In 1989 Ghostbusters was one of the hottest properties on the planet. The 1984 film became a phenomenon upon release capturing the imaginations of a broad audience. Ray Parker Jr.’s pop theme was a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as earning the artist an Academy Award Nomination for best original song. Then in 1986 the animated series The Real Ghostbusters dominated Saturday morning’s on ABC while Kenner’s toy’s based on the show earned millions for the company. The question on everyone’s mind was, when will there be a movie sequel? Fan’s prayers were answered in June of 1989 when Ghostbusters II finally hit the silver screen.
As part of the marketing blitz leading up to the film’s theatrical release, a partnership was struck with fast food chain Hardee’s which branded the restaurants as the Official Ghostbusters Headquarters. At the time Hardee’s was certainly a second fiddle to the ubiquitous McDonald’s and considering the popularity of the cartoon and franchise among children I always found it a bit odd that a deal wasn’t struck to produce Ghostbusters II themed Happy Meals; especially considering the fact that McDonald’s was responsible for Real Ghostbusters themed Happy Meals in 1987 and in 1990.
Regardless, Hardee’s landed the promotion and went all out in billing the chain as the place to be for all things paranormal. Thirsty? Grab a 32 oz. Ghostbusters Cup. Need to satiate your sweet tooth? Indulge in a Slimer Sundae with bubble gum flavored green slime! In addition to banners celebrating the theatrical debut of the second film, posters, and promotional materials containing a brief synopsis of the movie, the chain also pumped out toy noisemakers (called Ghostblasters), and a slew of the necessary kid’s meal toys along with specialized packaging.
My experience with the promotion was relegated to the television commercials and a single trip to to a Hardee’s that summer. I was aware of Hardee’s but our family rarely ate there or at any fast food restaurant for that matter, so when I saw the TV spots promoting the various Ghostbusters II themed do-dads, my interest was piqued as a hardcore fan but I felt there was a zero percent probability of ever seeing any of the gizmos in person. In case you’re curious, here’s the commercial:
The vaunted Ghostblasters are the most recalled items of this promotion. Literally. Recalled. Although they are clearly the flagship of the Ghostbusters II Hardee’s premiums and thus the items people recollect, there was a safety recall on them. Here is the official statement from the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Apparently some imbeciles ingested the small button cell batteries inside. That’s why they put small screws on battery doors now.
My memories of the Ghostblasters are much more pedestrian. In the summer of ’89 my parents and I loaded up into the car for a day trip in a rural area of the state to go antiquing, site seeing, and various other uninteresting activities to a five year old. As dinner time rolled around and we readied to eat and head back home my dad decided to pull into a Hardee’s. For some reason, Hardee’s was our go-to destination on these road trips as evidenced by my memory of the Hardee’s Halloween Hideaways, of which I received one from a similar day trip later that year. My father would guzzle root beer by the gallon on these excursions so naturally he received his beverage in the 32 Oz. Official Ghostbusters cup. Afterwards we would use that cup to scoop out dog food for years.
Since I was well behaved the entire trip I was rewarded with the additional purchase of the Ghostblaster which, if you have watched the commercial up above, you will know was an additional $1.79 with a qualifying purchase. So what was a Ghostblaster? They were tombstone shaped palm sized gadgets with the Ghostbusters II logo emblazoned in the middle, a speaker at the top, and two buttons near the base. One button made a pulsating siren type sound and the other emitted a machine gun sound which had nothing to do with busting ghosts.
If you ever had those old Star Blaster guns as a kid, the sound effects were recycled from those. What’s a Star Blaster? A white or orange gun with some Christmas lights inside the barrel that made a bunch of really loud sounds as you pulled the trigger. Thankfully the internet has everything these days and I found a video on Youtube where a guy actually shoots a Star Blaster. The Sound effects carry over. If I recall correctly the left button corresponds to sound effect #3 on the Star Blaster, whereas the right button sounded like #7.
So I ended up with the red one during that drive through trip and I played with it in the backseat all the way home. It even received quite a bit of action through the summer as I added it to my Ghostbusters toy arsenal. It became a PKE Meter esque detector during my investigations. A few weeks later a neighbor of mine gave me the grey one. I remember the sensation of pulling out that plastic tab on the bottom which separated the batteries during transit allowing these babies to come to life. Satisfying.
We also somehow ended up with the Ghostbusters II poster which included an extremely brief description of the movie plot on the back, a large Ghostbusters II logo on the front, and some special Hardee’s Coupons on the bottom that we never redeemed. I had that poster hanging on my bedroom wall for the duration of 1989 until over the years it somehow got destroyed and trashed. In 2008 I picked up another copy on eBay, framed it, and now have it in my basement. Of course I could easily have picked up the standard Ghostbusters II theatrical poster, but for nostalgia purposes it was important to me that I reacquire the Hardee’s version complete with coupons.
Hardee’s also sold some Ghostbusters themed kid’s meals which, oddly enough I have no memory of because we did not buy a kid’s meal. Strange considering, you know, I was five. I wonder what I ordered instead? That seems like such a natural choice. Apparently there were four different themes available and they came packaged in a Ghostbusters II lunchbox. Aside from the lunch box itself the main premium was a hollow plastic shell that you could decorate with an included sticker sheet. The four themes were the Ectomobile, Slimer, a Purple Ghost, and a Gigameter (which was a new gadget debuted in Ghostbusters II).
At the time Ghostbusters was the center of my universe but even with a new movie debuting, the popularity of the Ghostbusters had reached it’s zenith. 1989 would be a challenging year for the franchise as it’s dominance would soon be tested on multiple fronts. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was really heating up in my neck of the woods, and the original Tim Burton Batman film would quickly dethrone Ghostbusters II in cinemas. Back to the Future II would be released in the fall with another sequel the following year which would segue to a Saturday morning cartoon show. Eventually Ghostbusters would go dormant for years. But during the early summer of 1989 when Hardee’s released these promotions, the franchise was still the indisputable king.