‘Ghostbusters’ Director’s Biggest Uncertainty Was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

The 1984 Ghostbusters is one of those iconic films that define its decade. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man has become widely associated with the movie. He’s first introduced into the movie on a bag of marshmallows seen in Dana Barrett’s (Sigourney Weaver) apartment, but that isn’t what he’s known for. His appearance as a massive, paranormal monster causing destruction is the big, defining moment. However, director Ivan Reitman wasn’t so confident it’d land.

The 1984 ‘Ghostbusters’ preview screening

Collider reported on a story that Reitman shared at CinemaCon 2021 that he hadn’t publicly told before. He used the story as an opportunity to introduce the surprise screening of the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The new installment makes references back to the original, making it a fitting story.

The first-ever public screening of the 1984 Ghostbusters was in Burbank, California. The film cut being shown was fairly far along. However, none of the special effects had been completed. Reitman acknowledged, “Can you imagine seeing Ghostbusters with no visual effects?” For example, he continued, “Slimer was just a light going on.”

However, the film offers more than just its special effects. The screening’s purpose was to test the story and the humor. When the “scene missing” card appeared on the screen for visual effects, the audience let out groans of frustration. Nonetheless, Reitman recalled that the viewers were having a great time with the movie.

Potential Stay Puft Marshmallow Man audience reactions scared Ivan Reitman

'Ghostbusters': The Stay Puft Marshsmallow Man on the concourse at Waterloo Station
Stay Puft Marshmallow Man | Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Sony Pictures

Reitman said that he feared how audiences would react to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. “Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was the thing that scared me the most about what we were doing,” the director stated. “I had no idea if the audience would accept something as goofy as that.”

The preview screening version of Ghostbusters featured an unfinished version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. “We had a guy in a costume with kind of a styrofoam head,” he recalled. “And that very first shot in the movie of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man walking past these Tribeca Buildings and all you could see was the bobbing head was all we had.”

Wild audience reactions


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The lack of special effects surely added to Reitman’s concerns about audience reactions. He never could have predicted exactly how viewers would respond to a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man monster.

However, the test audience loved it. Reitman said, “The audience went crazy! It made me feel so good that we were going to get away with it.” The final version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man became an icon for the series. He has appeared in other Ghostbusters media and merchandise ever since his first appearance.

Ghostbusters has turned into a huge franchise, expanding past the movies. There are action figures, novelizations, video games, comic books, television shows, and more. Miniatures and optical compositing with the use of a latex suit would ultimately be how the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was created.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a sequel to the first two installments, which will hit theaters on Nov. 11.