“Just like a real boy.”
Casper’s Halloween Special is actually the third title for this 1979 release. The first is Casper Saves Halloween, which was released as a 90 minute VHS. Next is “He Ain’t Scary, He’s Our Brother,” which played as a TV movie.
Casper’s Halloween Special contains the 25 minute short film as well as a bonus TV movie, Hanna-Barbara’s The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t. The plot of Casper is pretty straightforward and mirrors most of the ghost’s exploits: Casper wants to act like a real boy. Halloween gives him the perfect opportunity to go out and interact with people, specifically kids who tend not to be as scared of him as their adult counterparts. This go-around, Casper meets a group of orphans who venture outside their neighborhood in order to hopefully score some sweet candy goodies.
But lest you think this is a simple case of trick-or-treating, fear not, some hijinks do occur. Halloween is also the holiday when other not-so-friendly ghosts (and their witch friend) get to go around scaring the bejeezus out of humans. And this year they decide to pick on the group of kids Casper is hanging out with, ruining their attempts to get candy by scaring away the adults.
This is ultimately a story about knowing when to stop scaring people and let the kids get their freaking candy, but it feels longer than it is. There are unnecessary musical numbers and the story’s turn seems to come out of nowhere. I am not engaged by this story of bullying and turning the tables on the bullies.
The disc is a DVD-R created on demand by Amazon so there are some issues with the 1.37:1 video transfer, but surprisingly not as many as you might expect. There are some scratches and flickers here and there but overall the picture looks as clean as any from the era. The animation is simple hand-drawn and dates the set but also adds a level of charm none of the other disc’s aspects manage. The audio track is flatter than usual, a simple mono offering which definitely dates the disc as well.
The lone special feature is another TV special, The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t, which aired in 1972. It’s the story of how a talking squirrel saved the first Thanksgiving. (Yes, you read that right.)
I say skip this, but if it or the accompanying special is a favorite from your childhood go ahead and scoop it up.