Ghostbusters was the hit movie of 1984, taking second in the box office only to Beverly Hills Cop. The combination of horror and comedy, mixed with the talents of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis and Annie Potts created a multi-media dynasty that, despite some lulls, continues on strong today. However, until recently, the movie had almost zero promotional tie-ins.
As the legend goes, it was discovered late into the movie’s filming that Filmation actually owned the rights to the title Ghostbusters due to the live-action Saturday morning children’s show they produced back in 1975. Alternate titles were tossed around, but when the crowd gathered for the big climax was chanting “Ghostbusters”, producers scrambled to make sure Columbia Pictures secured the rights from Filmation. Since the name of the film was in doubt for a time, it was hard to come up with a decent marketing campaign beyond commercials, posters and novelizations.
Columbia made up for that in 1985 with the re-release of the movie that summer. Knowing the movie was a hit with kids, Columbia partnered with Ralston to produce a cereal based on the film. Ghostbusters cereal featured fruit-flavored shapes in the form of the “no” symbol from the logo with marshmallow ghost shapes. The commercial featured the ghost from the logo animated and singing a version of the theme song with modified lyrics talking about the cereal to two live-action kids. Initial premiums included a piece of Bazooka bubble gum inside the box and a mail-away offer for a Ghostbusters kit that included a poster, glow-in-the-dark stickers and light switch cover, regular stickers, a button, and a membership certificate. Another mail-away premium was a free “ghost flyer”, which was a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee with the logo on it. A big contest was held to win a real Corvette by finding a specific toy car inside the box out of a series of them.
|One of the original hologram boxes.|
In 1986, Ghostbusters got its next hit with the debut of The Real Ghostbusters. The animated series proved as popular as the film, and this time Columbia could market the hell out of it. There wasn’t a single product that didn’t have The Real Ghostbusters title slapped onto it. Ralston acknowledged this with three collectible boxes adorned with holograms; one featuring the no-ghost logo, one with Slimer, and one with a promotional image of the animated team. Those boxes came with a mail-away offer for a special collector’s edition VHS of a Real Ghostbusters episode. In 1987, Ralston changed the name of their Ghostbusters cereal to The Real Ghostbusters.
|The box introducing the new marshmallow shapes.|
Initially, there wasn’t anything different about the cereal beyond the name change. Soon, however, purple ghost marshmallows joined the mix and as Slimer became more popular he got his own marshmallow representation, as well as began to be featured as the mascot for any promotions advertised on the box. Ralston did a second series of hologram boxes as part of their promotion for send-away t-shirts, which would feature the hologram from one of the five respective cereals involved. A third series of hologram boxes followed, however only the cereal-specific shirt was offered.
The most unique feature came when Ralston added glow-in-the-dark capabilities to various parts of the box. A new commercial was made touting the new marshmallows in an animated segment reminiscent of the cartoon, and the glow-in-the-dark feature in a live-action follow-up segment. Amongst the premiums at this time were cut-out trading cards on the back, a glow-in-the-dark cut-out Slimer door hanger, and posters. One promotion featured a series of three small kaleidoscopes inside the box to collect, along with a chance to win a diamond worth $4,000. Another car promotion came as well, this time to win a real Porsche.
In 1989, Ghostbusters II came to theaters and Ralston once again changed the name of the cereal in order to tie-into it. While there was nothing remotely new about Ghostbusters II cereal, it did have one of the most prolific premiums to date: the chance to meet a real Ghostbuster (Egon) in Hollywood and visit the actual firehouse. Each box, as well as boxes of Cookie Crisp and Dinersaurs, would come with a small record that had Rob Paulsen introduce animated Egon (Maurice LaMarche) to ask a series of three trivia questions about the movie. There were two versions of the record: a white version, and a gold version, each with a different set of questions. Kids could write down and send in their answers for a chance to win. The same animated commercial was re-used, except the follow-up segment advertised the contest.
|Ghostbusters II cereal.|
After the movie fervor died down in 1990, Ralston returned the cereal to its animated form. Back in 1988, several changes had been made to the animated series including increasing Slimer’s prominence in it. The show was increased to an hour adding a Slimer spin-off series and he was given top-billing as it was renamed Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters. So, too, was the cereal renamed and, for the first time, the logo was replaced with the animated characters. A new contest to win $20,000 for college was launched, and crayons were included inside to color in a picture on the back of the box. Another contest launched was a chance to win 15 toys from Kenner’s toy line. That box came with a slimy light switch cover that could be cut out of the box, and the consolation prize was a small Slimer toy found inside. Slimer! boxes later featured an on-box board game.
|Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters take center stage.|
In terms of longevity, this was the longest-running media tie-in cereal on the shelves, as well as the longest-running licensed cereal from Ralston. While most Ralston cereals had a shelf life of a year or less, Ghostbusters cereal held on for six years. By 1991, The Real Ghostbusters was coming to an end and Ghost Fever had tapered off for the first time. Although Ghostbusters had since rebounded in popularity, Ghostbusters cereal would become nothing but a fond memory of of fans, retro bloggers, list writers and cereal box collectors.
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