Toy Box Confidential #1: The Real Ghostbusters Proton Pack

It's really difficult to believe that today marks the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of Ghostbusters. Growing up, I adored everything about Ghostbusters, from the movie to the cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters, to the vast toy line that tied into the animated series. In honor of this, I've decided to start a new feature here at Caution: Idiot At Play, a feature I've been kicking around in my head for a while.

Welcome to Toy Box Confidential!

So what is Toy Box Confidential? Well, it's going to be a look at the toys of the past. Stuff that was popular when I was a kid or things that I coveted but never had. It's basically anything that strikes my fancy when I find the fancy to write about it.

What does this have to do with Ghostbusters? Glad you asked. Our first installment is going to take a look at the Proton Pack, created by Kenner in conjunction with The Real Ghostbusters.

Pictured: Nostalgia
The Proton Pack was released in 1988, making me 8 years old at the time and already 2 years into the run of the animated series. It came with everything a junior Ghostbuser needed to busts ghosts: the Proton Pack itself with adjustable straps, the Nutrona Blaster with removable foam stream, a PKE meter, and a Ghostbusters arm-band and ID card. Unfortunately, the ID card, arm band and foam stream have not survived the test of time but the other pieces of the set are in remarkably good shape, a few dings, tears and missing stickers not withstanding.

Let's look at this beauty piece by piece.

The Proton Pack itself was little more than a hollow plastic backpack, the stickers that decorated it mostly modeled after a simplified version of the Proton Packs from the cartoon. Though the toy had its own look, that never stopped me from appreciating it for what it gave me: the opportunity to act, nay, be, a Ghostbuster. I'm sure thousands of other kids, just like me, got that feeling of being a badass every time we strapped it on. After pulling the Pack out of the attic and really looking it over, I can admit that it definitely comes off as a subpar recreation of the Ghostbusters' most trusted equipment but to an eight year old, none of that mattered. The only important thing was being able to strut around the house, kicking open doors and making sure your family lived in a ghost-free environment. The only downfall to the Pack was the tiny nubbin that the hose on the blaster would connect to. It was so small that the hose would fall out every time you made a quick turn or snatched the blaster off the pack to hard. Other than that, the pack held up pretty well and provided hours of enjoyment.

Next we have the Nutrona Blaster, even though no kid on earth ever called it that. What I loved most about this piece was the trigger. When you pulled it, it would release a short whirring noise, which essentially was a poor emulation of the noises the blaster made on TV but again, whatever. It helped to add the the imagination of actually being a Ghostbuster. The trigger on my Nutrona Blaster has been stuck for years so I can't get the same enjoyment from the toy as I once did, but I still remember that sound as clear as day.

I will admit, however, that I hated the foam stream. It was so long and unwieldy that it always got in the way. It would have to stay out when you stored the blaster on the hook attached to the pack and you would have to plug the thing into the end of the blaster every time you wanted to "throw 'em". Every time you made a change like that, you would break the continuity of the imagination. In the end, I usually just left it somewhere to the side or used it to slap my sister when she wasn't suspecting.

The PKE Meter probably was, and still is, my favorite piece from the set, even though it's the most disappointing. It was big enough that it wouldn't get lost or broken but small enough that most kids would be able to carry it around. Though it was decorated with dials on the sides, the only moving parts it had was a spinning antennae and a dial on the front that you could turn. I never really played with the front dial, though, as it was always too tight to turn. But regardless, I would carry that thing around the house and "sweep for valences".

The one thing I didn't like about the PKE Meter was that I always felt it should do more. It was much different from what the Ghostbusters used in both the movies and the cartoon that it felt like a gyp how Kenner replicated it for the toy. I wanted one with the stem in the center and two prongs that rose from each side. Maybe if there was a little trigger on the back of the handle that would send a puff of air through the thing, lifting the prongs. I don't know. I guess I shouldn't complain. At least they made a PKE Meter and included it with the Proton Pack. I had to wait years for a Ghost Trap to be released and never got the chance to own it.

I would have to say, the Proton pack was a must have toy for any Ghostbusters fanatic in the '80s. Though action figures were always popular, some times kids had to break away from playing with figures and let their imaginations run wild. What was so great about the Proton Pack is that it made that possible. Get a group of kids together with their packs and blasters and they would roam the neighborhood seeking out frightful phantoms and ghastly ghouls. What I wouldn't give to go back to that time.

Box art from Ghostbusters Wikia

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