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The Friendly Ghost

August 6, 2010

Casper, The Friendly Ghost, created by Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo, made his debut in animated cartoons in 1945 and has grown over the years into a merchandising giant through films, comic books, and television series. Casper is now 65 years old.

Between 1950 and 1959 Paramount - Famous Studios produced 62 Casper cartoons telling the simple story of the ghost who just wanted to make friends, not scare people. (“A g-g-ghost!”) Casper made his first television appearance in 1959 on ABC in Matty’s Funday Funnies, sponsored by Mattel toys.

Other series followed in 1963, 1969, and 1979 (Casper and the Angels, NBC). Two NBC specials, Casper’s Halloween and Casper’s First Christmas, also aired in 1979. The cartoons have been in syndication since 1963.

A $50 million Casper film produced by Steven Spielberg was released in the summer of 1995, with a direct-to-video sequel that recently followed. Fellow characters include Good Witch Wendy, Spooky, The Ghostly Trio and Nightmare.

Given that Casper is depicted as a ghostly slightly obese little boy, there is a controversy among fans of the series about whether or not he is a dead child. Early Casper cartoons seemed to suggest this, as they portrayed him "living" beside a gravestone. Specifically, the short There's Good Boos To-Night featured Ferdie, a fox befriended by Casper, coming back from the dead as a ghost. Casper's death (as well as the reason why he became friendly) have been disputed[by whom?] since that time.

This somewhat macabre premise was later abandoned in favor of the idea that ghosts were merely a type of creature, similar to ghouls, goblins, etc. He was thereafter portrayed with feet and shown to have ghostly parents & became slightly slimmer. In the 1960s and 1970s, the stock answer provided by Harvey Comics in response to those wondering how Casper died was that he was a ghost simply because his parents were already ghosts when they were married.[1]

The 1995 feature film Casper, however, revived the notion that Casper was a deceased human and provided a brief account of his death. According to the film, Casper was sledding in the snow and stayed out for too long, dying of pneumonia. The first direct-to-video film to follow the feature, Casper: A Spirited Beginning, showed Casper's early days as a ghost, not showing how he died and ignoring the story provided in the previous film.

Casper made his first comic book appearance in 1949, then started again in 1950, and again in 1953, this time from Harvey Comics, which has also produced a wide variety of spin-off comic books and magazines. Harvey also acquired the television rights from Paramount-Famous in 1958.

The merchandising of Casper has been extensive, including everything from costumes to candy dispensers to jewelry, records, toys, etc. Casper has also been an official recruiter for the Boy Scouts of America, and in 1972 he flew to the moon (painted on the side of Apollo 16).

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