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With: (voices) Mae Questel, Norma Macmillan, Gwen Davies, Cecil Roy, etc.
Written by: Larz Bourne, Isadore Klein, Carl Meyer, Jack Mercer, etc.
Directed by: Seymour Kneitel, Izzy Sparber, etc.
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 72
Date: 03/19/2013
IMDB

Casper the Friendly Ghost: The Best of Casper Vols. 1-2 (1950)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Ghost to Ghost

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Casper the Friendly Ghost made his big screen debut in 1945 and haunted theaters all throughout the 1950s. The cartoons are almost shockingly sweet as the little ghost continues in his quest to make friends. (His refrain: "I don't want to scare anybody. I just want to be friendly!") Each cartoon uses precisely the same formula: Casper scares a few people, who each do exaggerated, comic double takes. He then meets his potential friend, usually a small animal or a young boy who doesn't realize Casper is a ghost. Eventually, the truth comes out, but just in time for Casper to rescue his new friend from some greater threat, such as a hungry bear. Given their soft humor and naiveté, it's hard to believe today how successful these cartoons were. But they come with a certain coziness and an unflappable hope for the future of mankind -- or ghostkind.

The animation is quiet, lovely and fluid, as in the background art in cartoons like Spooking About Africa. The Casper series is especially notable for the hero's translucent quality; you can see the backgrounds right through him. Perhaps the best in this new set is Ground Hog Play, in which Casper moves from his Sunday morning newspaper comic strip into another strip to help save a hapless groundhog.

Late last year, Sony and ClassicMedia released a DVD called Harveytoons: The Complete Collection. It sounded great, but the packaging left something to be desired. It came on four, double-sided discs, and various episodes of the Harveytoons TV show were simply lined up one after the other. No menu or guide was included to tell viewers how to access certain cartoons, and in fact, the TV presentation routinely cut off opening and ending titles. A Casper cartoon could be followed with a Little Audrey or a Baby Huey cartoon with no rhyme or reason. In essence, it was a package to keep kids sitting in front of the TV for several hours, not a package for serious animation buffs.

I wish I could report that Sony/Classic Media's new Casper release is the answer, but it only offers a slight improvement. These two individual discs feature 12 Casper cartoons apiece, with opening and closing titles intact. But once again, adult collectors have been ignored. The cartoons are arranged in no particular order. The box advertises ten cartoons and two "bonus" cartoons specially selected by Casper himself! So once again, this is a set intended for kids. Aside from that, the quality is fine, and many collectors may wish to swap the Harveytoons set for these new discs. According to IMDB, there are 55 Casper cartoons in all, but according to the Big Cartoon Database (www.bcdb.com), there are only 52, which means that three more volumes should be forthcoming. Meanwhile, here's the breakdown for discs one and two:

DISC ONE
1. True Boo (1952)
2. Boo Ribbon Winner (1954)
3. Good Scream Fun (1958)
4. Fright From Wrong (1956)
5. Zero the Hero (1954)
6. Ground Hog Play (1956)
7. Boo Hoo Baby (1951)
8. Spooking About Africa (1957)
9. Puss 'n Boos (1954)
10. Hide and Shriek (1955)
11. Red White and Boo (1955)
12. Pig-a-Boo (1952)

DISC TWO
1. Frightday the 13th (1953)
2. Hooky Spooky (1957)
3. Little Boo Peep (1953)
4. North Pal (1953)
5. Keep Your Grin Up (1955)
6. Penguin For Your Thoughts (1956)
7. Spook and Span (1958)
8. Spook No Evil (1953)
9. Spunky Skunky (1952)
10. Boo Bop (1957)
11. To Boo or Not To Boo (1951)
12. Spooking With a Brogue (1955)

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