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Casper the Friendly Ghost (TV Series 1945)
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Not for all tastes, but for Famous Studios a decent cartoon series
20 September 2015 | by See all my reviews

While the Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons are not milestones in animation or masterpieces, as far as Famous Studios' Noveltoon cartoons go they are not that bad. Even the lesser Casper cartoons are more watchable than the lesser Herman and Katnip cartoons for instance. Not everybody is going to find them to their tastes, finding them too overly-sentimental or that they repeat things too much, but for this viewer there was still a good amount to like.

The Casper cartoons admittedly were on the repetitive side, structurally there is a rather more-of-the-same feel (Casper wanting to make friends rather than scare and being shunned by the other ghosts, characters being scared at the sight of him, Casper upset , Casper making a friend, something bad happening to threaten the friendship, things ending mostly happily) occurring in a lot of them, making it easy to work what the outcomes are going to be. The dialogue tends to lay it on a bit too thick on the twee sentimentality and the sugar, Casper's moping is likely to annoy some who don't want to see it all the time. Much of the animation quality in the Casper cartoons is very good, even great, but generally Famous Studios' budgets were getting smaller and smaller by the mid to late 50s, giving the cartoons a rushed feel (this is not just for Casper, this was true for much of their output) with sparser backgrounds, far less smooth drawing and flatter and less lavish colours. The first cartoon The Friendly Ghost also had a muddy and yet-to-find-feet feel.

On the other hand, as said most of the animation quality from There's Good Boos To-Night in the Casper cartoons is of very good quality. There are some really beautiful colours, very meticulously detailed and atmospheric backgrounds (a good deal of the early cartoons starting off appropriately spookily) , smooth drawing and well drawn characters (if slightly stereotypical for the women at times). Also love how the wonderfully varied and often very funny reactions to Casper are, and the early Fleischer-style-like animation in Once Upon a Rhyme was really lovely and suited that cartoon perfectly. Winston Sharples' music scores are always outstanding (always were the best things about the Herman and Katnip series too), his music brings so much character and energy to every cartoon, he orchestrates everything beautifully and cleverly, there is always a real sense of mood and atmosphere, it's always dynamic to what's happening in the animation and action and it's very lively and whimsical. Casper's main theme is suitably peppy too, and a few cartoons contain a rousing and spooky number called A Haunting We Will Go (first heard in the cartoon of the same title), a great song and should have featured more I feel.

Not all the writing is perfect, but there's still a good deal of pleasures to be had in particularly the early outings. The Casper cartoons are very cute, without being too heavy in it, Boo Hoo Baby was one of the particularly adorable ones. The first five or six, or so, outings (aside from the reactions) were not especially funny as such, but from about Once Upon a Rhyme onwards there were some very funny moments, Once Upon a Rhyme, Boo Hoo Baby and To Boo or Not to Boo are a few notable examples. Some of them are incredibly touching too, heart-wrenching in the case of There's Good Boos To-Night, with charming and beautifully realised friendships between Casper and his new-found friends and a great sense of childhood innocence which the cartoons are full of. They're swiftly paced and very nicely done stories, for what it lacks in originality and such it more than makes up in atmosphere and varied emotions.

Casper is a very endearing title character, and the supporting characters are entertaining and adorable. The voice work is solid, with some spirited and emotive voice work for Casper and some of the cartoons have some distinguished and sometimes creepy-sounding narration that sets up the story very well.

All in all, a decent series of cartoons, though not everybody is going to find it to their tastes. 7/10 Bethany Cox


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