The friendly little ghost of cartoons becomes a live-action movie courtesy Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic. Ruthless Cathy Moriarty inherits haunted Whiplash Manor and can't get it torn down because everyone's afraid to go near it, including workmen. So she hires an absentminded expert (Bill Pullman of Twister and Independence Day) to get rid of the ghosts but his daughter (Christina Ricci, who will remind you somewhat of the daughter in the Addams Family films, cause it's the same actress) is charmed by little Casper and follows him to a secret basement lab on a Rube Goldberg ride, in a chair on tracks. Here's where the story veered off course for some critics. In the original cartoons, we know virtually nothing about Casper or where he came from, only that every human he tries to be friendly with runs away, terrified of...A GHOST!! The rest of this version is about how he died as a little boy and his grief-stricken father invented a mechanical device (a sort-of cross between an iron lung and a decompression chamber), in conjunction with a magic potion.
Moriarty and her equally amoral partner (Eric Idle of Monty Python fame) decide the potion will make them immortal and try to steal it. By the end of the film they succeed only in becoming ghosts themselves. Casper's three bullying older brother ghosts are in the movie almost as an afterthought, taking a backseat in the plot to the human villains. All in all, still an enjoyable family film, but forget any connection to the earlier cartoon series. Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment used the same kind of computerized animation along with live actors in the Jurassic Park trilogy
Additional cast includes:
Amy Brenneman and Ben Stein, with cameos by Rodney Dangerfield, Don Novello, Dan Aykroyd of Coneheads, Clint Eastwood of Dirty Harry and Mel Gibson of Mad Max movies
Voices of: Brad Garrett, Joe Alaskey, Joe Nipote and Malachi Pearson. Directed by Brad Siberling for Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, released by Universal
"Casper" availability on video and on DVD from Amazon.com
An unrelated (non-animated) film debuted the following year "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" (1996) based on rival Archie Comics' creation and starring 16-year-old Melissa Joan Hart, who already had a sizable kiddie following due to a previous popular TV-series on the Nickelodeon cable channel. The movie led to an ABC series, also starring Hart
Casper 2 has a fairly good cast and the special effects aren't bad: check out the trailer for it posted at the InternetMovieDataBase.com. They also have a trailer for the first movie available to see online free.
Casper 2: A Spirited Beginning(1997)
The thing the critics didn't like in the first one was the part about Casper's mortal life as a boy. This sequel continues that story, rather morbidly dwelling on how Casper died and became a ghost.
Cast includes Steve Guttenberg of Haunted Mansion prequel Tower Of Terror, Rodney Dangerfield as the Mayor, Richard Moll as Principal Rabie, Brian-Doyle Murray of Groundhog Day as Foreman Dave, Edie McClurg of Elvira as the librarian, and Michael McKean of The X-Files as nutcase Bill Case, with the voice of James Earl Jones as ghostmaster Kibosh. Ben Stein has a cameo in a different role than he played in the first movie
References in the movie to The X-Files, and to Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Khan. This prequel to Universal's hit deliberately bypassed theaters and went straight to Fox Video in partnership with kiddie entertainment mogul Haim Saban of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" fame. Product placement alert: the boy's bedroom is conspicuously stocked with toys based on other Saban Entertainment characters
Better than the second one, though that's not saying much. After its premier on the ABC network in 1998, "Casper Meets Wendy" won the Monitor Award for Children's Programming: Electronic Visual Effects (digital/CGI). Hilary Duff plays Wendy, the good little witch with no friends and a horrible family, who befriends Casper. Cathy Moriarty (no relation to her role in the first movie), Shelley Duvall & Teri Garr are the 3 aunts she lives with (reminding TV Guide of the 3 witches in Hocus Pocus), George Hamilton as the master Warlock and Pauly Shore as his magic mirror
Casper Meets Wendy(1998)
Ben Stein, Richard Moll, Shelley Duvall of Faery Tale Theater and the Popeye movie (as Olive Oyl), Teri Garr of Tootsie, George Hamilton of Zorro The Gay Blade, Alan Thicke (as the gameshow announcer) and Sean McNamara as the voice of Wendy's broom. There's a cameo by the flying cow from Twister (1996)
Both sequels were directed by Sean McNamara
More recently, Hilary Duff starred in "Cadet Kelly" (2002), a semi-remake of "Private Benjamin."
"Casper Meets Wendy" availability on video and on DVD from Amazon.com
Casper, the friendly ghost and Wendy, the good little witch storybook
Followed by an animated movie with different cast & crew:TV Guide says of it:
Casper's Haunted Christmas(2000)
Having proven himself to be a singularly unfrightening spirit, poor Casper receives an ultimatum from Kibosh, the Potentate of Poltergeists: Scare one human before Christmas or be banished to the Dark Zone. Furthermore, Kibosh strictly forbids Casper's uncles a/k/a the Ghostly Trio from interfering on the friendly ghost's behalf. Exiled to America's premiere yuletide-loving city, Chris, Massachusetts, Casper maintains his bonhomie, even after meeting Holly Jollimore, who detests this jolliest of seasons. Concealing his true mission, Casper convinces cynical Holly that he's... a talking snowman! Meanwhile, mistaken for holiday pageant actors, the Ghostly Trio — Stretch, Fatso and Stinky — become houseguests at the Holly residence. As Christmas fast approaches, the desperate uncles hire their nephew Spooky and train him to look and sound like Casper. Of course, he'll need to lose that Brooklyn accent to fool Kibosh. And Holly's liable to turn on Casper when she realizes that he's deceived her. Boasting a unique animation style with superior color saturation, this feel-good cartoon doesn't suffer from poorly drawn characters, but rather from a poorly drawn script. And while Casper himself is a benign role model who invariably promotes tolerance for misfits, the Ghostly Trio are another matter entirely. Intended as comic relief, they're wisecracking vulgarians who radiate a nastiness that's better suited to "Saturday Night Live" than kiddie fare. --Robert Pardi
Casper's Haunted Christmas from Amazon.com
The world's richest kid (David Gallegher) becomes one of the world's poorest when he's zapped into an "alternate universe."
Richie Rich's Christmas Wish(1998)
Supporting cast includes Eugene Levy (the dad in American Pie and American Pie 2), and Jake Richardson.
Based on the original Harvey Comics, this movie is not a sequel to the 1994 big-budget movie "Richie Rich" starring Macaulay Culkin, which was also loosely based on the Harvey comic books.
"Casper the Friendly Ghost" cartoons availability on video and on DVD from Amazon.com
No relation to Goosebumps: Stay Out Of The Basement, Tower Of Terror & The Haunted Mask
The friendly ghost first appeared (un-named) in Warner Brothers short "Ghost Wanted" (1940), as a little ghost who answers a want-ad for a position available at a house that needs haunting. But the "adult" ghost (voice of Tex Avery) decides to scare and bedevil the friendly little ghost instead, eventually chasing him away. Five years later, Paramount's Famous Studios came up with their own version, "Casper the Friendly Ghost" (cartoonist Joe Oriolo received a miserly $175 from Paramount in 1945 for the concept). There were two addtional cartoons before Paramount turned Casper into a regular cartoon series in 1950. Three years after that, Harvey Comics got the publishing rights to the character, and bought all rights in 1953. Ten years later "The New Adventures of Casper" debuted on TV and Casper cartoons have been on TV ever since, along with other Harvey creations like Wendy, the Good Little Witch (a variation of Casper).
* A scene was filmed with Zelda Rubenstein reprising her role from Poltergeist (1982) (shooting out of a chimney and shouting "Go toward the light!") but was not included in the final cut.
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Trivia (courtesy the Internet Movie Database)
* Items from the set are on display at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida
* This was the first film with a computer-animated title character.
* The last name of the Christina Ricci's and Bill Pullman's characters is "Harvey". Harvey Comics is the long time publisher of Casper the Friendly Ghost
* In the breakfast scene, Casper's uncles enter the kitchen twirling like helicopters while Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" plays in the background, and Stretch later says "I love the smell of fleshies in the morning!" A direct reference to Apocalypse Now (1979)
* A musical scene, deemed too expensive by the film's producers, was scripted and filmed, entitled "Lucky Enough to Be A Ghost" in which the three ghosts sing about their many mental problems during a session with Dr. Harvey, but the animation would have cost additional millions of dollars
* Kat's rings disappear and reappear
* Stretch's hand turns human when he scratches Dr. Harvey's head
* "Casper The Friendly Ghost" written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston, is performed by Little Richard
* Early during the end credits, Stretch (doing his Little Richard imitation) bursts through the credits, singing
* References & spoofs of other movies inc. Ghost (1990), "Home Alone," Beetlejuice, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," Ghostbusters, Dracula and Frankenstein (1931), Bride Of Frankenstein, Tales from the Crypt, Edward Scissorhands, "The Addams Family," Death Becomes Her, The Flintstones, and Terminator 2: "Come with me if you want to live" (said by Casper)
© Bill Laidlaw. All Rights Reserved. That's my 2½¢ worth