|CASPER'S FIRST CHRISTMAS (syndication, 1979)|
Why was it such a misfit?
Okay, enough live-action detours....you want more cartoons, don't you? So do I...Yogi's First Christmas was far from the only Hanna-Barbera Christmas special produced during the late 70s and early 80s. It wasn't even the only H-B special to have "First Christmas" in its title. Let's visit another!
I've already waxed at length about how lame a character Casper The Friendly Ghost is, and apparently Bill and Joe agreed with me, because they didn't feel he was enough to carry a special, even one with his name on it. The title sequence is the only indication Casper is going to be a part of what we're about to see; then we cut to Yogi, Huckleberry, Snagglepuss, Quick-Draw, and a bunch of other in-house royalty-free characters in a jalopy heading north.
There are a lot of wacky gags in this opening....the jalopy drives backwards, crashes through the snow and keeps going as a mound, then splits into two mounds to clear a tree before reforming. Boo Boo is shown licking a candy cane and then shows the audience his striped tongue. It's a good bet a lot of these came from the director of the musical sequences: Tex Avery. The gags would have been a lot funnier with good animation to boost them, but we're not in the right era for that.
Try not to think about the fact that one year after this, it was established that Yogi sleeps through Christmas. This is....I dunno, the Yogi from Earth-2.
When we finally see Casper, he's peeking out of the window of an old house covered in snow. There's a big "CONDEMNED" sign next to it, plus a bulldozer for those who can't read. The implied message is clear: once the snow melts, Casper's home will be torn down, and he's not happy about that fact. He even assumes Santa will skip the house assuming no one lives in it (well, no one living, anyway). "Still, it never hurts to be prepared," he says, and starts writing a note to Santa.
Casper isn't alone in the house. You might be expecting the Ghostly Trio, but they're absent...in their place is a Hanna-Barbera creation, a furry-looking large ghost in a bow tie named Hairy Scary. Hairy is a more traditional sort and gets up every morning to scare people. Casper wouldn't think of it. Hairy thinks Casper's not right in the head for spouting such pacifist nonsense.
Hairy also demands to know who this "Santy Claus" is that Casper's expecting to visit. "Well...he's like the spirit of Christmas!" Casper begins to explain, which perks Hairy's interest. "A SPIRIT? Well why didn't yuh say so? How SCARY-LOOKIN' is he?" And then it happens: a laugh track. We were at the tail end of the era where H-B was inserting these into their cartoons. It was Casper's bad luck to be one of the holdouts.
Back to the Hanna-Barbera All-Stars....they're supposed to be heading to a mountain lodge, but someone points out they should have reached it by now. Turns out Yogi followed the wrong directions and now they're hopelessly lost...yet surprisingly at peace with this fact. Augie Doggie points out it's always Christmas no matter where you are, so they can simply pick a place to stay and everything will work out. Unless they wind up picking an abandoned building haunted by ghosts.
The place has seen better days, but Huckleberry says it just needs a few touch-ups. "With a nice fire in the fireplace, and a spiffy Christmas tree, why, we could have the place lookin' peachy keen." So they pile inside and get to work. They take that excuse to lead into their second song, which they sing while they decorate....and nothing much of any interest happens during it. They decorate and sing; that's about it. Tex used up all his material in Song 1.
After a commercial break, Casper and Hairy Scary return to the shack. They didn't have much luck finding another place to haunt. But they're more surprised to see a car parked in the driveway and lights on in the windows. Is someone living there now??
"Look!" says Casper while peeking through the window. "The place is all decorated with a roaring fireplace and everything!" "Disgusting," adds Hairy.
Yogi and Boo Boo are now slipping ornaments onto the tree. "Hmm, this box is empty..." says Boo Boo. "Here, let me help!" says an off-screen voice attached to a white hand giving Boo Boo another ornament. "Aw gee, thanks, pal! And to think some of us first thought this place would be haunted! Hee hee...wait a minute, who are you again?"
He had to open his mouth:
"I'm Casper, the friendly ghost!"
Turns out Casper doesn't have much to worry about. Despite specifically stating what he is, and despite visibly hovering a few inches off the ground, Yogi is CONVINCED "it must be onna them neighborhood kids, celebrating Halloween a little bit late!" At no point in the special does he ever believe Casper is a ghost, and he even convinces the others it's a kid in a costume.
Hairy, however, is another matter. There isn't enough firewood to keep the fireplace burning, so Snagglepuss, Huckleberry and Quick-Draw head down to the basement to see if anyone stored some wood logs there. While the other two do collect an armful of wood, Huckleberry ends up carrying an ass covered in ghost hair.
"Now, you wouldn't
there be the Ghost of Christmas Past, there, would you
now? Like from Dickens?" Huckleberry drawls out.
Running from ghosts: the one and only thing cartoon characters did throughout the 1970s. The trio races upstairs and in an endless loop through the halls until they run into Auggie Daddy, who tells them there was nothing to be afraid of (believing it's Casper they mean). "What you SAW was just a little kid wearing a sheet! Here, I'll show you...." He goes downstairs and brings up Hairy. "See, what'd I tell ya..." he starts to say, before Hairy roars again and Auggie Sr. changes his perspective.
"BOO! BOOOOOOO!! EVERYONE OUTTA HERE!!!" Hairy hollers while everyone vacates (including Casper). "If I only gotta few days left in this house, I'm gonna spend 'em MY way! None 'a this Christmas HOOEY!" He tears down the tree, rips the decorations off the walls and throws water on the fireplace fire. "Now THAT'S more like it. Hey Casper! I took care of everything...."
But Casper isn't there. "He musta took off with the rest of 'em! Oh well, who cares? I don't need that Santy Claus stuff in here...." Then he notices Casper nailed a sock to the fireplace, with a note inside....his note to Santa. Hairy figures he might as well read it -- and discovers what Casper asked for was to save Hairy's home.
"Oh gawsh.....his Christmas wish was for me!" Hairy sobs. As we've seen happen on previous specials, this one little gesture instantly reforms him. "But he's gonna be so sad when he finds out there's no Santy Claus. I know what I can do! I'll give Casper a Christmas he'll never forget!" Hairy starts putting all the Christmas decorations back where they were.
Then Hairy calls everyone back inside. Surely they must be wondering about this guy's mood swings, even if they don't show it. And of course there's a Santy Claus; he arrives by sleigh at that moment with presents for everyone.
Auggie Daddy receives an "instant-taneous cam-a-ra," Snagglepuss gets a pair of pantyhose (look at the screenshot if you don't believe me) and Quick-Draw finds a new pair of spurs. Casper asks if Santa got his note, and if there's a present for Hairy. "HO HO HO, of course there is! Call him out!"
Hairy is perplexed when he opens his present and finds nothing inside. It certainly isn't what he asked for....or is it? Casper unfolds the box and reveals it's actually the deed to the house. Now it won't be torn down! Assuming he can afford the annual property taxes.
But Santa's not done....just to make sure this happy ending is airtight, he makes the bulldozer disappear and THEN instantly remodels the entire building with a wave of his fingers. Now it's got new siding, a bright paint job and a neon sign that declares it to be "Hairy's Haunting Lodge." It's not just better, it's potentially profitable. That oughta cover the tax payments.
"That was sure nice 'a Santy! I oughta thank him!" declares Hairy, and floats over to his reindeer. He becomes huge and fearsome and roars "MEEEEEERRY CHRISTMAS!!" which spooks the reindeer into taking off, into the sky. Hairy invites all his new friends to stay over at his Haunting Lodge every year from this point forward. They agree and cheer. ....They won't be back.
Why didn't it fit in?
Despite the effort to spice it up, Casper's First Christmas comes off as rather dull, especially by modern standards but maybe even by 1979 ones. I'd rather watch Yogi's First Christmas than this, and there are a lot of things I'd rather watch than Yogi's First Christmas. Add to its crumminess the fact that Hanna-Barbera probably isn't interested in re-licensing Casper, and you have a Misfit Special fated to languish in storage for eternity.
Does Casper eat Corn Flakes?
For today's second opinion, we asked these slumber-partying girls what they thought of Casper's First Christmas, but they weren't interested in answering our questions because they were obsessed with finding out who eats Corn Flakes. According to the legendary tome "People Who Eat Corn Flakes" taken from the Hogwarts library, Casper DOES eat them, and so does Tony Danza, Richard Simmons, Gilbert Gottfried, the Hamburger Helper glove, and the Unabomber. AAAAIIIEEEEEEEE