The first syndicated episode of The Real Ghostbusters was “Knock Knock.” In it, the intrepid team of four supernatural-trapping Ghostbusters deal with a door that has been opened during subway construction.
Unlike other kids fare, this is a door to hell, meant to be open on doomsday when civilization has been wiped out to let the undead roam free and control the world. Not only does “Knock Knock” represent the best of the animated series, it actually comes in on par with the feature films in terms of writing, direction, and a legitimate threat for the team for fight. It’s hard to believe children of the ’80s were considered smart enough to handle this material, even in cartoon form.
Compared to the watered down, PC stuff shoved at kids today, Real Ghostbusters is amazingly smart, witty, balanced, and a joy to watch. Like any cartoon, or TV series in general, the show had its ups and down. However, the quality ratio is around 70/30 (at least for the first few seasons), staggering considering the rushed production schedule.
The series succeeds despite aggravating episodes like “Play Them Ragtime Boos” (in which the team goes to New Orleans to bust a band that plays nothing but “When the Saints Go Marching In” repeatedly). Writing is wonderful, wisely integrating the feature film into the script to take care of continuity.
The cartoon series has the team in individually colored suits, as opposed to the rather bland tan color of the movie. It was done to better distinguish the Ghostbusters from each other in long shots, but the script takes the time to create a story around the original tan suits, creating a need for new ones.
Dialogue in an early episode also clears up the reason for naming the show Real Ghostbusters, as opposed to just Ghostbusters, and it has nothing to do with the real life confusion over Filmation’s Ghostbusters animated series. It even explains why Slimer, the team’s loveable ghost sidekick, is allowed to roam free.
Amazingly, they don’t just work, the explanations make sense, something a lesser series wouldn’t care to bother with. Real Ghostbusters feels like the montage sequences from the films brought to life in animated form. The series is a joy to watch, and that has little to do with nostalgia.
Volume 1 showcases this series as best it can on DVD considering the source that exists on tape. Check out “Old College Spirit” where a visible tape error resides early on. All of the usual problems with a taped master are compounded with compression from the DVD. That said, this hardly looks terrible, and at times can look great.
Color is strong, and the contrast remains bright. Minimal damage is evident, and mosquito noise is limited. The final disc suffers from significant ghosting that plagues all three episodes. Those are the only ones with the problem.
Audio delivers the theme song cleanly, the latter being one of the best things to ever come out of the ‘80s. A 2.0 mono mix is serviceable without offering much to discuss. The unmistakable sound of a proton pack is maintained without distortion on the high end, and dialogue is audible throughout. A wonderful soundtrack behind the action is likewise pushed through without problem.
Time Life has made the wait for this series on DVD worth it with only a single volume. Thirty episodes are included in all, the majority of which feature an introduction from a writer/animator/designer/actor/etc. These are usually brief and occasionally offer insight into the episode. Other times they exist for the person to have some laughs.
Five episodes have been given visual commentary tracks with a variety of people involved in making these shows discussing them. While the layout is somewhat loud (including the commentators, the episode playing in a small box in the lower corner, and another box grabbing stills, all wrapped in a blow up of the episode), the majority of the commentaries are insightful. Nearly everyone loved the syndicated episodes for the amount of freedom they were given.
Image galleries, both on the disc and some that are for DVD-ROM users only, deliver a variety of storyboards and sketches. A making-of, entitled Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts, runs 20 minutes with numerous interviews, and only mild criss-cross between it and the commentaries.
Time Life is releasing individual volumes for The Real Ghostbusters, or you can go all out and grab the entire series inside a special firehouse case. Sadly, you can only get the entire series through Time Life, which means they dictate price. Otherwise, you have wait for Volume Two, which has no release date yet.