After the triple successes of the TV specials Here Comes Garfield, Garfield on the Town, and Garfield in the Rough, CBS approached Garfield creator Jim Davis and director Phil Roman, asking for another special – and, hopefully, another ratings gold mine. Davis and Roman agreed, confident that they could create another killer adventure for the fat orange cat.
While brainstorming, Davis and Roman decided to take the route the Peanuts specials took and tailor their new show around a holiday: Halloween. Having made this decision, Davis told Roman that he wanted to create a show that would be legitimately scary as well as funny. Roman agreed. With their mission firmly in mind, the two began sculpting the story.
Taking a cue from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, Davis and Roman decided to start the show as a straight comedy. The duo constructed sequences that any audience member could relate to – including choosing Halloween costumes, getting excited for trick-or-treating, and splitting Halloween candy – and infused them with comedy, hoping to lull the audience into a false sense of security. Then, once the audience was relaxed, Davis and Roman planned to hit viewers with scares!
Unfortunately, CBS’s Standards And Practices committee weren’t pleased with the scary scenes. The committee repeatedly sent Davis, Roman, and their crew back to the drawing boards, saying that the show was too scary for young viewers. Whenever such notes were received, the Garfield crew would make the smallest possible changes, careful not to soften the scary moments too much.
Ultimately, those small changes appeased the network. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure made its debut on October 30, 1985!
As the show opens, we see Garfield jolted awake by the television – more specifically, the always abrasive Binky the Clown Show. Binky reminds his viewers that it’s Halloween and that tonight is the time to go trick-or-treating! As Garfield listens and learns, he falls in love with the idea of trick-or-treating and the bag of candy one receives. As Garfield prepares for the night ahead, he has an epiphany: if Odie – Garfield’s canine friend – comes along, Garfield can get TWO sacks of candy instead of one! Garfield convinces Odie to join him with the promise of one piece of candy when the night is through. After finding two pirate costumes in the attic, Garfield and Odie set out on their quest!
Over the course of the evening, Garfield and Odie arrive at the shores of a river. Garfield sees houses on the other side of the water and explains to Odie that, if they can get to those homes, they can get even more candy. Fortuitously, there happens to be a rowboat nearby, and, being pirates for the night, Garfield and Odie hijack it. Instead of reaching the other shore, however, the pair drift down the river, washing up on an island. There’s one house on this island – a ramshackle mansion. Garfield and Odie decide to investigate.
At the house, Garfield and Odie encounter a strange old man, who tells them a story of a pirate treasure buried on the island a hundred years ago. On the night the treasure was buried, the crew signed a contract in blood, stating that their ghosts would reunite in a century and return for their riches. The old man proceeds to steal the rowboat, leaving Garfield and Odie marooned on the island. The two animals stand alone, forced to confront the pirate ghosts who are starting to emerge from the water…
As we’ve discussed, Jim Davis and Phil Roman put a lot of care into crafting the story, balancing scares and laughs. That effort shines through in the special. The story begins with the broad comedy that we’ve come to expect from Garfield. Slowly, however, the show begins to introduce scary elements. The spookiness begins with small fantasies as Garfield tries on different costumes. The scariness ramps up a little as Odie and Garfield discover that some of the trick-or-treaters are EXACTLY what they look like. Eventually, the show reaches a fever pitch as Garfield and Odie encounter the pirate ghosts, which are TRULY scary!
Speaking of the pirate ghosts, they’re just one example of the marvelous effects animation employed for Garfield’s Halloween Adventure. Davis and Roman wanted the second half of the special to have an eerie, atmospheric vibe, so they gave outdoor scenes a thin layer of white, glowing fog. The effect holds up remarkably well, looking real even in the days of digital animation!
The pirate ghosts are impressive – when they’re standing still. the character animation is incredibly detailed, with lots of rotting flesh, muscle, and bone. However, when the ghosts run, Phil Roman used a cross-dissolve effect that essentially turns the ghosts into a cloud with faces. However, it doesn’t detract from the story, which is, in my opinion, the most important part of any film!
Long story short: I LOVE Garfield’s Halloween Adventure. This special is a prime example of what happens when filmmakers realize that animation isn’t a genre but an art form that can be used any way the artist wishes. The blend of broad comedy and genuine scares ensures that there’s something for everyone in this show. If you haven’t seen Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, I highly recommend doing so!
What do you think of Garfield’s Halloween Adventure? How do you feel about Garfield overall? Tell us in the comments below!
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes