Column: The Private Sector – Giving Props Where Due
“The Cake Pan Part” and “The Film Canister Part”… what was life like before we could look at a section of a proton pack and not identify it as the cyclotron and the Clippard valves?
We’ve come a long way from the days that Norm Gagnon and a band of few scratch built proton packs out of things that you could find lying around your house and at the Dollar Store. Everything has a name now. Everything has been accurately researched and precisely documented right down to the finest of details. The passion and determination is so rabid to a point that some fan prop Proton Packs are more screen-accurate than the ones that currently reside in Sony’s archives.
Why do I bring this up? Especially considering that if it weren’t for the kindness and generosity of Sean Bishop, Brian Fear, AJ Quick, and several others – I still wouldn’t know a damn thing about propping (so why should I be talking about it as if I’m some authority)? Well, funny that you should ask…
We all owe these prop masters a tremendous amount of thanks.
Let me explain. Every fan who is most likely reading this article, regardless if you are a prop builder or not, has benefitted from the hours, research, and money spent by the prop building community.
While most modern era film productions document every detail, the Ghostbusters props had to be reverse engineered by the fans. Starting from the photos of one of the Planet Hollywood packs right down to Volguus and crew purchasing a screen used pack – then dissecting it. It’s for this reason that when companies like Mattel, IDW, and others are in need of reference material for their most recent products, the first place they turn is to the fans.
Considering in the Kenner days, Ghostbusters proton packs used to be a single-colored mass of petroleum with as much detail as you could get with a cookie cutter (and how many of your out there cut off the proton streams? Be honest…), it’s been pretty funny to me to hear the complaints of some of the newer fans. Compared to those toys that we had in 1986, the amount of detail in the Mattel figures is staggering. My guess is that a good amount of the detail is owed to the wealth of reference material available on the prop sites. The packs on the Mattel figures could have just as easily once again been a hunk of black plastic that was somewhat in the shape of the packs that we’ve all come to know and love, but the fact that even the six inch figures have the details we’ve all come to know, love, and scrutinize right down to the ribbon cables – is owed to those few people that decided one day to start studying the art of the positron collider all those years ago.
Fan communities are like no other, especially in the internet and social networking era. Now that everything is instantly at our fingertips, things seem to be taken for granted. Had Mattel have sculpted a toy line back in 1996, I have the feeling the packs wouldn’t be anywhere near as intricate and beautiful as they are today. Not just because the materials and technology for toy design have changed so drastically in the past few years, but because the fans hadn’t scrutinized, discussed, researched, and documented the props of the film as extensively as it exists today.
So if you find yourself looking at the new toys or at the IDW comic art and catch yourself being aggravated that the Dale PH-25 Resistor is missing: just think, you owe the knowledge of such a part (and the fact that you know the name of it) to a hard working and devoted bunch. Take some pride in the fact that you know this information, but also show some sympathy to the people that haven’t had the ten plus years of research time that we have had that are just stepping into the franchise and doing what they can under the many constraints corporations have to make fans happy.
And also take pride in the fact that such knowledge has probably made the job of a future art production staff member on a certain third film that much easier…
How about a question? This one comes from an email from friend and fellow old-timer, Ryan LeClair:
“I have a quick question or two for your new column.
First being…the official Extreme Ghostbusters DVD release. When it was
announced, I was very excited to see and hear of it. I still see (the PAL versions) all-over
Australian and European DVD sites…as well as eBay. But I am so jealous of it
still only being a PAL release. Will North America EVER see a release of these
episodes on DVD? Not fair, I tell you!
Also…if there are any news or gossip items on Sony possibly
considering another GB game to follow the one that was recently released. I’m
really crossing my fingers on that one!”
Ryan, first off – I’m of the mindset that Extreme Ghostbusters is grossly underrated. I think that it gets a bad rap for reflecting the time period in which it was released but the characters, writing, and production value was top notch. I’d love to see it on an official DVD release in North America. Something to keep in mind is that Domestic (read: US and Canada) and International (read: everywhere not US/Canada) are operated independently of each other by the studios. Just because Sony Pictures Home Entertainment International releases something, doesn’t necessarily mean that their American counterpart will do the same. Nine times out of ten, it’s based upon the particular markets. Extreme Ghostbusters didn’t do so well on the air here in the US and Canada, but did extremely well and ran in reruns elsewhere. Take a look at a show like ALF. DVD sales here probably weren’t so hot, but other markets like Germany and Japan have had several releases that aren’t available in the US and Canada because the demand was there.
I think Extreme Ghostbusters will hit DVD eventually, especially if the fans can rally and show support for a release. But if I had to step up to the counter at Vegas and put money on it, I would think it would be more likely to see this type of release from a third party like Shout or Time Life, just as the Real Ghostbusters DVDs were released. That way it can be released in a more limited run and directed particularly to the fans that are clamoring for it.
To my knowledge, nothing is in the works – so it wouldn’t hurt to let a few people know that you want your MTV… er… EGB… by writing SPHE, Shout, and Time Life to let them know. What’s the worst that could happen, someone might listen?
As for another Ghostbusters Video Game… video games are long, time-consuming processes. After several years in production, testing, hiatus, promotion, release, and bug fixes, I’m sure the majority of the folks that worked on the first game are still sipping drinks beachside to unwind and, while another game might have a germ of an idea somewhere, they haven’t quite started on something yet.
But that said, the game did well and was well received so I’d be shocked if a sequel wasn’t explored. I’m crossing my fingers and toes too… but not my eyes. It would be bad.
Okay, I’ve far overstayed my welcome yet again – but if you have questions or comments, or you just want to know what address to spam if you’re a bot, drop me a line at netsolo [at] aol.com or here in the comments section of one of the great sites where you’re reading this article. See you next week!
[The Private Sector is a weekly syndicated column written by Troy Benjamin presented every Wednesday on GB Fans, Ghostbusters.net, and Proton Charging as an op-ed look at the goings on in the world of the Ghostbusters franchise.]