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October 7th, 2012


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11:35 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Garfield's Halloween Adventure
Remember how I said I'd be half-assing it occasionally, when Real Life got in the way? Well, this is one of those nights. My plan when this happens is to revisit some of the Halloween TV specials of my childhood. Last year I tried watching The Witch's Night Out for the first time in at least twenty years, and found it incredibly mediocre. I've just repeated the experience with Garfield's Halloween Adventure (AKA Garfield in Disguise), and the results are about the same.

Look, I know you won't believe this, but it's true: Garfield used to be a funny comic strip with actual jokes. In fact, it was kind of edgy at the beginning, but modern readers generally don't know that because somewhere around the time I was getting old enough to read, Jim Davis started repeating the same handful of unfunny punchines: Mondays suck/spiders suck/coffee, lasagna, and sleep are awesome. When I was quite young, my mom would read the comics to me on Sundays, and I remember a recurring joke about Jon's subscription to a uh, men's magazine. Not exactly a goldmine of comedy, but I'm sure there were some good jokes to be rubbed out of that one. And hey, what about Jon's aunt, and her unhealthy obsession with celebrity chest hair? Or his mom and her uncomfortable jokes about possibly being pregnant? I am not making any of this up. Nor did I make up this strip which ran on October 27, 1989:



Seriously, what happened? I don't know for sure, and I'm not willing to delve into the history of Garfield to find out, but I think the qualitative downtick must have come when Jim Davis figured out that he could make More Money than God (or at least more money than Bil Keane) first by licensing his characters, then by watering them down to Marmaduke levels of innocuousness.

Garfield's Halloween Adventure is sadly -- though not surprisingly -- not as good as I remember it. It opens on Garfield waking up in front of the television where Binky the Clown is reminding viewers that it's Halloween, and you know what that means: candy! Garfield, reasoning that more bags means more candy, recruits Odie to carry a burlap sack. They dress as pirates, hit the streets, steal a rowboat, and end up docked in front of a spooky old mansion where they met an scary old man who is better animated than they are. The man tells them of how a band of pirates buried a treasure under the floorboards of the mansion and vowed to collect it on the centennial of the event (tonight). The old man runs off in the rowboat leaving Garfield and Odie to fend for themselves when the ghost pirates show up.

This stuff is all barely worth my time to write up. What can I say? It was not created with adults in mind and doesn't appeal much to me, even for nostalgia's sake. The screenplay by Jim Davis is badly paced because it was written at a time when TV specials were required to re-introduce all the characters for the benefit of grandma and grandpa, who still refer to comics as "the funny papers," and don't read them. More than half of the special's 24-minute running time is dedicated to re-introducing old characters, and the ghost pirates show up during the last five minutes. It doesn't help that there are a few weird, unnecessary musical numbers. Garfield's singing voice is done both by Lou Rawls and Lorenzo Music, whose voices are almost completely dissimilar. The voice acting (five actors doing seven voices) is acceptable. Lorenzo Music, who was the voice of Garfield until he died in 2001 is good -- his is the voice I hear when I suffer through Garfield comics, though he might not have been flattered to hear it stated like that. The animation, crude by today's computer-assisted standards, is pretty middle-of-the-road for mid-'80s television.

Still, it won a prime-time Emmy. No, I don't know why.

I have to say, no matter how much flak Peanuts takes, that It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! holds up really well. Disney's Halloween cartoons, which belong to a much higher class of television, are also still enjoyable. Most of the other Halloween specials of my childhood? Not so much.

You can watch the whole thing on YouTube, if you have the patience. Really, it's not so bad, but why dredge up a childhood memory just to rake it over the coals?

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31 Days of Halloween: Garfield's Halloween Adventure - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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