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Playmobil’s GHOSTBUSTERS Ecto-1 is Affordable and Fun (Figures and Speech)

Welcome to Figures & Speech, Nerdist’s regular column by, for, and about grown-ups who still play with their toys but might want to know more before they buy.


I’ve had LEGO toys of some sort all my life, especially if you count imitators like McFarlane builds. But not since I was a kid have I felt the desire to own what my parents used to call “Playpeople” or “Busybodies” (Busy Bodies, as best I can tell, were a UK-based imitator line that left virtually no pop-culture imprint on the internet at all). And then one day, you find yourself going about your adult life of writing about movies and toys, and you get an email from Playmobil saying they’re doing Ghostbusters toys now, set to hit stores on June 8th (the movie’s 33rd anniversary), and offering to send you some. It seems like an opportune time to revisit some old friends.


LEGO and Playmobil were the closest toys to action figure-based play my mother approved of, as neither featured any modern day military themes, and would only touch on violence in a historical context, i.e. Medieval knights. That was then, and this is now: LEGO changed a lot when they began accepting outside entertainment licenses, beginning with the Star Wars prequels. For Playmobil, this could be as big a development–while they have worked with Porsche and the NHL before, Ghostbusters is their first movie tie-in. But since its only violence is against ghosts, it’s not a huge departure. (The vinyl toys licensed to Funko aren’t considered part of the official Playmobil line.)


While Ghostbusters has spawned extensive action figure lines from Mattel and Diamond Select, not since the ’80s animated series toys has there been an in-scale Ecto-1 and fire house, unless you count LEGO. Playmobil is doing both right off the bat, as well as a Marshmallow Man, Terror Dog set, and hot dog stand with Slimer. They’re a bit more affordable than LEGO, as the Fire House runs about $95, and the Ecto-1 $45. Mr. Stay-Puft, whose face matches the Playmobil aesthetic so well you could easily use him with your other figures, is $20.


Playmobil may not be considered a construction toy the way LEGO and K’Nex are, but they promote a construction element, as seen by the numbering of the piece count on the box. The basic car shell is intact, but there are a lot of little kibble bits to add to the top and sides.


Because Playmobil figures aren’t really gender-coded beyond hair and outfits, I thought at first the two figures included with Ecto-1 were the new movie’s Abby Yates and Patty Tolan. Nope! It’s Janine and Winston–you have to look closely to see Winston’s mustache, but it’s there. And Janine is now in full proton pack gear, which makes her a lot more useful for action play purposes.


The set includes a tiny PKE meter, and a trap with doors that actually open.


Curiously, from a collector perspective, the car doors don’t open, though the hatchback does. Instead, to get the figures inside, the roof comes off. This seems weird until you think in terms of the way kids would play with it: it’s much easier to get figures in and out this way.


The back has two extra seats and racks for the proton packs and the trap. Though since Janine is now a fighting member of the team, they’re technically one seat/pack holder short. The slime effects are removable–they attach by static cling, not sticky to the touch but easily adhering to smooth surfaces only.


So how do other figures fit? A standard Star Wars figure, striking a cool, carefree diagonal pose, and not worrying about feet hitting the gas, can get in the front. That’s about it. If you want to pose it with more standard Ghostbusters figures, you’re gonna have to cheat the perspective.


One cool compatibility feature, though, is that the Playmobil proton streams do fit on the blasters of the recent Mattel figures, which did not come with anything like that. Bonus!


Finally, there’s the action feature. Install 3 AAA batteries–not included, though they were sent with my review sample–and you can activate siren sounds and lights. The siren turns off after a moment, but the lights keep going until you hit the button a second time. There are four blue lights (two front, two back) and one red one, and they flash brightly and alternately.


As an adult I’m still not entirely sold on the Playmobil minifig aesthetic, though I like the level of detail printed on their outfits. The car, however, is cool regardless–a fun Ecto-1 replica that isn’t some tiny Hot Wheels and has awesome siren action.


You can find this and the entire range of Playmobil Ghostbusters sets–Fire House, Venkman and Dana with Terror Dogs, Spengler vs. two ghosts, Slimer and hot dog stand, and Stantz with Marshmallow Man–in stores starting today. Just don’t go if any of the nearby roads have flooded…because crossing streams would be bad.


Images: Luke Y. Thompson

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