Ghostbusters II was released in June of 1989. The highly-anticipated sequel didn’t need much promotion, but that didn’t stop the perfectionists at Columbia Pictures from spending months agonizing over how to re-introduce the Ghostbusters to America. The process has become the stuff of Hollywood lore, so we decided to approach the key figures involved in creating the Ghostbusters II poster and have them narrate the complex and intriguing creative process.
Michael Ramsey (Head of Public Relations, Columbia Pictures)
I think we were all intimidated to follow-up the first film’s poster. What an iconic image: that Ghostbusting logo over the black background. Every kid wanted that thing hanging in their bedroom. Then my boss comes and tells me, “Hey Mike, we’re making another one.” I wanted to say to him, “I can’t wait to see it... but I can wait to design the poster!”
Donald Beaks (President, Columbia Pictures)
I remember Mikey started sweating when I told him about Ghostbusters II. He didn’t think it could be done. He even floated the idea that we just not do a poster. I remember telling him: “Hey Mikey, you’re crazy, you know that?”
Ivan Reitman (Director, Ghostbusters II)
I didn’t see what the big deal was. It was just a poster.
Steven Wright (Public Relations Artist, Columbia Pictures)
I was chomping at the bit to do the art for that poster. I saw what the first one did for everyone’s careers and I thought: I gotta get me a piece of that. I started drawing immediately. My first idea revolved around the guys trying to trap Casper, but I later learned we didn’t have the rights to that property. It’s too bad. That would have been a lot of fun to draw.
F. Domonic Johnson (Public Relations Photographer, Columbia Pictures)
There was a lot of jockeying for that poster. The artists wanted to draw it. The photographers wanted to shoot it. There was some bad blood around that time, that’s for sure. I bet there are still some hard feelings today.
Dom Johnson is a prick. An absolute prick. We always called him Fuck Dom Johnson behind his back.
F. Domonic Johnson
Steven Wright? I don’t recall the name.
The tagline was our first big breakthrough. I thought to myself: “Well, they saved the world in the first one, and they’ll probably do it again in the second.” That’s how we came up with the tagline, “Guess who’s coming to save the world again.” ‘Cause everyone knew the answer: it’s the Ghostbusters who are coming to do that.
I remember Mike had this crazy idea that we’d just run a black poster with the tagline on the bottom. It was absolutely nuts. I was worried that this poster would end his career.
Bill Murray (Actor, Ghostbusters II; Golf Enthusiast)
Wes is a great director, and a close friend. I remember when we started shooting on Tenenbaums, he told me that the secret to moviemaking is to keep mayonnaise off of the catering trucks. And you know what: he was right.
We had a lot of crazy ideas. I don’t even know if I should share all of them. Some of these guys still have to work in this town.
I had this idea where I’d do a really sparse drawing of the Ghostbusters themselves, then we’d attach a box of crayons to every poster so kids could color them in. We actually did a test run in LA. But they just became more territory for gangs to claim, so we scrapped the whole thing.
Mikey had this nutso idea about creating posters entirely out of water. I mean, we were in so deep I couldn’t tell at the time if he was insane or brilliant. I still think about that poster idea sometimes. I bet it’ll happen one day. I always thought Titanic should’ve tried it.
Dan Aykroyd (Vodka Distiller, Crystal Head Vodka)
I’m only going to do the oral history if there’s a plug for my Crystal Head Vodka in the piece that runs. Are you willing to commit to that?
Do I regret doing Space Jam? No, not at all. How many people can say they acted alongside Michael Jordan?
I don’t know what was going on back then. I just remember it being less than a month from release and realizing: we don’t have a poster.
We were definitely cutting it close. I mean, I had people in my ear telling me: this movie is a guaranteed success. People just need to know it exists. And we were failing even that low standard. I can’t believe we all kept our jobs.
I don’t know if I ever told Mikey this, but we dummied up a rush poster in case he failed us. It was just the original with a big ‘2’ slapped over it. We had an initial print run done and everything. I think we eventually sent them to kids in Ethiopia.
The big breakthrough came for me at an ADR session. I was allowed to sit in, because I was just looking for inspiration anywhere I could find it. And, y’know, I didn’t get it ‘til the end. It was all from Ernie Hudson.
Ernie Hudson (Voice Actor, Ghostbusters: The Video Game)
Me? I have no idea. I can’t even remember what the poster looks like to tell you the truth.
Ernie had just finished wrapping up his recording. And he was walking out. And we were in the studio where the first Ghostbusters had done some ADR, so there’s a poster on the wall. And Ernie stops in front of it, turns to all of us, and says, “Peace, yo.” And he throws up the peace sign. Right in front of the poster. It just clicked.
The rest is history.
I remember hearing Mike in the halls as he ran toward our office. He kept screaming, “PEACE, YO!” He had me draw it up immediately. It was perfect.
F. Domonic Johnson
Listen, I’m a photographer. I love photos. I think all film posters should use the very best photography. But even I have to admit that they nailed this one. Nailed it.
I was just happy to have a poster. I don’t know what took them so long.
Rick Moranis (Actor, Ghostbusters II; Canadian)
Sorry, I don’t think I’m going to participate.
Harvey Keitel (Actor, Sister Act)
I wasn’t in Ghostbusters II. But that poster made me wish I was.
I can’t believe what it did for my career. Just really opened me up creatively. I ain’t ‘fraid of no posters, y’know? Haha. I just came up with that.
It’s a remarkable triumph in the industry. There’s a reason you’ve heard the story so many times and wanted to piece it together. An unbridled creative triumph. We’ll probably never see something like it again.
Annie Potts (Actress, Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters II)
The poster? Wasn’t it just the same thing as the first movie?
I just wish the movie was better. Really wasted a good poster on it.
Oh yeah, the film was a real turd.
I have fond memories of both the poster and the film. Is that good? Is that all you need? Remember: Crystal Head Vodka. The bottle is shaped like a skull. It’s really cool.