Friday, April 7, 2017
A Quick Look at TV: GARFIELD AND FRIENDS
I believe this image is actually from one of the video featurettes which preceded the popular and long-running Saturday morning cartoon series Garfield And Friends. As one might expect, the show was an animated adaptation of the wildly popular newspaper strip by cartoonist Jim Davis (not to be confused with the actor Jim Davis). Two Garfield cartoons (and a "Quickie" often based on a Sunday strip) sandwiched a back-up cartoon adapted from Davis' lesser-known strip U.S. Acres (reportedly, it was this segment that Davis wanted to headline the show). The Garfield segments were expansions of everything we'd come to know from the strip, as we followed the adventures of gluttonous, TV-watching, ever-napping house-cat Garfield and his often hapless owner Jon Arbuckle. Arbuckle was a cartoonist, something which was referenced far more frequently in the cartoon than is was in the newspaper strip, though it was still pretty peripheral. The animated Jon was marginally less pathetic than his print counter-part, and seemed to be doing better financially. He managed to cope with Garfield's out-of-control behavior, which included routine pestering of Jon's dog, Odie, and a militant hatred of occasional visitor Nermal, The World's Cutest Kitten. Over at U.S. Acres, level-headed pig Orson tried to referee the situations born of prankster rooster Roy, cowardly duck Wade, laid-back sheep Bo and his constantly aggravated sister Lanolin, adventurous chick Booker and his calmer, still-in-the-shell brother, Sheldon. The aesthetic of Garfield And Friends was a combination of earlier Warner Brothers and Tex Avery cartoons, with constant poking of fun at the very fact that it was a Saturday morning cartoon show. There was regular breaking of the forth wall and gags involving the behind-the-scenes crew. The characters were obviously actors playing parts which mirrored their real personas. One cartoon showed Garfield accidentally walk off of his set onto another show -a science fiction series with giant robots (complete with a new style of animation)! The animation was deceptively simple in design, but could occasionally be rather wild in execution, particularly on the U.S. Acres segments. Pop culture references were frequent, and of a sort embraced by later Steven Speilberg shows like Animaniacs and Freakazoid!, such as visual gags where a ship of galley slaves always included a caricature of Charlton Heston, or a character stopping by who for no reason had the voice and mannerisms of Gregory Peck. At any given moment, a character could reference/impersonate Jack Benny or Ed Sullivan. Old pros like Pat Buttram, June Foray, and Carl Ballentine were frequent supporting voices. Sportscaster Chick Hearn even parodied himself by playing a commentator during a sports spoof. There was even irreverent spoofing of network guidelines and current events (dig the U.S. Acres segment which parodies -as a background bit- the ozone layer hysteria of the day). The show gave it's youthful audience a lot of credit, and on top of that was very funny. Lorenzo Music perfectly voiced the pasta-loving feline, and the show's music coordinators did some excellent work. Lasting for seven seasons, Garfield and Friends was one of the truly great Saturday morning series produced before the format began to target older audiences with material far less sophisticated than this. Everyone who worked on the series can be proud of their contribution to pop culture.