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Casper
Casper poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Brad Silberling
Produced by Colin Wilson
Screenplay by
  • Sherri Stoner
  • Deanna Oliver
Starring
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Editing by Michael Kahn
Studio
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) May 26, 1995 (1995-05-26)
Running time 101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $55 million
Money made $287.9 million

Casper is a 1995 American dark fantasy comedy-drama film directed by Brad Silberling, in his feature directorial debut, based on the Harvey Comics cartoon character Casper the Friendly Ghost created by Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo. The film stars Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, Cathy Moriarty, Eric Idle, and also features the voices of Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey, Brad Garrett and the introduction of Malachi Pearson in the title role.

The film makes extensive use of computer-generated imagery to create the ghosts, and it is the first feature film to have a fully CGI character in the lead role. It goes for a much darker interpretation of the Friendly Ghost in comparison to the comics, cartoons, and films of the previous years, especially with its theme of death, most notably providing the character a tragic backstory that addresses his death.

Casper was released in cinemas on May 26, 1995, by Universal Pictures. It received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the film for its faithfulness to its source material (specifically the title character's portrayal), visual effects, music score, and performances, but criticized its dark story and humor. The film earned $287.9 million on a $55 million budget, and went on to spawn two direct-to-video/made-for-TV follow-up films and an animated television spin-off, The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper.

Plot

In Friendship, Maine following the death of her father, neurotic and spoiled heiress Carrigan Crittenden discovers she has only been left Whipstaff Manor in his will while his vast wealth has gone to several charities. Carrigan and her assistant, Dibs find a map within the will's papers that tell of an alleged treasure hidden inside the manor, but find the property haunted by a ghost named Casper and his poltergeist uncles the Ghostly Trio. They unsuccessfully attempt to force the ghosts out by way of paranormal experts and a demolitions team. A lonely Casper watches a news report about paranormal therapist James Harvey and is instantly smitten with his teenage daughter, Kat, prompting Casper to inspire Carrigan in summoning Dr. Harvey to Whipstaff. Kat dislikes Harvey's reputation and obsession with contacting the ghost of his late wife, Amelia. The Harveys move into Whipstaff, but Casper's attempt to befriend them fails when his uncles try to torment and scare them away, which eventually fails.

Casper gains the Harveys' trust when he serves them breakfast, and follows Kat to school, where she becomes popular when her class learns she is living in Whipstaff, and agrees to host their Halloween party. Her envious classmate Amber plots with her boyfriend, Vic, to humiliate Kat during the party. Harvey attempts therapy sessions with the Ghostly Trio, who not only try to avoid them, but also reveal they know Amelia; in exchange for convincing Carrigan to leave them alone, they promise to go through the "red tape" involved to get Harvey a meeting with his wife.

Kat learns Casper has no memory of his life, and restores his old playroom to remind him. Casper recognizes an old wooden sled his father bought him, and remembers playing outside until he caught a severe cold and died of pneumonia, becoming a ghost to keep his father company. A newspaper article reveals that Casper's father was declared legally insane after he built a machine, the Lazarus, which he claimed could bring the dead back to life. Casper and Kat venture to the basement and find the Lazarus. Carrigan and Dibs sneak inside, steal the formula that powers the Lazarus, and plot to use the machine, believing it could grant them immortality. However, they attempt to kill each other to test the theory and retrieve the treasure they think is in the basement's locked vault; Carrigan falls off a cliff to her death and rises as a ghost.

Dr. Harvey becomes despondent after the trio pull a prank on him, prompting them to take him out on the town. They plan on killing him to make themselves a quartet but have a change of heart after a drunken Harvey declares he will tell Carrigan off so they can stay in their home. However, Harvey accidentally falls to his death down a manhole.

In the laboratory, Carrigan confronts Casper and Kat, stealing what she believes to be the treasure from the vault and launching Dibs out a window when he tries to double-cross her. Casper and Kat trick Carrigan into saying that she has no unfinished business on Earth, causing her to eject herself into the afterlife. The treasure is revealed to be Casper's prized baseball, signed by Duke Snider; the so-called map was part of a game Casper played with his father, thus Carrigan would've been furious at having gone through all that trouble for nothing. Dr. Harvey, now a ghost, returns with Casper's uncles, and Kat's despair over this prompts Casper to sacrifice his one chance to return to life, restoring her father instead.

The Halloween party kicks off upstairs; Amber and Vic's prank is thwarted by the Ghostly Trio, and they flee in terror. A boy dances with Kat, and it's revealed to be Casper who had his wish granted by Amelia, now a spirit. Amelia meets with Harvey and tells him that she was so content with her family while alive that she has no unfinished business, and encourages him to move on, explaining that the Ghostly Trio kept their promise to find her for Harvey. Amelia departs as the clock chimes ten promising Harvey that they and Kat will be together again one day and, after kissing Kat, Casper transforms back into a ghost, scaring off the guests. Kat is impressed with the party, which Harvey says is not over, cueing the Ghostly Trio to play their nephew's theme for them to dance to the haunted house.

Cast

  • Malachi Pearson as the voice of Casper McFadden, a lonely ghost who was originally a 12-year-old boy who died of pneumonia. He spends most of his afterlife in Whipstaff dealing with his ghostly ghoulish uncles' antics while hoping to find a friend. He finds one in Kat, while also developing a crush on her.
    • Devon Sawa as Casper McFadden (human form)
  • Christina Ricci as Kathleen "Kat" Harvey, James' 13-year-old daughter and Casper's love interest who has lost her mother and wants to make a friend.
  • Bill Pullman as Dr. James Harvey, Kat's father; a ghost therapist interacting with the 'living impaired', helping them to cross into the next dimension while hoping to find his deceased wife.
  • Joe Nipote as the voice of Stretch, the leading member of the Ghostly Trio and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
  • Joe Alaskey as the voice of Stinkie, the second member of the Ghostly Trio with bad breath and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
  • Brad Garrett as the voice of Fatso, the unintelligent third member of the Ghostly Trio and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
  • Cathy Moriarty as Catherine "Carrigan" Crittenden, a glamorous, treacherous, and greedy woman upset about her late father only leaving Whipstaff to her in his will. She discovers that the house contains treasure, and hires Dr. Harvey to exorcise the ghosts in order to get it.
  • Eric Idle as Paul "Dibs" Plutzker, Carrigan's attorney.
  • Garette Ratliff Henson as Vic DePhillippi, Kat's crush and Amber's boyfriend.
  • Jessica Wesson as Amber Whitmire, Kat's rival and Vic's girlfriend.
  • Amy Brenneman as Amelia Harvey, James's deceased wife and Kat's deceased mother.
  • Ben Stein as Rugg, Carrigan's lawyer.
  • Chauncey Leopardi and Spencer Vrooman as Nicky and Andreas, two preteen boys who explore Whipstaff in the opening scene.
  • Wesley Thompson as Mr Curtis, Kat, Amber and Vic's form teacher.
  • Michael McCarty as a bar drunk.

Cameos

Production

Producer Steven Spielberg was planning a film adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost. He saw an episode of the television series Brooklyn Bridge directed by Brad Silberling and saw potential in this work, recruiting Silberling for directing Casper. Alex Proyas had initially signed on as director, but left due to creative differences with the screenplay. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, he claimed that he was intrigued with doing a children's fantasy, and wanted to do a more dark film, akin to The Wizard of Oz. J. J. Abrams did an uncredited rewrite of the script. The screenplay gave a backstory of Casper being the ghost of Casper McFadden, a boy who died of pneumonia at 12, though some of the comics, particularly in the 1960s, portrayed him as born a ghost to ghost parents.

Extensive use of computer-generated imagery is used to create the ghosts, and it is the first feature film to have a fully CGI character in a leading role. In the mirror scene, Dr. Harvey was also supposed to transform into Spielberg. According to director Silberling, the cameo was filmed, but was cut for pacing reasons. Spielberg was relieved, feeling that he is not much of an actor himself and was quite nervous in front of the camera. Principal photography began on January 27, 1994, and ended on June 8, 1994.

Soundtrack

The soundtrack was composed by award-winning composer James Horner, who had worked on a number of previous movies for Amblin Entertainment, including An American Tail and The Land Before Time. The track "One Last Wish" would go on to accompany Universal Pictures' "Logos Through Time" Montage, as part of their centennial anniversary.

Casper
Soundtrack album by
Released April 29, 1995 (1995-04-29)
Recorded 1994–1995
Genre Soundtrack
Label MCA
 Professional ratings
Source Rating
AllMusic
  1. "No Sign of Ghosts"
  2. "Carrigan and Dibbs"
  3. "Strangers in the House"
  4. "First Haunting/The Swordfight"
  5. "March of the Exorcists"
  6. "Lighthouse—Casper & Kat"
  7. "Casper Makes Breakfast"
  8. "Fond Memories"
  9. "'Dying' to Be a Ghost"
  10. "Casper's Lullaby"
  11. "Descent to Lazarus"
  12. "One Last Wish"
  13. "Same Song" – Digital Underground
  14. "Remember Me This Way" – Jordan Hill
  15. "Casper the Friendly Ghost" – Little Richard
  16. "The Uncles Swing/End Credits"

Box office

Casper opened at #1 over the Memorial Day weekend, grossing $16.8 million over its first three days from 2,714 theaters, averaging $6,205 per theater. Over four days it grossed $22.1 million, averaging $8,140 per theater. It stayed at #1 in its second weekend, grossing another $13.4 million, and boosting its 10-day cume to $38.9 million. It played solidly all through the summer, ending up with a final gross of $100.3 million in North America, and an additional $187.6 million internationally, for a total worldwide gross of $287.9 million, far exceeding its $55 million budget and becoming a commercial success.

Accolades

The film was nominated for Worst Picture at the 1995 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards but lost to Showgirls.

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Kids' Choice Awards May 11, 1996 Favorite Movie Casper Nominated
Saturn Awards June 25, 1996 Best Performance by a Younger Actor Christina Ricci Won
Best Fantasy Film Casper Nominated
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards 1996 Worst Picture Universal Pictures Nominated
Young Artist Awards 1996 Best Performance by a Young Actor: Voiceover Role Malachi Pearson Won
Best Family Feature: Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Young Leading Actress: Feature Film Christina Ricci Nominated

Legacy

The success of Casper secured Silberling the position of director for the 1998 City of Angels, a remake of Wings of Desire starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.

TV series

A cartoon series, The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper, was released in 1996 based on the film. Fatso (Season 1-2), Stinkie, Stretch and Casper were all voiced by the actors from the film, while Dr. Harvey was voiced by Dan Castellaneta, and Kat voiced by Kath Soucie.

Sequel/Prequels

Harvey Entertainment retained prequel rights to Casper. Two direct-to-video follow-ups to the film were released by 20th Century Fox. An indirect prequel Casper: A Spirited Beginning was released in 1997, and its sequel Casper Meets Wendy was released in 1998.

Cancelled sequel

Following the release of Casper, Simon Wells co-wrote a screenplay for Casper 2, in which he was set to direct. However, in July 2000, it was reported that Universal Pictures had cancelled the sequel due to the disappointing sales from the direct-to-video Casper films and the hesitation of Christina Ricci.

Video games

There were several video games based on or tied-in with the film released on the major consoles of the time, such as the 3DO, Super NES, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Game Boy Color and original Game Boy. A Casper game for Sega Genesis was planned but never released. An LCD handheld game was released for Tiger Electronics in 1995.

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