- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Thanks to the proliferation of film, comic book and cartoon characters, companies are bombarding consumers with an incredible selection of action figures. With tongue in cheek, let’s take a peek at some of the specimens worthy of a place in Zad’s Toy Vault.

Ecto-1

Famed German toy maker Playmobil dives into the licensed movie franchise arena with its debut of a “Ghostbusters” line of mini figures and playsets.

Plucking moments and characters mainly from the 1984 film starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, the collection features large, easy-to-assemble pieces and plenty of accessories.

The sets available include the famed Firehouse ($69.99), Slimer with a Hot Dog Stand ($17.99), Venkman and Terror Dogs ($12.99), Spengler and Ghost ($7.99) and the famed vehicle used to transport the Ghostbusters to the latest paranormal hotspots in New York City, the Ecto-1.

Figure profile: One of the most iconic vehicles in movie history, the Ecto-1 appeared in the original “Ghostbusters” movie and the sequel in 1989.

The Miller-Meteor Co. built the hybrid ambulance and hearse from a 1959 Cadillac professional chassis. In the film, Dr. Ray Stantz acquired the vehicle for $4,800, and he repaired and heavily modified it to store equipment and handle his team’s specter-busting investigations.

Price: $44.99.

Accessories: The roughly 13-inch-long vehicle features a detachable roof, windshield, rear and rear-sides windows (no coverings above the four doors), electron cannon, insulated wire bundles, a pair of antennae, side ladder, weather radar, steering wheel, and compressed air canisters.

The vehicle boasts light and sounds, but parents will need to quickly rush out and purchase three AAA batteries to bring the Ecto-1 to life.

Once installed, hit a button of the roof to start the blue-and-red emergency lights flashing and another button to hear the bizarre siren sound. Although a faithful recreation, I would have preferred a snippet of the “Ghostbusters” theme, some dialogue from the film or general ghost moaning.

The included 3-inch-tall mini-figures of team members Winston Zeddemore and secretary Janine Melnitz are both wearing full khaki Ghostbuster flight suits and black boots. Both have mild articulation (head twisting, and arms and legs that move up and down), but the faces do not resemble the stars from the movie.

The outfits feature painted details of logos, elbow pads, nametags, zippers and utility belts. Also each figure gets a removable Proton Pack with a soft rubber tube connecting the Neutrino Wand and multicolored proton stream pieces to attach to the wand to simulate a proton pack in action.

Also, I’ll note that Janine never wore a Ghostbusters uniform in the movies, making this a rarity for collectors.

More accessories include a ghost-containment unit with working lid and a connected pedal (assembly required), a handheld PK meter and the addition of four silicon pieces of green fluorescent slime that stick anywhere on the vehicle.

That’s a nice touch, though the addition of a ghost action figure would have been better.

I’ll also mention that the proton packs and containment unit fit securely in the back of the vehicle on slotted harnesses, and there is enough room for four characters to fit into the Ecto-1.

A nice companion piece to the vehicle is a scaled-down version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man ($19.99). The authentic-looking homage stands 7.5 inches tall, has arms and hands that twist, and comes packaged with Ghostbuster Ray Stantz.

Ray gets a removable pair of Ecto Googles and Proton Pack with plastic proton stream. Best part of the paint job is the marshmallow goo splattered on his flight suit.

Now, I can dream, but Playmobil should have released a scale version of Stay Puft to the mini characters. If Jakks Pacific could affordably manufacture a 20-inch-tall “Rogue One,” Jyn Erso figure ($19.99), it should have been a no brainer to design a much bigger Marshmallow Man.

Builder’s advice: The set is geared for youngsters 6 years and older and requires the assembly of 70 pieces to get the Ecto-1 ready to roll. Expect about 40 minutes to enhance the already constructed chassis by mainly installing light structures, a ladder, a rear, working door and tubing.

Putting rims into the rubber wheels is a chore as well as placing the 15 tiny stickers on the vehicle and accessories. Thankfully the “Ghostbuster” logos are already painted on the doors.

Watch it: Both “Ghostbuster” films are available on DVD, Blu-ray, 4K UHD and through various on demand services including Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. Prices range from $3.99 to $34.99.

What’s it worth: So who exactly will appreciate Playmobil’s beautifully designed Ecto-1?

Hardcore “Ghostbuster” memorabilia collectors may already have too many versions of the vehicle releases from Kenner, Lego and Mattel, to name a few. Well, never enough may be the battle cry if a fanatical friend’s recent rabid reaction to seeing the finished effort is any indication.

It’s really geared to a younger child demographic so the company must be banking on parents showing Junior the original movies or finding the original cartoon series.

I am also amazed that Playmobil did not also produce sets based on the “Ghostbusters” movie from last year.

Now, despite the odd choice of a license, the Ecto-1 offers a great, sturdy and easy-to-assembly design and will not only look fantastic in a display case, but it also will take new younger fans on many a role-playing adventure.

Playmobil is also offering four free episodes of the retro cartoon “The Real Ghostbusters” for those willing to fill out a form and upload a receipt for proof of purchase online. That is a bit of a pain. It would have made much more sense to include a downloadable code in the packaging to easily appreciate the animated hijinks.

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