This October we will be reviewing a few of our very favorite Halloween specials and movies. Keep an eye out for these in the weeks to come, as we go back in time to reminisce on those classic films that had such a great impact on us over the years!
Garfield's Halloween Adventure is a half hour animated Halloween special based on the popular Garfield comic strip by Jim Davis. It originally aired in 1985 on CBS before 'It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown'. As a child I always remember these playing back to back, sometimes reversed, and it became a tradition I looked forward to every year. In fact, to this day I still insist on watching Garfield and Peanuts Holiday specials back to back, because that's what keeps the universe balanced for me! I was excited to even find this promo ad from the first year it aired, which definitely brought back memories (isn't YouTube great?):
The strange thing about this seemingly harmless kiddie special is that it's actually pretty scary. Even as an adult it still gives me chills! As a child I would be so spooked by the ghostly images, that after it aired I would go to bed, throw the covers over my head and try my best not to think of it. Even looking at the illustrations in the paperback version sent chills down my spine. Perhaps that is because the supernatural has always disturbed me, but I also credit Jim Davis with writing an effective Halloween tale, just scary enough to give a kid the creeps, but not overly scary that it becomes inappropriate. After all, isn't it the things that scare us as kids that usually has the strongest effect? And so it is with Garfield's Halloween Adventure...
The story begins early Halloween morning in which Garfield is abruptly awoken by The Binky the Clown Show, as he screams his ear piercing catchphrase, "HEYYYY KIDS!", to motivate them to do some jumping jacks. Garfield is of course having none of that, so he shuts off the TV immediately, but not before hearing him mention that "this is the night you can get a lot of CANDY!" Well, all that "CANDY, CANDY, CANDY, CANDY" definitely gets Garfield's attention and he's ready to go...after a quick nap, of course!
Soon after Garfield wakes up for the day, he heads up to the attic in search of something to wear. There is a cute little musical number here called "What Should I Be?" that features Garfield putting together various items of clothing in an old chest to make costumes. After going through a series of changes, Garfield finally selects the perfect costume and promises Odie his very own piece of Halloween candy if he helps him go door to door. Odie unwittingly agrees and off they go into the night dressed as fearsome pirates, in search of their plunder!
It doesn't take long for Garfield and Odie to finish trick-or-treating at all the nearby homes, but the night is still young and Garfield is becoming increasingly obsessed with how much candy he can collect. They come to a dock on the river and notice many more houses on the other side that are ripe for the picking. This gives Garfield a brilliant idea, and as luck would have it, tied to the end of the dock is a row boat with oars, so they decide to climb aboard and set sail for more treasure, as any good pirates would do.
They start out smoothly, but a current quickly takes them off course, down the river and further from the houses. They begin to panic, but eventually the boat lands on an island with a path that leads to a spooky old house, fitting the description of any classic haunted house. There's a light on in the window, so they foolishly decide to investigate.
The house appears deserted, yet there is a crackling fire lit in the fireplace. They decide to cozy up to and get warm, and just as their nerves begin to settle, they turn around and sitting in an arm chair is a creepy old man staring down at them! This of course causes them to scream in panic, but the old man quiets them down just long enough to tell them a dreaded tale of pirates and stolen treasure. A perfectly eerie tale for a spooky Halloween such as this!
He tells them of a ruthless band of Pirates who ended up on the island as they were running from government troops. They had amassed far too much treasure to carry with them, so they buried it under the house, but not before signing a contract in blood swearing to return from the grave in one hundred years on Halloween night at midnight to reclaim it. Wouldn't you know that the hundred year anniversary was that very night! Just moments before the clock strikes midnight they turn to leave, but the old man is nowhere to be seen. They head out to the boat, only to discover he has taken off in it, with their hard earned bags of candy along with it. Just then the clock strikes midnight and Garfield and Odie are stuck in search of a place to hide!
They see a ghost ship then appear on the water and find a small cabinet to hide in just before the ghost pirates enter the house to reclaim their ill gotten gains. They do their best to remain quiet through the ordeal, hoping for the moment to pass, but suddenly Odie sneezes and the doors to the cabinet fly open. The pair are discovered by the vicious ghosts who then begin to pursue them! The suspense and design of the ghosts in this scene are what always scared me most. The glowing, transparent figures looked as I imagined ghosts could look in real life.
Well, having no place else to go, Garfield and Odie run back to the river and decide to make a swim for it, but get swept up into the current once again. All seems to be lost as Garfield proves not to be a great swimmer and begins to go under. Odie saves the day and rescues Garfield, dragging him back onto the shore, ending up just where they started from! They decide to count their losses and head for home when lo and behold! They find the row boat with their bags of candy still in tact and are glad for a happy ending to the dreadful night after all.
Once safe at home, Garfield rethinks his greedy attitude. As a show of gratitude to Odie for saving his life, Garfield does the most difficult thing in the world for him; he gives Odie his half of the candy. This is a great sentimental moment between the two characters, as Garfield rarely shows his true affection for Odie. Usually he expresses disdain for the brainless pup, but most Garfield specials expose Garfield's softer side at some point toward his furry companion. It shows that just like members in our own family, they may drive us nuts, but deep down we really love them.
Just before bedding down for the night, Garfield decides to unwind with a little TV. He suddenly comes across an all-night pirate movie marathon, hosted by none other than the old man in the creepy house. This is a great twist, which allows the special to still end on an eerie note. Deciding he has had enough, Garfield shuts off the TV and does what he does best...goes to sleep.
Despite being well written and winning an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program in 1986, this special has sadly faded into obscurity. However, it still remains a personal favorite of mine and one that I can't skip or else it just won't feel like Halloween. Though it was once easy to find on DVD on the Garfield Holiday Celebration set, it is now out of print and quite expensive to find a new copy of. Used is a bit cheaper, but the good news is, it is available to rent on Amazon free to Prime members and only $1.99 for non-members! It's totally worth that, especially if it means sharing it with your own kids. I, for one, think it is still deserving of being called a classic!