Casper's First Christmas (1979)

Casper is the title character, but this half-hour special features Yogi, Boo Boo, Quick Draw McGraw, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Augie Doggie, and Doggie Daddy, in addition to Hairy Scary. For those of you lucky enough to not know what any of that means, Hairy is a ghost who's friends with Casper (sort of), and the others are anthropomorphic Hanna-Barbera characters.

The special opens with Casper and Hairy's house scheduled for demolition. It's Christmas Eve, so Casper wants to decorate. Hairy, not sharing his friend's interest in the holidays, wants to go looking for a new house to haunt. Casper isn't sure whether Santa Claus will come to a house as worn down as theirs, but he writes a letter and leaves it in a stocking, just in case.

As this is going on, the Hanna-Barbera gang are lost on the way to a lodge where they're planning to spend the holidays. If you want to impose continuity on this mess, you could interpret that as the Jellystone Lodge from the 1980 movie, Yogi's First Christmas, though that would mean they were produced out of order. Also, it would imply some degree of thought and planning went into this, and that feels unlikely.

The Hanna-Barbera characters end up at what they think is an abandoned house and decide to spend Christmas there. They start decorating and singing.

Hairy and Casper find them and have different reactions. Casper is overjoyed to see the decorations and decides to join in. Meanwhile, Hairy is excited to see people to scare away, so he starts appearing to them one at a time.

At first, Yogi is scared of Casper, but he relaxes when he decides it's a kid in a ghost costume. They never really address the fact that Casper is floating, but maybe that's supposed to be the joke.

Hairy terrifies several of the others before finally going after them all at the party. He scares everyone off, and Casper goes with them. He also tears down all the decorations. Then he finds the letter Casper wrote at the beginning and discovers the one thing he asked for was for Santa to save Hairy's house. So of course he discovers the value of friendship, redecorates, and invites everyone back in. Cue Santa to make an appearance, grant Casper's wish, and hand out presents. Hairy invites everyone back next year, accidentally scares Santa's deer, and the special wraps up.

There's a reason this vanished from the public consciousness. It's not so much awful as empty. If you have a soft spot for the characters, you may enjoy seeing them interact, but there's really not much substance here. Hairy's Grinchy redemption is handled well enough, but there's nothing making it stand out. This is standard issue, run-of-the-mill Scrooge stuff, but it deserves a modicum of credit for anchoring the character's growth on friendship, rather than simply learning to like Christmas.

The animation is in line with '70s TV animation, which means corners are cut. To its credit, the bulk of its jokes aren't visual in nature, so this is less of an issue than it could have been. It mostly plays to its strengths, which are character reactions and interactions. I didn't find those "strengths" all that funny or endearing, either, but I appreciate the effort.

The high point here is of course the voice acting. I say of course, because that's the strong suit of virtually everything Hanna-Barbera released prior to their transformation in the '90s.

There are a handful of original songs. None of them are good, but I didn't find any painful, either. I guess that qualifies as a wash. Hell, relative to the era and medium, it might even be a plus.

As a whole, this is a forgettable cartoon that just doesn't hold up more than four decades after its release. Those nostalgic for the characters will of course have a better experience, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else.