Sunday, July 17, 2016

EVOLUTION OF THE ECTO-1


A new "Ghostbusters" movie hit theaters this weekend, however it'll be another month before it reaches me over here in Japan. Currently I have no definitive opinion on the new movie since I haven't had the chance to see it... but I can say, without being a misogynist, that I am not too happy about Paul Feig and Sony Pictures doing a complete reboot/remake of the classic original movie. It was lightning in a bottle that cannot be remade or improved upon, no matter what sex the cast members are. 

With that being said, after seeing the new trailers and promo images, one thing that I have enjoyed is the new 1980's Cadillac Ecto-1 design. It's not as awesome as the original, but it's kind of cool and a bit different, while at the same time being a wonderful homage.


And as much as I love cars like that from the 80's, the original Ghostbusters film from 1984 takes the cake with it's modified 1959 Cadillac ambulance. The very first Ecto-1.


But before it's iconic debut, the Ecto-1 began it's life as the brainchild of Dan Aykroyd, whom also created the idea and original script for Ghostbusters. Initially, Aykroyd wanted the "Ectomobile" to be an all black hearse with flashing white and purple lights. Eventually the production crew went with a 1959 Cadillac ambulance, rather than a hearse. Production designer Stephen Dane, whom was previously the assistant art director on Blade Runner, was tasked with taking the old brown Cadillac ambulance pictured below and transforming it into something film worthy... within only two weeks.


Below are some of Mr. Dane's original design illustration concepts for the Ecto-1.



After all the gadgets and hardware design modifications were made, the production crew had to put into consideration that a large majority of the film would be shot at night. This meant that having an all black Ecto-1 driving around New York would be very difficult to capture on film. So the decision was made to paint the ambulance white with red trim, thus creating a modern film icon.


The critical success of the first Ghostbusters film saw a growing fan base within adults and surprisingly even children. This eventually led to the creation of an animated version in 1986 entitled The Real Ghostbusters. As a kid who grew up in the 80's I can tell you that The Real Ghostbusters was one of my favorite cartoons and still is to this day. I previously wrote an article called THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS ARE FROM JAPAN about the show's creation which includes a video documentary for those who want to check it out.

Of course the animated series also needed to include the Ecto-1, but it needed to be somewhat simplified for the animators. Luckily due to the first episode taking place directly after the end of the 1984 Ghostbusters movie, the Ecto-1 design remains essentially the same. Below is a finalized production design illustration from DIC animation studios and a still screen from the actual series.


But what's a Saturday morning cartoon without an awesome line of toys?! That's where the now legendary toy manufacturer Kenner came into play. Fresh off the success of their massively popular Star Wars action figure line, Kenner began producing action figures, vehicles and playsets for The Real Ghostbusters animated series...

...including the Ecto-1.



The animated series was eventually nominated for an Emmy award and was among one of the top rated children's programs during the 1980's. Kenner kept cranking out The Real Ghostbusters action figures and every kid who was a Ghostbusters fan couldn't have been happier.

Then in 1989, just to put some extra icing on the media induced million dollar action figure high, Columbia Pictures released Ghostbusters II. Finally all of the fans, including the adults, could get another taste of their four favorite heroes busting some ghost butts. However this time around, the filmmakers took some cues from the animated series when approaching some of the look and concepts for the new film. The erotic jokes present in the original film were played down or nonexistent, the horror element was toned down a bit, the ectoplasm went from snot-like to pinkish purple, the secretary Janine Melnitz turned into a living representation of her animated form, Winston lost his mustache as he did in the cartoon, and a few other aspects just got a little more silly. Obviously the film was meant to appeal more to children this time around given the success of the animated series and you can bet your spooky ass that toy tie-ins were on the table...

...one of which was the newly revamped Ecto-1A. Essentially the exact same car with more 'flash', the Ecto-1A is actually a personal favorite of mine. In the world of Ghostbusters you can never get enough extra gadgets and gizmos, and the Ecto-1A definitely upped the ante in that respect, even if it was all just extra flash.

Below is an original concept design for the Ecto-1A, once again by the amazing Stephen Dane, who had designed the original Ecto-1 for the first film. Notice all of the extra decal illustrations along with the little notes for the production crew.


Now here is the final product as well as Kenner's toy counterpart.



Unfortunately this would mark the end of the original run of Ghostbusters movies, cartoons and toys. In 1991, The Real Ghostbusters animated series was canceled, along with it's line of Kenner action figures, which had unfortunately already released a summer catalog filled with a brand new line of Ghostbusters action figures and playsets that never got to see the light of day, like the ones in the image below.


But that didn't mean that there would never be another Ghostbusters or new variations of the Ecto-1. Six years later in 1997, a brand new Ghostbusters animated series was released under the title Extreme Ghostbusters. The series follows the students of Egon Spengler, who is now a college professor, and their training as a brand new team of Ghostbusters. It too had it's own version of the Ecto-1 which remarkably didn't change much from the classic original version. 


Around this time Kenner had been absorbed into Hasbro and the rights to produce Ghostbusters action figures went to Trendmasters, whom produced a number of figures, accessories and vehicles - including the new Ecto-1. 


Now it's 2016, nearly 20 years since the last screen incarnation of our original beloved Ghostbusters and their amazing mode of transportation, bringing us back full circle to the new Paul Feig "Ghostbusters" reboot. It may end up being a very unnecessary and forgettable movie, but it's lasting legacy will be left on the surface of the Earth for many years to come in the form of hundreds of thousands of non-biodegradable plastic Ecto-1 toys that all of the little boys and girls may or many not have asked their parent's for this coming Christmas :)


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