you’ve ever flipped through a toy catalogue or looked really closely at the figures on the packaging, then you’ve probably already seen painted hardcopies as they were often used for photography.
Prototypes and samples of the toys produced in the factories overseas would then bounce around from designers to engineers who checked and tested them in order to make sure the product was ready to go into full production.
The final part of the story was the products packaging art, which was usually created shortly after the toy had gone from a concept to 3D prototype form as that meant it was very likely to go on to be produced. All of the packaging art for the Ghostbusters toys was produced by a company called Lipson-Alport-Glass & Associates, one of the Cincinatti based art studios used by Kenner.
Over the course of it’s five year lifespan a huge amount of RGB action figures, vehicles, role play toys and even plushies were all created. The toys eventually came full circle with the original action figure sculpts being reused and re-imagined in different ways (glow in the dark features etc).
Feel free to browse through this section using the drop down menu above to view early concept drawings, packaging artwork and proof cards.