For the history of Casper, check out the post here.
Casper the Friendly Ghost had been appearing in theatrical shorts produced by Paramount Pictures’ Famous Studios for seven years when Harvey Comics founder Alfred Harvey acquired the rights to produce comics based on the concept. His series began with #7 in 1952, picking up from where the previous publisher, St. John Publications, left off.
|The first issue of the Harvey Comics series.|
Initially, the Harvey Comics followed the theatrical shorts closely. Determining that to be very limiting due to their formulaic nature—Casper scared off potential friends because he was a ghost until he did something nice for them—the comics branched out and did their own thing beginning with Casper, The Friendly Ghost #20 (1953). Casper became a bit more well-adjusted to his un-living situation and now dwelled in an Enchanted Forest where he had a plethora of friends (although the running gag of new beings he encountered being frightened by his lack of corporeal state was still used from time to time). Among them was Wendy, a young witch who desired to do good, unlike other witches; Nightmare, a talking ghost horse; the mischievous Spooky, who wore a derby and enjoyed scaring people; and Spooky’s girlfriend, Poil. Several of these characters appeared in the shorts at the same time, which was no surprise since the comics were written and drawn by members of Famous Studios. Casper also interacted with and befriended various other Harvey characters, including little devil Hot Stuff and wealthy urchin Richie Rich.
|Casper with Wendy, The Ghostly Trio, Nightmare and Spooky.|
Casper was always depicted as residing in haunted houses with a group of indistinguishable ghosts who, unlike him, enjoyed scaring and often picked on Casper for his friendly ways. Harvey decided to take three of those ghosts and give them their own defining traits, eventually leading to The Ghostly Trio. They were Fatso, the overweight and gluttonous (ghosts could eat in early stories) leader of the group due to his being marginally the smartest and the toughest; Fusso, an average-looking ghost with extreme fussiness and attention to detail; and Lazo, the tallest, laziest and dumbest. It should be noted that only Fatso’s name remained consistent in their appearances, as sometimes the other two could have different names such as Eeko and Stretcho (which would become one of the official names circa the 1995 film).
|Production cels of Wendy with her magically cursed dancing shoes.|
In 1959, Harvey purchased the character outright along with several other Famous properties, giving him access to all the theatrical shorts produced after 1950 (the pre-1950 library had already been acquired by U.M. & M TV Corp in 1956). Harvey put the shorts on television in the compilation series Matty’s Funday Funnies, which was sponsored by Mattel and presented by their mascots, Matty Mattel and Sister Belle. The original Paramount Noveltoon banner was changed to Harveytoons to reflect their new ownership. The series ran from October 11, 1959 until December 30, 1961 on ABC. Afterward, it entered syndication as Casper and Company without Mattel’s involvement. With the shorts doing well, Harvey decided to invest in some new material created specifically for television.
|Casper and Wendy with The Evil Witch.|
The New Casper Cartoon Show debuted on ABC on October 5, 1963. The series was comprised of classic Casper shorts with 26 new ones created by Famous Studios, now known as Paramount Cartoon Studios. Unlike the original Famous shorts, the new Paramount shorts followed the format of the Harvey Comics in everything from the setting to the supporting characters. Norma MacMillan voiced Casper, Wendy and all of the female characters, while Bradley Bolke voiced the Ghostly Trio, Spooky and all of the male characters. The music was composed by Winston Sharples. Many of the same crew who worked on the original theatrical shorts also worked on the television shorts. This marked the final solo directorial work of prolific Famous Studios director Seymour Kneitel, who died of a heart attack in 1964.
|Casper with his woodland friends.|
Each episode was comprised of two Casper shorts with one of the theatrical ones in between; typically, from the Modern Madcaps series. These new shorts were directly adapted from the Harvey Comics condensed to fit into a 5-minute runtime (an unusual reversal as the comics were usually inspired by the shorts). Although only 26 new Casper shorts were produced and aired entirely in their first season, ABC kept the program on their schedule until the end of 1969. The series entered into syndication after, running either under its original New title, as simply Casper, or as The Casper Show.
|The Ghostly Trio spooking.|
Universal Studios Home Entertainment began releasing various segments onto VHS in 1992 in their own collections and with the theatrical shorts. The only segment not to see release was “The Bored Billionaire”, likely due to an instance of cigar smoking in the short. In 2011, Shout! Factory released Casper the Friendly Ghosts: The Complete Collection (1945-1963) onto DVD. The set contained every Casper short made until 1963, including the 26 for the show (although they weren’t presented as broadcast and lacked their opening and closing segments). Bonus features included commentary and interviews by Bolke, Edmee Reit (widow of Casper co-creator Seymour Reit), Alison Arngrim (daughter of MacMillan), and Mark Arnold (editor of The Harveyville Fun Times), as well as a gallery of comic book covers.