Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Here’s some more story ideas that were submitted by Studio staff for Casper films. I thought these really good examples of how ideas could be submitted in any form--- they didn’t need to be anything fancy… like typed! Also, they're fun to read since you can really hear the voice of the writer.

This first proposal is by George Germanetti, long time Fleisher and Famous Studios animator.

Click on any image to enlarge for reading

Here’s a story idea below by Myron Waldman, another long time Fleischer and Famous Studios animator. Myron likely held the record for having worked on the most Betty Boop cartoons and was responsible for animating many Casper films as well.

The story idea below was submitted by Jack Mercer—who  though he submitted many story ideas and was also an assistant animator, is best remembered as the voice of Popeye.

If you think the story idea below looks a bit more ‘professional’- it’s because the writer, Larz Bourne, was actually a member of the story department!

I love these story ideas because they show how staffers in the 30’s and 40’s could choose to be involved in many aspects of a film... from start to finish! 

All story idea scripts: Collection of Virginia Mahoney

Sunday, September 9, 2012

CASPER…behind the scenes

Casper’s first film appearance was in The Friendly Ghost. Released in 1945 as part of the Paramount Famous Studios Noveltoon series Casper soon became so popular he earned a series of his own. He went on to star in 55 theatrical films for Famous Studios before that series ended in 1959. 

Casper, as his fans know, was a gentle ghost with no interest in scaring people. Real  ghosts mocked him for his mild manner, and humans were frightened by his translucent appearance.  But little children and animals quickly recognized that Casper only wanted to play and make friends.

Casper was unique among Famous Studios characters since he was an original creation and not based on another character (e.g Little Audrey was based on Little Lulu, and Herman and Katnip were similar to Tom and Jerry, etc.). 

In fact, there’s an interesting story about Casper’s origins (although a few details are a bit murky). Credit for Casper’s creation goes to both Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo. In 1939 Casper was featured in a children’s book they created together. Apparently Reit wrote the story and Oriolo illustrated the character.  The story generated no interest, so while Reit was away serving in the military, Oriolo- who at the time was working for Famous Studios-- sold the character and story to Famous Studios... for two hundred dollars!!! Who could have guessed that this character would eventually inspire a whole supporting cast of ghostly characters,  that it would generate over 55 theatrical cartoons, it’s own TV show, that the character would be sold to Harvey Brothers who then put Casper in comic books—and in 1995 Universal Studios would produce a highly successful computer generated Casper film! Neither Reit or Oriolo benefited beyond the initial $200 payment. In fact disagreement developed between the two over their respective roles in Casper’s development.

Click to enlarge image
Christmas Card from Harvey's. Date unknown. Collection: Virginia Mahoney

St. John’s publishing began producing Casper comics in 1949- and in 1952 the license for Casper comics was assumed by Harvey Comics. Harvey purchased Casper (as well as other Famous characters) outright in 1959 and all these characters soon appeared on the TV show Matty’s Funday Funnies. Some of the Casper films had previously been purchased in 1956 by TV distributor U.M.&M.T.V. Corp. When these films were packaged for television the original credits were often removed and replaced with new credits that included a reference to U.M.&M.T.V. Included below is a link to one such film A Hunting We Will Go, since it’s interesting that in the screen credit where it should have read Featuring Casper the Friendly Ghost, the ‘replaced’ credits instead read Featuring Caspers Friendly Ghost.

Interesting controversies among Casper fans have to do with whether Casper is actually a dead child! And if so…how did Casper die??  At some point the ‘dead child’ concept was replaced by the concept of Casper belonging to a particular class of supernatural beings…ghosts! However when Casper appeared in Harvey Comics in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s it appeared that Casper was a ghost because his parents were already ghosts when they married. It wasn’t until the 1995 Casper feature film that the ‘dead child’ idea was revived along with an account of how Casper had died…. of pneumonia at the age of twelve due to overindulging in a day of sledding! The film even disclosed Casper’s full name… Casper McFadden.

I’m including a few typed and hand-written Casper ‘story ideas.’ These are only a few of the over seventy five Casper story ideas I found among my dads things. Story ideas could be submitted by people who worked in the story department… or by anyone else in the Studio. If a story was used one could earn a few extra dollars. I love that often the stories submitted were totally hand-written— even the typed ones were pretty messy looking when measured against today’s standards. It didn’t seem to matter---

Click on any image to enlarge
The first 'story idea' below was written by one of Casper's creators, Seymour Reit. It's two pages long and was submitted together with three other stories. The note at the top indicates that all four were purchased for $100. and adds "additional sum if any used (to make up to $300)." Not dated. Collection: Virginia Mahoney

The story idea (and drawing) below were submitted by Dave Tendlar. Dave began working at Fleischer Studios in 1931, and worked there and at its successor, Famous Studios, until the mid 1950's. He worked as both an animator and Director. After Famous Studios he continued to work in animation for a number of other studios including Terrytoons and Hanna-Barbera. Note that both pages are on pegged animation paper, and that Casper is still looking chunky (later he became more sleek). Dated Sept. 12, 1949. Collection: Virginia Mahoney

This last story idea below is by my dad, Seymour Kneitel. As the boss he was always looking for ways to keep costs down-- he's titled this "Chisel angle for a Casper picture." It involves a clever re-use of old footage. Dated Nov. 12, 1956. (Thanks to the comments below from 'J. Lee' who points out this is likely the idea for the film Ghost Writers which was released in 1958- that films on-screen credit for direction is given to Seymour Kneitel, and for writing to Jack Mercer. I would guess that Mercer may have taken this brief premise and expanded it. Staff in those days were very versatile- in additional to writing stories, Jack Mercer was an assistant animator and the voice of Popeye!) Collection: Virginia Mahoney

PS: Seymour Kneitel directed many of the Casper films- next post will be more about some of the people behind the scenes who worked on Casper films.