CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST IN “TRUE BOO”
Originally premiered: October 24, 1952
[INSERT CHRISTMAS SPIRIT JOKE HERE]
Casper the Friendly Ghost began life as a book, but his story is far more fascinating than you might expect, and this lovable apparition has changed hands more than a dollar bill. After all, many animated franchises are built upon books, but Casper’s special because his book had not been published. The rights to Casper were sold for $200 to Famous Studios, Paramount’s animation division which formed after Betty Boop and Popeye creator, Fleisher Studios, was dissolved. Casper made his first theatrical appearance in 1945 in a short simply titled “The Friendly Ghost” written by Otto Messemer, creator of Felix the Cat.
Meanwhile a little comic publisher was formed by Alfred Harvey in 1941 after acquiring Brookwood Publications a small outfit that published comics licensed from other companies, such as the then popular radio series The Green Hornet. Harvey Comics continued the tradition, and began producing comics based on Famous Studios’ Noveltoons, such as Casper and Baby Huey, as well as newspaper comic strips like Richie Rich and Sad Sack.
Casper was famously voiced by Mae Questel, also known for Betty Boop and Olive Oyl
As Paramount’s animation division declined, the rights to Capser and Famous Studios’ other stars were sold to Harvey Comics, where the properties were still performing well in print, who then rebranded the characters as HarveyToons and syndicated them for television. Even though the company didn’t create him, the did curate these cartoons, Casper and Co. has been mostly synonymous with the Harvey label ever since.
More interestingly, Famous Studios continued making original Casper cartoons for television, under the title, The New Casper Cartoon Show, which ran concurrently (although not as long) on ABC with their old output now called HarveyToons starting in 1963. In 1979, Hanna-Barbera cast Casper as the guardian angel of two female police officers in Casper an the Angels on NBC (a rip-off of Chalie’s Angels) and even produced holiday specials, including Casper’s First Christmas, which teamed the friendly ghost up with the studio’s biggest stars, Yogi Bear and company.
Universal Studios adapted Casper into a 1995 film starring Christina Ricci and Bull Pullman, and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin animation division continued the story with The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper for two years as part of Fox Kids’ popular cartoons. During that time, Casper could be seen in Universal Parks, but the company had no method for distributing a comic book tie-in and Harvey Comics had all but ceased new publications by the late 80’s. In steps Marvel Comics, and Casper met the pages again thanks to the biggest company in the medium until 1997.
Casper has since starred in numerous non-theatrical films, and is currently held by Classic Media, the folks who currently maintain beloved properties like Rankin/Bass, Rocky & Bullwinkle, He-Man and Fat Albert and Mr. Magoo. In print, Dark Horse Comics briefly published classic Caspers in 2007, although unfortunately, a revamped line of Casper and other Harvey characters fizzled out after only three issues in 2010.
Phew! You got that?! Famous Studios, Paramount, Messemer, Harvey, ABC, NBC, Fox, Spielberg, Amblin, Universal, Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, Dark Horse, Classic Media. Dude, Casper gets AROUND!
What up, boo!
Anyhoo, I always like to uphold classic cartoons as a largely adult medium, or at least, not necessarily a children’s medium. An everyone medium. However, “True Boo” is strictly for the kiddies. It’s incredibly sweet, almost sickeningly so, and the story is not entirely unlike something ripped from a child’s bedtime story. But hey, it’s Christmas!
Dear Ghost God…
The toon opens with Casper prepping for the Holidays by hanging his stocking and writing a letter to Santa. People speculate that Casper is the ghost of Richie Rich (and I’m not emotionally invested enough in the character to bother correcting them) but I’m far more fascinated by the backstory of his translucent stocking!
The ghost of forsaken footwear, forced to roam the earth until his spirit is avenged!
So what does the friendly ghost want from Santa? His life back? An explanation as to why children deserve to die and spend eternity forever ageless? SKIN?! Nope, Casper wishes for nothing more than a friend, because without one, he’s essentially out of a job.
Portrait of a Dick
In walks The Ghostly Trio, and they mock him mercilessly for the very idea of anyone befriending him, proving their emotions are ever bit as dead as they are. Coincidentally, that ghost up there pointing, Fatso. The Casper people once sued the Ghostbusters people, claiming they used Fatso illegally in the logo. That’s all I know!
Casper leaves the house, by way of wall, and proceeds to terrify townspeople while performing good deeds. He must alter his plan.
Better hope he wasn’t the real Santa
In order to secure a buddy, he must find someone emotionally vulnerable and exploit that weakness until they have no choice but to look upon this ghastly apparition as something worth befriending. Hooray, a crying child!
*sniff*Why do I have to be in a Casper cartoon?*sniff*
This part I love. Casper dons a Santa suit he basically stole from a Salvation Army employee and enters the kid’s house. The boy’s love for Santa blinds him to the fact that his home has been infiltrated by a poltergiest, and takes an immediate shine to Casper.
Window shade + spoon + nail = AIRPLANE
Unfotunately, the young lads interest are of a material nature, this being Christmas and all. Casper creatively concots Holiday gifts for the boy out of household items. On the one hand this is a pretty inspired way to salvage a holiday on the cheap.
Note those clothespin train tracks – love it!
Although, if I was looking at this like a parent, Casper is pretty much tearing the shit out of the house, indiscriminantly desttorying their meager wares in order to create wonderfully cliched toys.
Fuck this chair – GAH TOYS!
Speaking of parents, I’d assumed that the boy was an orphan, but his mother wakes from her hangover and emerges from her room just when the fun is finally in full swing.
DAMMIT! The brat’s crying again
Man, parents just don’t understand. She freaks the fuck out, grabs her son, and barricades them in her room. Casper leaves dejected, basically sad as shit.
Don’t let the wall hit you in the ass on your way out!
But lo! A change of heart takes place and Casper is invited back in!
Casper makes an Xmas tree out of green umbrellas
And he he continues to sacrifice the broken family’s few remaining pratical belongings in the name of a good Christmas. Was it worth it?
None. Sub-zero, in fact! As the ghost of a dead child, Casper’s very existence negates the idea of Heaven and a just God.
Casper’s aquired outfit is enough to earn a little Kringle credit here. Plus, that midget street Santa committed to his part pretty feriouciously judging by his facial hair. Jolly beards don’t grow over night, people!
Plenty good. It’s sweet, simple and the makeshift Christmas Casper provides is one of those great sequences only animation can pull off.
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us – it helps!)
“True Boo” is available on both The Casper the Friendly Ghost Collection and the HarveyToons Complete Collection. Be warned, animation nerds: Both sets use the HarveyToons intersticials here, so don’t go in expecting the orignal Paramount/Famous Studio titles. If you’re feeling daring and have a VCR to dust off, you can also purchase Casper’s First Christmas only on VHS.