I saw a few episodes of this children's cartoon series in the late 1960s, when I worked in London for a television producer who occasionally bought the UK syndication rights to American TV programmes, and whose office accordingly received a steady stream of Yank video recordings.
The original Casper toons from the 1940s and '50s were quite dire, tending to feature muddy colours, shoddy animation, repetitive plots and dialogue featuring children with twee speech impediments. The characters (especially the women) are drawn in a thoroughly 1940s style that instantly became outmoded.
This 1963 series is vastly better, and would still be enjoyable for young viewers today. The TV episodes feature tight clean line-work, detailed animation and interesting stories. The opening sequence features a peppy theme song performed to a barn-dance tune -- 'Come along now and join the party, come among now and have some fun' -- with lyrics that served to introduce the various characters in Casper's universe: 'Here we have the Ghostly Trio, they've got tricks they've never used. And the horse whose name is Nightmare; she will keep you all amused.' Was the ghostly equine Nightmare ever actually featured in a cartoon? I've only ever seen her in this opening sequence ... and in the closer, which featured Casper singing the same tune in a mournful tempo.
The 1940s Caspers were never very funny, so it's good that these 1960s instalments placed little emphasis on humour. They featured Casper in adventure stories as a sort of semi-superhero, with emphasis on his 'ghostly powers': invisibility, flight, and the ability to pass through solid objects. One episode featured Casper on a quest for the Magic Potion of Motion, which would enable one of his friends (a talking tree) to uproot himself and ambulate.
Another episode depicted the villainous Ghostly Trio in a keep-fit mood, doing exercises so they could build themselves up and beat up Casper. Luckily, the Friendly Ghost conveniently got a visit from his cousin Powerhouse (a one-off character, never seen before nor since) who was Casper's exact lookalike except for being built like Schwarzenegger. When Powerhouse visited the Ghostly Trio, they thought he was Casper with muscles ... and he proceeded to beat up all three ghostly baddies, including ironing one of them on an ironing board. The violence in this series was minimal, and extremely exaggerated so as not to traumatise very young children.
Occasionally seen was Casper's friend Wendy, the good little-girl witch. Wendy's adventures seemed to be more predictable than Casper's. In one episode, the Ghostly Trio encountered a little-girl *bad* witch who was conveniently Wendy's exact double, except with brown hair instead of blonde, and wearing a blue robe instead of a red one. Two quick dye jobs, and the fake Wendy was quickly working mischief disguised as the real Wendy.
'The New Casper Cartoon Show' is probably not a milestone in animation or children's programming, but it's vastly better than most of the earlier Caspers, and would stand up to showing today. Maybe the Cartoon Network will revive it.
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