Casper, the Ghost Whose Friends Suffer
The first music video below haunted me for days. Watch it. See if it stays with you too. The song is Father Tiger‘s cover of “Safe & Sound,” which Taylor Swift originally performed with the Civil Wars for The Hunger Games motion picture soundtrack (the second video), and Father Tiger’s video content comes from an old Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon.
The Father Tiger video brilliantly edits the song together with one-third of the second Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon, “There’s Good Boos To-night,” from 1947 (the next video below). The video’s editing raises the tension as Casper’s new friend, Ferdie the Fox, runs from dogs and a hunter who wants to kill him.
To my surprise, the hunter does kill Casper’s friend. I loved Casper the Friendly Ghost when I was a kid. I wore a Casper costume one year at Halloween (I wasn’t always Batman, Dr. Doom, or a pirate), and my mom says I shrugged off blame for misdeeds when I was very small by saying, “Casper did it.” Much as I loved the Friendly Ghost, though, I do not remember this cartoon. I recognize all the other early Casper cartoons, but not this one. I wonder if Bozo’s Big Top skipped airing “There’s Good Boos To-night” to avoid distressing little kids.
The oldest Casper cartoons each followed a specific formula:
- Other ghosts tease Casper for not wanting to scare the living.
- When Casper tries to make friends, people and animals panic at the sight of “a g-g-ghost!”
- Lonely Casper weeps until a sympathetic little child or animal befriends him.
- They play.
- An animal tries to kill his new human friend or a human tries to kill his new animal friend.
- Casper scares the predator away.
- He, his buddy, and often the buddy’s older friends or family who’d previously feared Casper end the cartoon having a good time together.
Dying doesn’t keep Ferdie the Fox from happily rising from his grave to play with Casper once more. The “Safe & Sound” song in Father Tiger’s video eerily suggests that that no one can hurt Ferdie now that he has left life behind, that he’s safe and sound with Casper because they’re dead.
When I discussed this cartoon on Twitter, superheroine crochet creator Ashley Pitcock (@SkeebooPro) mentioned that when she was little, her mom gave her a video that showed all the old Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons in order. Because the second cartoon climaxes with Casper’s friend dying, every subsequent cartoon evoked a fear that another new friend would die – and the very next cartoon looked like it was going to do exactly that. 1949′s “A Haunting We Will Go” shows Casper’s duck friend seemingly killed by the same hunter who took out Ferdie, until Casper’s tears revive the little guy this time.
Children’s entertainment can evoke tears and instill nightmares. Do adults intentionally upset little kids? If so, why? Is it to inoculate them against life’s terrors or to teach them important lessons like the fact that if you pal around with a ghost, even the friendliest one, something will try to kill you?