Just like Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, it’s about time Casper the Friendly Ghost got a live-action movie reboot or TV series.
One of the trends that fans are supporting these days is taking comics and telling their stories with a dark and twisted lens. It’s happened with DC comics (although those started pretty dark as they were), it happened with Archie Comic which has been recently turned into Riverdale, and with Sabrina, the Teenage Witch being turned into Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Now, with news springing up about Casper the Friendly Ghost finally being revived in the form of a television series for the streaming service Peacock, fans are desperately hoping that the creative team will take the same direction as the executive producers did with Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
And if that doesn’t work, give us a live-action Casper movie reboot.
Casper the Friendly Ghost
The origin of Casper the Friendly Ghost was a cute, well-natured, transluscent ghost that was created by an American author of over eighty children’s books, as well as several for adults, Seymour Reit, an American animator famously known for Felix the Cat, Joe Oriolo, and creator of Jungle Land, Vincent Valentine. The friendly phantom was first featured in several comics around 1945 to 1959, after which the rights for him were acquired by Harvey Comics who published Casper comics from 1952.
Since then, the rights have changed hands many, many times, starting from 2001 when Harvey Entertainment (and by extension Harvey Comics) was acquired by Classic Media, who were then bought out by DreamWorks Animation in 2012, and then finally acquired by Universal Pictures’ parent company, NBC Universal in 2016.
Casper was such a popular character when headlining in comic books that it was quickly adapted into features for both the small screen and the big screen, in animated series, and live-action movies.
Casper made many features, and in chronological order, his small and big-screen features were numerous. Matty’s Funday Funnies was his first on-screen appearance and was an animated series that ran from 1959 to 1961 that featured a ton of theatrical cartoons from Famous Studios including characters like Casper, Herman and Katnip, Baby Huey, Little Audrey, Buzzy the Cow and other Noveltoons.
The New Casper Cartoon Show ran from 1963 to 1970 on ABC’s Saturday Morning Schedule and was also an animated series. In the series, Casper starred alongside some of his friends from the comics: Wendy the Good Little Witch, the Ghostly Trio, Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost, and Nightmare, the ghost horse.
Casper and the Angels was an animated series that only aired in the year 1979. In this animated series, Casper becomes the ‘guardian ghost’ of two Space Police officers in the year 2179.
The live-action movie adaptation Casper in 1995 was a huge box office success, grossing over US$287 million worldwide on a budget of US$55 million. In this version of the story, an afterlife therapist and his daughter meet a friendly ghost when they move into a crumbling old mansion to rid the premises of wicked old spirits.
The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper was an animated series that aired from 1996 to 1998 and was made to be a direct sequel to the well-known 1995 feature film.
Casper: A Spirited Beginning was a direct-to-video fantasy comedy film in 1997 where Casper once again accidentally finds himself in the land of the living after failing to show up for ghost training.
Casper Meets Wendy finds Casper meeting another character from Harvey Comics, Wendy the Good Little Witch, played by a young Hilary Duff in 1998.
Casper’s Haunted Christmas was a fully computer animated, the first film in the franchise to be fully computer animated and not theatrical or direct-to-video (combination of live-action and computer animation. In the film, Casper has to scare one person before Christmas or else he (and his three uncles who make up the Ghostly Trio) will be forever banished to the Dark by the King of Ghosts, Kibosh.
Casper’s Scare School: The Movie was released in 2006 and tells the story of Kibosh enrolling Casper into Scare School because he isn’t scary enough. And finally, Casper’s Scare School (named the same as the movie that came before it)aired from 2009 to 2012 and tells Casper’s story as he has to graduate through Scare School before he gets banished to the valley of shadows forever, and shows his many adventures with his fellow students.
The 1995 Casper feature film is one of the most well-known adaptations of the world’s most friendly ghost.
“Furious that her late father only willed her his gloomy-looking mansion rather than his millions, Carrigan Crittenden is ready to burn it to the ground when she discovers a map of a treasure hidden in it. But when she enters it to seek her claim, she is frightened away by a wicked wave of ghosts. Determined to get her hands on this hidden fortune, she hires afterlife therapist Dr James Harvey (Bill Pullman) to exorcise the ghosts from the mansion. James and his daughter, Kat, move in, and soon Kat meets Casper, the ghost of a young boy who’s “the friendliest ghost you know”.
But not so friendly are Casper’s uncles Stretch, Fatso, and Stinkie, who are determined to drive all “fleshies” away. Ultimately, it is up to James and Kat to help the ghosts cross over to the other side.”
Casper starred Malachi Pearson as the voice actor for the CGI-ghost version of Casper, and Devon Sawa as Casper in human form. They starred alongside Christina Ricci as the leading young Kat, Cathy Moriarty as Carrigan, Eric Idle as Dibs, Chauncey Leopardi as Nicky, Spencer Vrooman as Andreas, Ben Stein as Rugg, Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci, and Bill Pullman as Dr Harvey.
It was said to be the first film to include computer-generated characters. The Casper movie still resonates with children today, has generated quite the cult following, and is fondly looked back on by most of the cast.
The actor who stepped in as the brought-back-to-life version of Casper, Devon Sawa, especially appreciates the film and looks back on it fondly as he considers it his breakout film that kickstarted his acting career. The star even took to Twitter to celebrate his co-star, Christina Ricci, and to thank her for helping him be cast in the film, and that she even continued to help the young actor get work from there.
“Christina Ricci is a HUGE talent and played a big part in me getting the role and then went on to recommend me for Now and Then. I owe her the world. #casper.”
Sawa also took to Twitter to appreciate Malachi Pearson doing all the heavy lifting for the film as the voice actor for the CGI ghost.
“I was in Casper for 30 secs. Malachi Pearson did the hard work. When they decided last minute to bring Casper to life he was too young. So I landed the role. And I’m very fortunate Brad Silberling chose me because I’d be lying if I said it didn’t start a 30 year job that I love. Thnx.”
There was supposedly a plan for a Casper sequel that was meant to come out a few years after the 1995 film that was a continuation of the story, but it never came to fruition. The failure to be realised is attributed to two major factors, Christina Ricci’s reluctance to return for a sequel, and the disappointing home video sales at the time.
Ricci has said in the past that she was disappointed with her acting in the movie (going as far as to say that she thinks she was terrible), and that is most likely the reason why she would not want to return in the future. She chatted about it on a podcast with Marc Maron and said:
“If you actually watch Casper, I’m terrible. People get so upset when I say that. And I’m like, ‘No, it’s a wonderful movie, it’s a childhood treasure. But I’m terrible in it.’” When asked why she felt that way about her feature in the film she elaborated, “There was a lot going on in my [life]. Everything was very difficult. I was always annoyed, and I just don’t think I tried very hard, to tell you the truth.”
Well, the good news is that it seems that our favourite little ghost is in the works to get a brand new live-action Casper the Friendly Ghost series similar to Riverdale‘s darker interpretation of Archie Comics or The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Riverdale is the 2017 show that premiered on The CW and depicts the events and characters from Archie Comics which started in 1939, but the series takes a much darker turn. Described as a crime, drama, mystery, and romance series, Riverdale is “A Great Place to Get Away With It All.”
The story of the series, much like the comics, follows the life of Archie and his gang as they try to navigate the troubled waters of romance, school, and family, all amidst becoming entangled in the dark mysteries of their town.
“After the death of one of the rich and popular Blossom twins on the 4th of July, the small town of Riverdale investigates the murder. The series starts in September, the beginning of a new school year, that brings with it new students, and relationships, and reveals the mysteries of the past 4th of July.”
The cast of Riverdale consists of Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones, K.J. Apa as Archie Andrews, Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom, Casey Cott as Kevin Keller, Mädchen Amick as Alice Cooper, Vanessa Morga as Toni Topaz and Charles Melton as Reggie Mantle to name a few.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Originally adapted from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Archie Comics endeavoured to create a darker version of Sabrina, first appearing in Archie’s Madhouse #22 and then later published as the dark and disturbing Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The show was then adapted as a series for Netflix and premiered at the end of 2020 and has been described as a drama, fantasy, horror, mystery, and thriller show and depicts the tale of a teenage girl as her 16th birthday rolls around and she has to choose between the witch world of her family, the Spellmans, and the human world of her friends in Greendale.
Made by the executive producers of Riverdale and based on Archie Comic, CAoS “reimagines the origin and adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch as a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror, the occult, and witchcraft. Tonally in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, this adaptation finds Sabrina Spellman wrestling to reconcile her dual nature – half-witch, half-mortal – while standing against the evil forces that threaten her, her family, and the daylight world humans inhabit.”
The cast of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina consists of Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina Spellman, Ross Lynch as Harvey Kinkle, Lucy Davis as Hilda Spellman, Chance Perdomo as Ambrose Spellman, Michelle Gomez as Mary Wardwell, Jaz Sinclair as Rosalind Walker, Tati Gabrielle as Prudence Night, Adaline Rudolph as Agatha, Richard Coyle as Father Faustus Blackwood, Miranda Otto as Zelda Spellman, Lachlan Watson as Theo Putnam, Gavin Leatherwood as Nicholas Scratch, Sam Corlett as Caliban, and Luke cook as Lucifer Morningstar to name a few.
Coming soon from Lionsgate is a family-friendly supernatural adventure about a young supernatural being named Ghoster that is a special moment for fans who have been waiting for a movie reboot of the 1995 original Casper. Aiming to be more of an entertaining movie for kids than a scary ghost story, it will be coming this Halloween on Digital, on Demand and on DVD on October 11th.
The audience is invited to “enter an enchanted, ghostly world with this captivating family adventure. Elizabeth and her father inherit a nearby estate and find it haunted by a kindly young phantom named Ghoster. He begs for Elizabeth’s help undoing an ancient dragon’s curse that has trapped him in the manor. Joined by the caretaker’s handsome son Mateo, they must enter a magical painting and solve dangerous puzzles to undo the hex and free the trapped souls of Ghoster’s ancestors. It’s so much fun, it’s almost scary!”
Take a moment to note the obvious similarities, with a young girl who moves into an old, haunted estate with her father, and then finds a young phantom in the house whom they have to help. To their credit, Ghoster does switch it up slightly with the story, having the souls of Ghoster and his ancestors trapped there with a curse, but you can’t deny that even the name seems oddly familiar, as well as the character design for the ghost. Even the poster art looks similar.
While the upcoming Lionsgate movie has some definitive markers that are undoubtedly Casper-inspired, it has nothing to do with the friendly young ghost and is not considered a reboot of the franchise.
Peacock will be developing the new live-action horror-adventure TV series that is set to reimagine the origins of our favourite little ghost as a coming-of-age story that explores what it means to be alive.
Although it is made in honour of the first Casper movie, it is said that the two will not be connected.
While Casper is still in high school, a new family arrives in the small town of Eternal Falls where the young (and notably still alive) Casper becomes entangled in a mystery, trying to uncover dark secrets that have been buried for more than 100 years.
In honour of the 1995 original movie, the new live-action Casper series is also expected to feature CGI effects. It is hoped that the new series will share the same darkness that Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to take a usually upbeat and sweet comic to a bit of a darker place.
But should it have been a Casper reboot movie instead?
Kai Yu Wu
The new live-action Casper series is set to be written by executive producer Kai Yu Wu, creator, developer and head writer of Netflix’s The Ghost Bride, and is repped by Underground and UTA. Wu is also the executive producer on the drama AZNBBGRL which was recently picked up to pilot by Freeform, and co-executive producer on the upcoming Disney+ series American Born Chinese. She has also written for some very well-known series such as The CW’s The Flash and NBC’s Hannibal. It will be produced by UCP – a division of Universal Studio Group alongside DreamWorks Animation (which still owns the rights to Casper’s character.
In July of 2022, Riverdale had over 280,000 total viewers and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina topped the TV Time Charts in January. Clearly, there is a demand for thoughtfully made comic-to-series adaptations that take more light-hearted material and turn them into darker series for older fans. It makes sense, as the audience who would have enjoyed the comics will most likely be adults at this stage, and being able to see characters that they know and love under a completely different lens is always exciting.
Tell us, do you want a modern Casper the Friendly Ghost reboot movie?