Thursday, December 13, 2018

Nostalgia Bomb! - A Garfield Christmas

What was it?
A Garfield Christmas was the seventh Garfield television special directed by Phil Roman and written by Garfield creator Jim Davis for CBS between 1982 and 1991.

A Garfield Christmas is often referred to as A Garfield Christmas Special, as well, as it is here on the title card

The specials were initially produced by Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, but as their company was primarily focused on producing the famous Peanuts TV specials, Phil Roman later took on the producer role, as well.

It aired for the first time on December 21st, 1987 with a run-time of 24 minutes and featured music by Ed Bogas and DesirĂ©e Goyette, with the singing talents of Lou Rawls. Garfield was famously voiced by Lorenzo Music, who voiced everyone's favourite grumpy orange cat in each of the Phil Roman specials. Thom Huge and Gregg Berger voiced John and Odie, as they did in all of the other specials as well, and Pat Carroll played John's grandmother, famous for her many acting roles and her portrayal of Ursula in Disney's The Little Mermaid.

This particular episode featured John, Garfield, and Odie heading off to the Arbuckle family farm for a good old fashioned Christmas.

When was it available?

The special was aired every Christmas on CBS from 1987 to 2000, at which point it inexplicably dropped off their holiday schedule. In 2004 the DVD Garfield's Holiday Celebrations was released, which included A Garfield Christmas, as well as other holiday favourites Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985) and Garfield's Thanksgiving (1989). From my understanding the DVD was produced until at least 2007 and after its production run became a highly sought after collector's item, fetching big sums on eBay.

A second DVD was released in 2014 as a Walmart exclusive and featured the same episodes as the 2004 disc, but also added Garfield on the Town (1983) and Garfield in Paradise (1986), which aren't really holiday-themed, but are a nice addition. This DVD is also out-of-print and fetches high prices on reseller sites.

What about today?
In 2017 A Garfield Christmas was released on streaming services Amazon Prime Video and Apple iTunes in the US. One thing to note, however, is that there were some oddities with the final DVD release of A Garfield's Christmas, such as a scene featuring John's brother "Doc Boy" and Grandma playing Christmas music on the family piano, which was removed. This is the version that can be streamed from the above services, so it typically rubs viewers the wrong way!

Garfield Holiday Celebrations DVD from 2004

I personally streamed it from YouTube this year. There are several uploaders with the special on their channels. I'm pretty certain that none of them are legit, however, and could likely be stuck with copyright notices at any moment, so linking one here would probably be folly. If you want to watch the original special intact, however, this is probably the best avenue. The version I watched was at least DVD quality and contained all the scenes and original music.

Why do I remember it?
A Garfield Christmas is one of my absolute favourite Christmas TV specials of all time and I've done my best to take it in every single Christmas all these years.

After it stopped airing on TV, I was forced to become a pirate and find sites that either streamed the show or allowed for a download. Once I had a copy of the special that I liked downloaded, I often went back to that copy in subsequent years, but I've found YouTube pretty reliable as of late. I personally never saw the aforementioned DVDs, so from 2001 onward getting my Garfield fix at Christmastime became a yearly mission.

Up until the last few years, I had a copy on my tablet that I would break out when I was wrapping presents, alongside a copy of A Muppet Family Christmas, which is another amazing Christmas special from '87 that doesn't air on TV any longer and has a shoddy history on DVD.

The Arbuckles gather 'round Grandma as she receives here gift from Garfield

A Garfield Christmas is purportedly an autobiographical account of Jim Davis' personal Christmas memories and features a really fun look at the Arbuckle Christmas, but also has a sub-plot about John's Grandma that will get you right in the feels.

The music in this special is on-point with great tunes sung by Lou Rawls that you'll find yourself singing around the house right alongside Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley.

I cannot fathom why this special isn't aired today alongside all the other greats, like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. In fact, CBS usually aired A Garfield Christmas right next to the Peanuts classic from '87 to 2000. I can't find any solid information on why the show was dropped, but it could just be due to viewer count, I suppose.

A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Garfield Christmas commerical from CBS

The fact that the scene with Doc Boy and Grandma playing the piano was dropped from DVD releases kind of makes me wonder if there's some sort of rights issue at play, but they're playing "O Christmas Tree", so I find it hard to believe that's the problem in this case.

Although it was hard to find for almost 20 years, outside of a few DVD releases, which I personally never saw here in Canada, you can now enjoy A Garfield Christmas via streaming services (in the US, at least) or on YouTube, and I can't recommend enough that you give it a watch.

I viewed the show with my kids this year and I saw them laugh and sing along at the same spots I did when I was growing up, which made this year's viewing all the more special.

And that's why A Garfield Christmas is a blast from my past, but also - hopefully - a future family tradition!

Hope you enjoyed,