Casper is a 1995 American live-action/animated fantasy horror comedy film directed by Brad Silberling, based on the Harvey Comics cartoon character Casper the Friendly Ghost created by Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo. The film stars Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, Cathy Moriarty, Eric Idle, and Amy Brenneman, and also features the voices of Malachi Pearson in the title role as well as Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey, and Brad Garrett.
In the town of Friendship, Maine, two young boys named Nicky and Andreas enter a creepy, old mansion called Whipstaff Manor, apparently on a dare, but they are scared away by a ghost named Casper. Later, after the death of her father, neurotic and spoiled heiress Carrigan Crittenden discovers he has only left her Whipstaff Manor in his will. Carrigan and her assistant, Dibs, learn of a treasure allegedly hidden somewhere within the manor, but upon investigation, they find the manor haunted by Casper and his obnoxious prankster uncles, the Ghostly Trio, who scare the two off the property. The two make several attempts to force the ghosts out of the manor by way of paranormal experts and a demolitions team, to no avail. Meanwhile, a lonely Casper watches a news report of paranormal therapist James Harvey and is instantly smitten with his teenage daughter, Kat. Longing for a friend, this provides Casper the idea of inspiring Carrigan into summoning Dr. Harvey to Whipstaff. Harvey and Kat have an estranged relationship due to the former’s reputation and obsession with contacting the ghost of his late wife, Amelia. Moving into Whipstaff, Casper's attempt in befriending the Harveys fails when his uncles try to scare them out of the house.
The next morning, Casper manages to gain the Harveys' trust when he serves them breakfast. He follows Kat to school where she becomes popular when her class learns that she is living in Whipstaff, and agrees to host their Halloween party there. However, Amber, Kat’s classmate who immediately dislikes her, becomes envious of Kat stealing her spotlight, since the party was originally going to be held at her place. Amber plots with her boyfriend, Vic, to humiliate Kat during the party. Harvey meanwhile attempts to have therapy sessions with the Ghostly Trio, who reveal that they know Amelia; in exchange for getting Carrigan to leave them alone, they promise to go through the "red tape" involved to get Harvey a meeting with his wife.
Meanwhile, Kat learns Casper has no memory of his life and unlocks and restores his old playroom to remind him. Casper comes across an old wooden sled, recalling that when he was a young boy, his father bought it for him. Casper was so happy that he played outside on a very cold day until he caught a severe cold and died of pneumonia. After his death, he became a ghost to keep his father company. A newspaper article reveals that Casper’s father was declared legally insane after he built a machine named the Lazarus, which he claimed could bring the dead back to life. Casper and Kat venture down into the manor’s basement, where they discover the Lazarus. Carrigan and Dibs sneak in, steal the formula that powers the Lazarus, and plot to use the machine to their advantage, believing it could grant them immortality. However, the two attempt to kill each other in order to test the theory and retrieve the treasure which they think is in the basement's locked vault; as a result, Carrigan falls off a cliff to her death, and rises reborn as a ghost.
Meanwhile, Dr. Harvey becomes dispassionate after the trio pull a prank on him, prompting them to take him out for a night on the town. Unknown to Harvey, they plan on killing him to make themselves a quartet, but end up having a change of heart after a drunken Harvey states that he is going to tell Carrigan off so they can stay in their home. However, Harvey falls to his death down a manhole.
Back in the secret laboratory, Carrigan confronts Casper and Kat, steals what she believes to be the treasure from the vault and launches Dibs out of a window when he tries to double-cross her and have the treasure for his own future. Casper and Kat trick Carrigan into stating that she has no unfinished business on Earth, causing her to disintegrate and be involuntarily ejected into the afterlife. The alleged treasure is revealed to be Casper’s prized baseball, signed by Duke Snider; the so-called map was actually part of game Casper played with his father. When Dr. Harvey returns with Casper's uncles, now as a ghost, Kat is distraught. Her despair prompts Casper to sacrifice his one chance to return to life once more, restoring her father instead.
The Halloween party kicks off upstairs. As Amber and Vic prepare their prank, they are thwarted by the Ghostly Trio, and flee the manor in terror. A dejected Casper is visited by the spirit of Amelia, who has become an angel in heaven instead of a ghost. As a reward for his selfless sacrifice, she temporarily transforms him into a human boy, until ten o’clock. The now flesh-and-blood Casper dances with Kat, while Amelia speaks with Harvey, revealing that she was so content with her husband and daughter while alive, that she has no unfinished business, encouraging him to move on. Amelia departs as the clock chimes ten and, after kissing Kat, Casper transforms back into a ghost, which scares off the party guests. Kat is impressed with the party, which Harvey says isn't over, cuing the Ghostly Trio to playing a song for them to dance to.
- Malachi Pearson as the voice of Casper McFadden, a lonely ghost who was originally a 12-year-old boy who died of pneumonia. He spends most of his afterlife in Whipstaff dealing with his ghostly ghouling uncles' antics while hoping to find a friend. He finds one in Kat Harvey, while also falling in love with her.
- Devon Sawa as Casper McFadden (human form)
- Bill Pullman as Dr. James Harvey, Kat Harvey's father who is a ghost therapist interacting with the 'living impaired,' helping them to cross into the next dimension while hoping to find his deceased wife.
- Christina Ricci as Kathleen "Kat" Harvey, Dr. James Harvey's 13-year-old daughter and Casper's love interest, who has lost her mother and wants to make a friend.
- Cathy Moriarty as Catherine "Carrigan" Crittenden, a glamorous, treacherous, and greedy woman who was upset about her late father's only leaving Whipstaff to her in his will, until she discovers that the house contains treasure, and hires Dr. Harvey to get the ghosts out of the house in order to get it.
- Joe Nipote as the voice of Stretch, the leading member of the Ghostly Trio and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
- Joe Alaskey as the voice of Stinky, the second member of the Ghostly Trio and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
- Brad Garrett as the voice of Fatso, the third member of the Ghostly Trio and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
- Eric Idle as Paul "Dibs" Plutzker, Carrigan's assistant.
- Garette Ratliff Henson as Vic DePhillippi, Kat's crush and Amber's boyfriend.
- Jessica Wesson as Amber Whitmire, Kat's rival and Vic's girlfriend.
- Amy Brenneman as Amelia Harvey, James' deceased wife and Kat's deceased mother.
- Ben Stein as Rugg, Carrigan's lawyer.
- Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci
- Dan Aykroyd as Ray Stantz
- Clint Eastwood
- Rodney Dangerfield
- Mel Gibson
- John Kassir as the Crypt Keeper
- Brock Winkless performed the puppetry for the Crypt Keeper in the film
- Steven Spielberg (cameo cut)
Producer Steven Spielberg was planning a film adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost. He saw an episode of the television series Brooklyn Bridge directed by Brad Silberling and saw potential in this work, recruiting Silberling for directing Casper. J. J. Abrams did an uncredited rewrite of the script. The screenplay gave a backstory of Casper being the ghost of Casper McFadden, a boy who died of pneumonia at 12, though some of the comics, particularly in the 1960s, portrayed him as born a ghost to ghost parents.
Extensive use of computer-generated imagery is used to create the ghosts, and it is the first feature film to have a fully CGI character in a leading role. In the mirror scene, Dr. Harvey was also supposed to transform into Spielberg. According to director Silberling, the cameo was filmed, but was cut for pacing reasons. Spielberg was relieved, feeling that he is not much of an actor himself and was quite nervous in front of the camera. Principal photography commenced on January 27, 1994, and ended on June 8, 1994.