A while back, in one of the funnier angry comments I’ve had on this site, somebody called me “the most 80’s obsessed person on the planet”. The other day whilst reminiscing about how I am still haunted by a trip to the cinema to see Ghostbusters 2, the day before my birthday in 1989 – I had to concede they were probably correct. You see, beyond Transformers, most of my interests stem from the 80’s. The Goonies theme blares from my iPod as I jog over the bridge on my way to work in a morning. My articles are filled with references to 80’s snack foods and footballers that most other people don’t remember. Even the t-shirt I am wearing now has the faded image of the Defenders of the Earth logo upon it. My favourite movies are almost all from that period. Big Trouble in Little China, Aliens and the Ghostbusters series, all personal faves.
The first Ghostbusters movie introduced me to the sarcasm of Bill Murray and made me want to write movies, whilst Ghostbusters 2 gave me a fear of pictures so strong that I couldn’t even have the 1990 GB2 calendar on any of the months which featured Vigo. For an undisclosed amount of time I used to get ready in the morning looking away from the mirror, trying to do my hair out the corner of my eye, so paranoid was I that a floating head above a river of slime was going to appear at any minute. But I digress. With the demise of Botcon Hasbro has adopted a weird and wonderful approach to Transformers exclusives. Not only can non USA based collectors now get access to them (rejoice, we exist!), but they’ve taken their first foray into crossing our beloved robots over with other popular franchises – and the first pick was Ghostbusters. An Ecto-1 toy, that turns into a robot. For “the most 80’s obsessed person on the planet” this so much of a dream come true that I half thought it was a trick being played on me by a phantom Jeremy Beadle. Yet here we are, and courtesy of the wonderful people at Kapow Toys it’s now in my actual, normal sized, hands.
Let’s see if Bustin’ it out of the box makes me feel good.
(I know, I know, but c’mon – I had to)
It wouldn’t be right to kick off this article without mentioning the box that Ectotron arrives in. We are talking peak Toybox Soapbox fare. It’s unfathomable that I wouldn’t mention it. Someone at Hasbro was on the ball more than a Sonic 3 bonus level, with a mystical ability to key into the strongest pangs of nostalgia when they came up with this idea. Housing a transforming Ecto-1 inside a G1 Transformers themed box is a masterstroke of unparalleled proportions. They could have just put it in some boring old box with a bit of fancy, but forgettable, artwork as most toys do these days. Luckily whoever was in charge didn’t want to just do a by the numbers Walter Peck job. No, they were switched on enough to appreciate that this was a rare chance to create a special 80’s styled toy and box it up in the most perfectly 80’s way possible. You get the impression the designer of this toy was staunch in his belief as a child that this was a toy that needed to exist, and 30 something years later they were determined to make it a reality. And I bet they did it knowing this lovely box would make people like me need to buy two, the gits.
Ecto 1 is one of the most iconic rides from all of cinema. A large, looming presence within the pop culture consciousness, any licensed version of it has to capture every detail in order to keep the rabid Terror Dog fan base at bay. Whichever designer at Hasbro was tasked with the job knew their Tobins Spirit Guide from their Necronomicon and managed to take just about every detail from the actual vehicle and create a remarkably accurate scaled down replica. It might be missing a logo off the back but just about everything else makes the leap from screen to plastic intact. Which is quite insane when you think this thing still has to transform into a voyager sized robot. Normally, in these circumstances you’d end up with a simplified vehicle form to cater for that ability to transform, but that isn’t the case here. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know, so to speak. Ectotron’s first focus is on creating an accurate vehicle mode with no compromises.
And not even that ol’pumpkin headed Samhain can stop it.
On a purely scale model level – it works. All robot parts are hidden within or underneath the vehicle, leaving nothing obviously poking out. Ectoron’s Neutrino Proton Wand sits on the side of the roof top apparatus, but should you desire a more accurate look you can remove said wand. Nothing else from the robot form interferes with the car mode and if you didn’t know it was a transformer there isn’t anything that directly gives it away. Some panel joins that do offer a peek into how the toy transforms, but Hasbro have done their best to follow the vehicles lines in an attempt to mask them as much possible. For example, where the rear half splits from the main body, the transformation join follows the outer edge of the rear car door. Stuff like that is small but helps to blend as much as possible and means the car mode isn’t as broken up as it could be. You still get the broad, flat, white panels that are such a signature of the Ghostbusters favourite automobile without it ever feeling like it’s secretly a robot.
Unfortunately some of the panels don’t line up together snugly, at least on mine, which does chip away at the illusion but only very slightly. Thankfully it’s not enough to make me go Flip City.
Scale wise those tiny melty face Masterpiece human figures, or Dianuats, match up alright, but the interior is as claustrophobic as a ghost trap so your figures are not going to fit in there. As a voyager class figure it does scale well with your usual Transformers toys, but scale isn’t important in this case as it’s not intended to fit in with anything or form part of a particular lineup. Let those thoughts go, dudes. Ectotron has a more premium feel than your standard Transformers toys. As it’s a more expensive exclusive, collectory sort of doodah that makes sense, this is to be expected and it also means the toy benefits from clear plastic lights, painted wheels, all details picked out with paint, multiple rubber parts and a licensed alt mode means an authentic Cadillac logo on the front.
Wheels do roll, if that sort of thing keeps you awake at night, so you are free to zip your Ecto-1 along a smooth flat surface with ease. Outside of that there aren’t really any other play features to point at. Being aimed at collectors removes any need for child pleasing gimmicks, so they are left in the box and instead all emphasis is on creating a perfect replica Ecto-1. All pretensions of having to appeal to children as much as adults go out the window with Oscar. It’s actually strange looking at a Hasbro toy and my eyes being met with a crisp, clean vehicle mode as opposed to a barrage of 5mm peg holes or some overriding action feature that the alt mode has to cater for.
Taking the skeleton of the Combiner Wars Onslaught mold, and covering it in new flesh proves to be a good choice, as converting Ectotron from ghost chasing converted death mobile to robot mode is the sort of fun, fast and fluid (all the child friendly F’s!) transformation that gets you an article on this website. Each side of the vehicle hinges up, the shins flip open to allow the legs to extend as feet flip out the rear window forms each heel. All new touches, all get a thumbs up. But the best trick it pulls though is with the shoulders. Part of the hood presses down allowing the rest of it to swivel and hang from Ectotron’s shoulders like vehicular gargoyles. Rubber ladders, tubing and even the aerial disconnect to allow for removal of all that junk on the roof, which itself then transforms into a Proton Pack. Blue rubber tubing from the side of the car connects to the proton wand to complete the transformation. The joy of this transformation is not just the robot it produces at the end – it’s seeing how the different bits of the car become something new. Even though it is a retool of an existing figure, there are so many new parts, (the combiner gimmick is gone) that move in new ways, letting the whole experience feel unique. Onslaughts spectre is zapped, and left trapped in the past. The only bits left over from him are his thighs and I think elbows. Quite the skill to take something we’ve already seen used at least four times by this point, and turn it into a toy that just has a whole different sense of life to it.
I believe it’s magic, magic.
Conveying Ghostbusting authenticity is something even the robot mode does well. Considering the Ecto-1 isn’t famous for its ability to turn into a robot that may seem like a strange comment but there is such a strict attention to detail that keeps it entirely on brand in a way that’s seldom found when two unlikely crossovers are mashed together. Normally the subjects of a crossover from vastly different franchises don’t look like they belong in each others worlds, so the combination stands out as an oddity rather than something natural. Takara’s Transformers vs Street Fighter figures serve as a stark example of this. A lovely set of figures that stand as interesting curio’s because they belong in neither franchises fictional world. Whilst this is something strange that firmly belongs in its respective neighbourhoods.
This isn’t a Transformers character squeezed into a forced crossover – it’s an episode of the Real Ghostbusters where something goes awry and the car comes to life. Or just something Ray, Winston and Egon build to defeat the spirit of a mad, occultist mechanic. Nothing here seems out the ordinary and that is best recipe for a crossover.
Every detail is entirely on point to the Ghostbusters brand. That’s what I am talking about when I say the details make this fit perfectly into the Ghostbusters world, everything is designed to strengthen that connection. No guns, rocket launchers or Autobot badges can be found on the figure. Instead you’ve got the signature name badge on the chest, a Proton Pack, silver belt detailing that matches the belts the guys wore in the movies, black gloved hands, and there is even a set of Ray’s iconic goggles sat on top of the head. A white, tan and black deco is used to represent a mixture of the car and the iconic overalls the Ghostbusters wear. Also in a fun touch, the red paint apps on each of Ectotron’s forearms form the outline of the Cadillac logo.
He looks ready for Savin’ the day.
Ectotron’s head itself is interesting because it’s where you’d expect the figure to be at its most “Cybertronian”, but it again turns back to the Ghostbusters path with a noggin that I swear exudes influence from The Extreme Ghostbusters animation style. But then to my eyes it also looks a bit like a chimpanzee, so maybe someone was channelling their inner love for Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys (I’ve waited years to reference that show!) when they were sketching it out. Whatever the intent behind it, it’s a simple but effective head sculpt that feels entirely appropriate for the toy. Adding Ray’s Ecto goggles on the top is a wonderful touch, even if they don’t move. That may irk some people, but the other choice is to not have the figure at all which seems a crazy place to draw the line for me. But then my jaw is still on the floor at “IT’S AN ECTO-1 THAT TURNS INTO A ROBOT?!”. Easily pleased, me.
As an opportunity to create a crossover figure that most collectors have mulled over for years – articulation isn’t high on the list of importance. This could have 80’s level limb movement and it would still be amazing that it exists at all. A figure like this is born from the intent of a laser focus on nostalgia as opposed to Figuarts level posing. The fact it exists is a more important justification for purchase than wrist swivels, ab crunches etc. As a retool of a Combiner Wars era figure it’s still a decently poseable figure but it’s so unimportant in the scheme of why this toy exists and why we are all buying it. Which makes it very easy to overlook the new shoulder parts stopping the arms from fully spinning, the lack of ankle tilts, waist swivel, or the fact his proton pack falls off if you so much as look at it funny. Who is buying a transforming Ecto-1 for any reason other than nostalgia or the fun of it? Sometimes it seems there is this checklist of things that people let get in the way of them just enjoying toys for what they are. Back off man, he’s a transforming car robo scientist.
With any Ghostbusters themed toy there is such vast scope for accessories, but Ectotron comes with just one bonus piece. Sounds disappointing, but only from the perspective of “OMG! This is my chance to finally get a transforming Ecto 1! Give me everything!” rather than from a cost/value angle. You get more than your money’s worth from the toy, without needing extra bits. Obviously I would have loved some extra bits because I love accessories, but I don’t begrudge their exclusion as everything that is necessary is already here. You do get the Proton pack and wand, but they are a vital part of the vehicle silhouette so it’s a stretch to consider them accessories.
BUT I did say there was at least one bonus, and it comes in the pudgy shape of translucent green Slimer mini-figure. One of the worlds most recognisable spooks, right up there with Pipes from Ghostwatch, Slimer is the Ghosbusters arch nemesis/pet/pal/sometimes saviour. His popularity inexplicably soared to the point that the cartoon was even re-titled “Slimer and The Real Ghostbusters” and some company stuffed him into toothpaste tubes to be sold to kids across Britain in a move that was scarily in step with Vigo’s Slime based bathroom hijinks in Ghostbusters 2. Slimer has no articulation or features, but he does have an amusingly placed port underneath for display stands. I know who he’s gonna call about that, and it ain’t the Ghostbusters…
Sometimes the intentions behind a toy are far more important than what the toy itself does. Ectotron is a perfect example of that. Two of the 80’s most iconic and enduring franchises collide to produce something that makes perfect sense in the sphere of both fictional worlds. There is no sense of “if only they’d…” or “why didn’t they…”. No requirement for hyper articulation or a barrage of diecast, features, accessories blah de blah. Ectotron is a fully realised figure that delivers everything it needs to, and excels its own brief as the best bit of drunken “what if”ery you could imagine. From time to time I crack jokes about how I think the current design team at Hasbro are making toys purely for me (can I get an Ecto-1A please, Mr Hasbro mind reader chap?) and this would be top of that list. So that’s why my feelings on this are overly positive and I am not bothered about any small flaws.
As a massive Transformers and Ghostbusters fan, even living in this time where virtually everything we want exists in some form – I never thought it would happen. And this isn’t even the last part of the Transformers X Ghostbusters crossover, there’s an MP-10 Optimus Prime repaint, that I probably can’t afford, on the horizon, barreling towards us. All bets are off, everything feels like it’s on the table. Suddenly thoughts turn to what else they could do in future… *hums the Back to the Future theme*…
Praise be to Vigo for Ectotrons existence – just please don’t turn up in any of the pictures hanging in my living room later.
If you’d like to buy your own Ectotron, then head over to Kapow Toys where you will find Transformers, Ghostbusters and much more.