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The old Casper cartoons had a different tone from what people in the modern era have seen in the newer movies and specials.  The oldest ones were pretty tame, and the ghost himself was always crying, literally.  The later ones were a bit more plot-heavy and silly, focusing more on humor.  They’re all a bit slow for modern audiences, especially kids who are used to the crazier cartoons of today.  But they’re still cute and interesting to watch if you have an interest in the old stuff.  Don’t expect anything terribly compelling, but there’s always a happy ending of sorts, and the animation was pretty good for the time, even if the voice acting wasn’t.

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Case Closed

This anime series started a number of years ago and is still running, with a large number of movies and specials, some of which don’t seem to be entirely canon.  It’s a cute little mystery show that will appeal to anyone who likes that sort of thing.  Every episode is a new murder, kidnapping, theft, or espionage mystery, solved by the protagonist, who is de-aged by a mystery poison in the first episode.  Originally a teenager, he is now a young child again, struggling to continue his work without anyone knowing who he really is.  His reasons for not revealing his true identity are sympathetic but illogical, and ultimately the show would have worked just as well without this unnecessary alteration to the main character.  It could have been about a teen sleuth, or he could have been a kid from the start, and either way, it would have worked fine.  This is only a complaint because the show is still going with no end in sight, so the poor kid is unlikely to ever get re-aged, and his closest friends will never find out what really happened to him.  It’s a frustrating and unnecessary addition to the plot.  The rest of the cast are largely annoying at first, and the voice acting is terribly cheap, at least in the English dub.  Only the first 130 episodes were dubbed into English, unfortunately, so I haven’t seen much past that.  The main character’s best friend is the most empathetic and interesting character in the show, but the main appeal is the mystery-solving.  If you’re a mystery addict, you’ll get a kick out of this one, even if most of its plots are somewhat simplified for the sake of the assumed audience of children.  The overarching plot about looking for the mysterious men who poisoned the hero is just a sort of background piece, and the most annoying characters mostly take a backseat to the mysteries.  There isn’t a lot of heavy plotting or in-depth character studies.  This is a show you could watch in bits and pieces whenever you have 25 minutes to kill.  The clues and mystery-solving are compelling enough for what they are; just don’t expect brilliant character growth or great acting.  The animation is basic but pleasant to look at.  It has the feel of an old Saturday morning cartoon show.  One major plus is that female characters come in a variety of personalities, if not a variety of body types.  Also, characters are drawn in a way that seems to match their stated ages and roles, an unusual method for most anime.  This element of realism may be appealing if you don’t usually get into anime.  If you’re not a mystery fan, though, there isn’t much else to recommend this one, but if you are, it’s worth a look, even if it doesn’t hook you.

This old Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation special is supposed to come right after Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, chronologically.  It doesn’t have quite the same tone, since Rudolph is now being treated as a competent hero instead of the outcast that he was in his original story.  There’s a moral about being kind to others who are different, but it comes off more like “it’s okay if people make fun of you because you’re serving as their entertainment.”  The music is fun and catchy, and the voice acting is pretty good.  The animation is as good as ever for this company.  It’s a cute, if somewhat awkward, story that visits other time periods and doesn’t really feel like a Christmas tale.

This classic film is full of good music, both Christmas and otherwise.  The acting is surprisingly good, and the show is full of big names that might be more familiar to your grandparents or great-grandparents but are worth a look, nonetheless.  The plot is simple but endearing, and the characters are sympathetic and interesting.  Two sets of musical comedy performers get mixed up together and end up helping the owner of a small-town inn (a former army general) get back on his financial feet by putting on a whopper of a show.  There’s some romantic entanglements, unfortunate misunderstandings, and plenty of comedy to go with the excellent music.  There’s no racial diversity to speak of in the cast, but for a movie from the ’50s that takes place mostly in Vermont, that’s not a big surprise.  Amazingly, however, the female characters are never treated badly.  They’re largely smart, talented, and have personalities and needs of their own.  The whole plot starts because one of them did something to get it going.  The only exception is an obviously dumb character who’s designed to be a comic foil of sorts.  Much of the two main female characters’ motivations tend to be tied up with romance after the first act of the film, unfortunately, but you never get the feeling that that’s all they’re about.  And there’s a nice happy ending to wrap everything up.  It’s a great Christmas movie, one of the few that has a lot to do with Christmas without feeling overwhelmed by it.

12 Days of Christmas

This cute little cartoon purports to explain the origin of the Christmas song of the same title.  The humor is heavy in this one, with a disaffected princess, an oblivious king, an arrogant knight trying to woo the princess, and a clumsy squire who has to do all the heavy lifting.  These characters are as simple as the animation, but it all works.  The voice acting is good, especially when the castle servants start imitating various musical styles when singing the song.  The jokes tend to be somewhat basic, but they’re cleanly funny, and you might even care what happens to the main characters by the time you’re near the end.  They’re not terribly complex, but they’re sympathetic.  The whole thing is a short, fun romp through silliness and musicality, nothing special or deep, but definitely a Christmas bright spot.

Nutcracker (1993)

The Nutcracker ballet is well-known but not often seen by the people who know about it.  If you’re a fan of ballet, it’s a classic; if you’re not, you may still find something interesting in the story going on behind the dancing.  In 1993, a production of the show was put on dvd, with Home Alone’s Macaulay Culkin playing the part of the Nutcracker prince for some reason.  The dancers are spectacular and expert, the narration is spot-on, and the few special effects that are employed are impressive.  But overall, the show may not hold your attention if you’re impatient, prefer action-oriented tales, or aren’t generally impressed by dancing.  The costumes are fun, and the music is, of course, enchanting, but it won’t keep you riveted if you can’t stand shows of dancing prowess that last longer than a few minutes.  It’s a welcome experience if you just want to have done it or really enjoy such shows.  Otherwise, there are other, dialogue- and action-filled versions of the story out there.

Horton Hears a Who

This old Seuss cartoon tells the tale of a poor elephant who can hear the tiniest of tiny creatures, the Whos, in their dust molecule universe.  It’s a strange story about not being believed and being persecuted for being crazy, even though you’re the only one who knows the truth.  Horton is eventually able to prove that the Whos exist, just before they’re about to be destroyed.  The odd moral to the story seems to be “Don’t be mean to people who believe something crazy; they might be right in the end.”  It’s a cute little cartoon with good animation, adequate voice acting, and the usual assortment of Seussian words and rhythm.  It’s strangeness will be most off-putting to adults, but it makes perfect sense within the childlike world of Seuss.