Casper the Friendly Ghost had been
appearing in theatrical shorts produced by Paramount
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
|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
|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.