My five-year-olds have been watching cartoons on my laptop. Twin B has learned to click on YouTube movies, and when she gets onto a Casper the Friendly Ghost jag it's good for at least half an hour.
I hadn't seen these things since I was maybe eight and was surprised at the old school beauty of the animation. While There's Good Boos To-Night was released in 1948, it feels much older.
This Noveltoon, based on a 1945 Casper the Friendly Ghost comic book, is the second Casper cartoon ever, and predated the Paramount series by two years. This thing is dark. Really dark.
For one, Casper seems to be a dead child, who hangs out reading books about "Our Animal Friends" next to his graveyard tombstone. The WWII imagery of ghost planes dive bombing into a heavily populated city isn't exactly a light touch either. Not in 1948 anyway. And then Casper's adorable little fox friend, Ferdie, with whom he'd rollicked happily in the woods, gets shot and dies. Casper goes into serious grief over the cute little fox's dead body, and buries him next to his own tombstone. Just as Casper is at his lowest, the fox's ghost floats up and happily licks his face while the announcer intones, "and so, Casper and Ferdie lived happily ever after."
I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing. The girls found it a little disturbing, and asked hard questions like, "Why did Ferdie have to die?" Of all the caspers they watched, this was the one they kept talking about.
There's a page at the Internet Movie Database where others have commented. Here's a few samples:
"Maybe Casper was meant more as a morality play, or Famous Studios felt like breaking new ground in 'reality' cartoons. … A well-animated project-no doubt there. But … the stark image of Casper's mourning is rather graphic and disturbing for children. … This might be a good cartoon for parents to use in helping explain death to children--but I wouldn't pop it into the VCR for a perky cartoon break."It's like cartoon film noir: The world's a shit hole kids, get used to it! The ending softens up the harshness a little, but not much.
"It made me break down! … It was so depressing, I just couldn't watch it again. It's just like seeing Lassie die at the end of a movie. … when I think about this Casper cartoon, I think about my cats!"
"It's probably the saddest I've ever felt watching a cartoon. … Second only to the Warner Bros. cartoon "Peace on Earth," this is the most I've ever been moved by an animated short."