Cartoons Come to Life: The Art Behind Hot Wheels The Real Ghostbusters Ecto-1

eBay link: Hot Wheels Real Ghostbusters Cartoon Car

Cartoons were life growing up. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Darkwing Duck, Back to the Future, Heroes on Hot Wheels, Speed Racer, Batman the Animated Series, Tale Spin, Heathcliff: all prime viewing for the up-and-coming youngster. While the cartoons themselves filled our brains for hours on end, it was the merch that really brought the art to life — and as kids we ate it up. Going to KB Toys or your local Wal-Mart and begging your mom for the newest action figure and vehicle from these shows was a part of life back then. While there were plenty of toys to chose from, one of the best cartoon toy lines was from The Real Ghostbusters.

Promo art for THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS animated series (and also the card art for the Retro release).

The Real Ghostbusters (TRG) was an animated series that ran from 1986 until 1991, with several reruns through the 90’s and 00’s. It was based on the same characters and story arch from the Ghostbusters movies, and introduced us to a new version of Slimer, who was now a friendly yet slightly annoying side-kick of a ghost.

TRG Ecto-1 parked next to a screen-used animation cel featuring Slimer.

Kenner toys produced a large line of TRG toys, including the Firehouse, Ecto-1 and 1A, the Ghosbusters themselves, and countless ghost and ghouls. I only had a few of the figures as a kid but always longed for that beautiful Firehouse and Ecto that I remember so vividly seeing in the little Kenner Action Line catalogs. Fast forward a few decades and I was finally able to find a some of those original TRG toys to add to my collection.

The original Kenner Ecto-1 with the Hot Wheels version in its grasp.
Winston keeping the mini-Ecto at bay.
The four original Kenner TRG figures check out the Hot Wheels Ecto…with the Stay Puft marshmallow man not far behind.

While Kenner made the action figure-sized Ecto-1, it wouldn’t be until nearly 30 years later that we would get a 1/64th scale version of TRG car. Who you gunna’ call?! Hot Wheels!

Hot Wheels released its version of TRG Ecto-1 back in 2015, and oddly enough it was only available as part of a five car, hobby-only Retro Entertainment release. This release also gave us the first version of the whitewall-wearing Back to the Future III Delorean and the Starsky & Hutch Torino (which I will be doing a follow-up post on each soon). So far, this is a one-and-done casting as it hasn’t gotten a second release — which is a shame as it’s a great looking car.

As a stand-alone casting it looks great. Its over-exaggerated shape makes it look more “hot rod” than the standard Ecto casting. It has a wider, taller shape than the standard car and has a more aggressive stance. The fat white walls it sits on look perfect.

The roof rack is far more simple than the standard car, but that’s okay. It’s meant to look like the cartoon car — and it does. I broke out some of my TRG screen-used animation drawings to see how it really compared to the series and was surprised how accurate the Hot Wheels version was.

The Hot Wheels TRG Ecto-1 parked next to an animation drawing used in the series.
The 2020 Ecto-1 casting next to TRG Ecto-1.

As you can tell from the above photos, Hot Wheels really nailed the shape. The extended front end, tall rear section, and simple roof rack all very closely mirror the car from the show. That’s not an easy task given how many different pieces of art you could have used to reference the car’s shape.

Even when viewed from the top the Hot Wheels car looks like the Ecto-1 as it was seen in the show. The lights, lightbars, roof rack, and wide shape all match the version seen in the 80’s cartoon.

Hot Wheels has several versions of the Ghostbusters Ecto, but TRG car is an entirely different casting. The Ecto-1 and Ecto-1A are both similar in that they use the same base casting with different features, while TRG Ecto-1 is a unique casting that is both wider and lower than the other Ectos.

Once the cars are side-by-side you can see the drastic differences. I actually like the cartoon car more as I feel it embodies the hot rodded Hot Wheels look we’ve come to recognize over the years, but both are straight up beauties.

Like the other Hot Wheels Ectos, TRG Ecto-1 has a row of Proton packs in the rear – but they are more visible in this version because of the larger rear windows.

The Real Ghostbusters may have first aired nearly 35 years ago, but they are now experiencing a welcomed comeback. Kenner has retooled and re-released the four main figures as part of a Wal-Mart exclusive set leading up to the 2021 release of the new Ghostbusters: Afterlife film, and excitement for the Ghostbusters brand has never been hotter. Hopefully we’ll see a line of Ectos following the release — and here’s to hoping we get a second wave of the Hot Wheels The Real Ghostbusters Ecto-1. Until then enjoy some more photos of TRG Ecto-1 🏁

Watch the unboxing and get a closer look at the Kenner car and the animation cels – including ones not seen in the article:

One Reply to “Cartoons Come to Life: The Art Behind Hot Wheels The Real Ghostbusters Ecto-1”

  1. I almost hate to mention this after this excellent article, but there WAS one other 1/64 casting of the Real Ghostbusters car. It came back in the day when the show was out and was an on-card exclusive bonus that came with Fuji 35mm film. i do have 1 or 2 of them somewhere however they are so well-packed away that I don’t know their current location. The body was die-cast, the base was chrome plastic, and the wheels were just plastic with chrome hubs. I DO recall however that the rear fins were separate red plastic identical to the larger size toy you show above.

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