Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Casper, the Friendly Ghost

A cute little Ghost whose eager attempts to make friends almost inevitably result in him terrifying the object of his endeavours. The character was created in 1945 by Joseph Oriolo and Seymour Wright for Paramount/Famous Films; in 1950-1959 he featured in a series of short Animated Movies (1), and in 1963-1967 and 1979-1980 in two tv series (2 and 3). There was also a Comic-book series (4) based on the character, and latterly a movie (5). Among Casper's accomplices were the Galloping Ghost, the Ghostly Trio and Wendy, the Good Little Witch. For his part in the creation of Casper Oriolo received a grand total of $175.

1. Casper, The Friendly Ghost US series of 55 short movies, prefaced by three one-off shorts. Paramount/ Famous. Dir Seymour Kneitel, Isidore Sparber, Bill Tytla. Voice actors Gwen Davies, Norma McMillan, May Questel, Cecil Roy (all Casper). Each 6½ mins. Colour; #21: Boo Moon (1954) was initially released in 3D. The series was syndicated on tv from 1953. [JG]

2. The New Casper Cartoon Show (vt The New Adventures of Casper) US animated tv series (5 October 1963-1962 September 1967). ABC/Famous/Harvey. Dir Seymour Kneitel. Voice actor Ginny Tyler (Casper). 26 30min episodes, each normally containing three cartoons. Colour. [JG]

3. Casper and the Angels US animated tv series (22 September 1979-1973 May 1980). Hanna-Barbera. Voice actors Dian McCannon (Maxi), Julie McWhirter (Casper), Laurel Page (Mini), John Stephenson (Hairy Scary). 13 30min episodes, each containing two stories. Colour.

This was set in AD2179. Casper is assigned to look after two space-patrol officers, Mini and Maxi. [RT]

4. US Comic book. Casper's first comic-book appearance was in Treasury of Comics (1948), published by St John Publishing, who continued with three issues of Casper the Friendly Ghost (1949-1950). Relaunched in 1950 under the same title, the series was taken over after five issues by Alfred Harvey Publications, first as Harvey Comics Hits #62 (1952) before returning to the original title with the seventh issue and continuing to a total of 70 issues, ending in 1958. It was immediately relaunched as The Friendly Ghost, Casper and ran, with breaks (and briefly reverting to its old title), for 260 issues, ending in 1991.

The Harvey series introduced numerous characters for Casper to befriend or fear, some based on animated characters from the Hanna-Barbera series (3), including Spooky, the Tuff Little Ghost (1953), Nightmare, the Ghost Horse (1954), Wendy, the Good Little Witch (1954) and The Ghostly Trio – three evil ghosts, one fat and two thin. Various other Harvey comic spin-off titles have appeared over the years, including Casper's Ghostland (97 issues 1958-1977), Nightmare and Casper (later vt Casper and Nightmare; 46 issues 1963-1974) and Casper Spaceship (later vt Casper in Space; 8 issues 1972-1973), plus many team-ups – Casper and Spooky, Casper and Wendy, Richie Rich and Casper, etc. Casper's popularity appears to have been at its highest in the 1950s and 1960s, with brief periods of revival in 1972-1973, 1980, 1986 and, thanks to 5, now. Harvey have made abundant use of reprints to keep as many as five Casper titles running at once.

Since the comic book was aimed at a very young readership, few creators have ever been credited. Some of the earliest episodes were prepared in close collaboration with Famous Studios. Dom (Dominik) Silio, who later worked as an assistant to Will Eisner, is perhaps the best-known Casper artist: he worked on the character in the 1950s and 1960s. [RT]

5. Casper US live-action/Animated Movie (1994). Amblin/Harvey. Pr Colin Wilson. Exec pr Gerald R Molen, Jeffrey A Montgomery, Steven Spielberg. Dir Brad Silberling. Vfx Stefan Fangmeier, Dennis Muren, Industrial Light and Magic. Anim dir Eric Armstrong, Phil Nibbelink. Screenplay Deanna Oliver, Sherri Stoner. Starring Eric Idle (Dibs), Cathy Moriarty (Carrigan Crittenden), Bill Pullman (Dr James Harvey), Christina Ricci (Kat Harvey). Voice actors Joe Alaskey (Stinky), Brad Garrat (Fatso), Joe Nipote (Stretch), Malachi Pearson (Casper). 100 mins. Colour.

Casper is the ghost of 12-year-old Casper McFadden, who died of pneumonia and remained in residence at Whipstaff Manor with three mischievous, domineering uncles, Stretchy, Fatso and Stinky ("The Ghostly Trio"); they are prevented from "crossing over" because of some unfinished business. Carrigan, a cold, greedy vamp, inherits the decaying Gothic mansion from her father and, to rid it of the spirits, she and sycophantic sidekick Dibs hire psychologist James Harvey to psychoanalyse the spirits and thus help them "cross over". Casper befriends Harvey's daughter Kat. It is discovered that Casper's father invented a machine and Potion able to bring a ghost back to life. There is enough potion for one transformation. Casper wants the potion to reincarnate himself, but must sacrifice this opportunity when Harvey meets an untimely end, leaving Kat parentless.

C has charm. There is sparkling humour, plus some excellent characterization. The visual impact is considerable: during the two years of circa 's making the vfx team made full use of digital imagery, giving the animated characters an unusually long 40 mins of screen-time, and creating the first digital performers to have a full range of facial expressions. [JT]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.