My parents are geniuses. As each holiday rolled around in the days way before such things as DVR, they would record as many animated holiday specials as they could so I could watch them as much as I liked when that holiday would wind back around. My favorite of all of these, of course, was Halloween.
Everyone can think of their favorites to watch from childhood. There’s the dancing skeletons from Disney’s Halloween compilation of cartoons and songs, where I discovered Chernobog and the beauty of “Fantasia” for the first time. And seriously, if you don’t know who the Great Pumpkin is, and why Linus is sitting in the pumpkin patch as Charlie Brown collects rocks, then I can’t know you. Seriously, just page back off this article and forget my existence.
There was one special that seemed to fade into oblivion as the years wore on, though. A special that to this day I reference any time trick-or-treating rolls around. Our favorite fat cat, Garfield, had his moment in the moonlight too, but people tend to forget to mention it nowadays. I often have wondered why, remembering Garfield’s chant of candy, the jazzy soundtrack and his adorable pirate costume fondly. But I seemed to have missed one small detail.
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure is a terrifying mindf&ck of a show.
Let me explain. At the time, my young little self had no problem watching this show. I knew all the little diddies in it, I ran around reciting it. I loved Garfield, and Odie, and Jon and am still a huge fan to this day. It wasn’t until revisiting it as an adult that I stare at the screen and wonder how the hell I survived this with a smile on my face.
Garfield is a lazy lump of a cat, as most cats are. He loves his sleep, he loves his food, he loves…nope, that’s pretty much the list. He’s a jerk, but a lovable jerk, and as long as he has a steady supply of lasagna coming his way, everything is copacetic. One day, Garfield is woken up by a shrieking clown on the TV explaining why Garfield needs to get into shape for Halloween, because in this world I guess doing seven jumping jacks makes you a beast of an athlete. Oh, if only that were true.
The clown informs Garfield of a holiday that he was as of yet unaware of, in which people dress up in costume and get candy from the houses in their neighborhood, (re: Halloween.) Garfield is scandalized by this knowledge, having been missing out on another holiday involving food all these years. Not only that, but it’s so simple, there’s no trees or bunnies or having to be nice, just candy. So he sets about getting a costume together, preparing for the festivities. Enlisting his faithful numbskull of a friend Odie, he informs Jon he’s going out for a night on the town plundering and pillaging as Orangebeard the Pirate, with his trusty first mate, and heads out on his adventure.
The night wears on and eventually both our animals have sacks filled to bursting with candy. But in true Garfield fashion it simply isn’t enough. He realizes that if they can get across the river to the houses on the other side, there would be a whole new neighborhood to pillage. So in a boat perfect for our stalwart pirates they set out on their voyage. The problem is, though, that the boat is carried downstream, and they have gotten very far from home. Fortunately, they come across a house on the shore and believe themselves to be saved!
They get out of the boat, open the door…
And come face to face with this.
Talk about a hard left turn.
The old man instantly dives into a story about pirates burying treasure 100 years ago whose ghosts were scheduled to reclaim it that very night. How does he know? Because he was a 10 year-old cabin boy at the time. Which means this dude is 110 years old. Turns out he’s pretty spry for a centenarian though because as soon as he finishes his traumatic storytime session he promptly vanishes.
Odie don’t play that.
The intrepid pair run out into the night only to find their boat is gone, and the pirates are on the way. They try to hide, but eventually are found by the ghostly pirates, which causes them to run from the house, nearly die on the dock and plunge into the water, where Garfield nearly drowns but is rescued by Odie and dragged to shore.
We then shake it off, discover the boat with the candy in tact, head home happy ever after and decide to act like nothing happened.
I genuinely don’t know how I watched this as a kid ad nauseum like I did and not have a nervous break. When I saw it was streaming on Hulu Plus for the holiday I got massively excited and have since watched it several times. But each time I do, I at least have one moment where I find myself in a spiral of unanswered questions.
“How the hell did I watch this and not dissolve into hysterical tears?”
“How am I not terrified of the elderly, pirates, or water?”
“How can Garfield almost die and be totally ok with this information?”
“How did I not wake up screaming in the night, clawing at my parent’s grandfather clock when it rang midnight?”
So many questions. No answers.
I do believe by uncovering this long-lost gem from my childhood has in turn found another piece to the puzzle that makes me Stephanie, though. By watching this I have come to the conclusion that Garfield’s Halloween Adventure” is what primed me for a life obsessed with Burton movies, paranormal investigation shows, nearly every horror movie I come across, the color black and Joss Whedon (because Joss Whedon destroys my soul, yet I return for more.) By watching this enough that I didn’t blink at the horror of it, to have dancing skeletons and mountain demon-god things set to classical music glowing from my house’s TV screen for a month every year, I was indoctrinated into a life of gothic oddity. My first imaginary friend was a little skeleton my height when I was 3, who would visit me in my dreams through a little wooden door for god’s sake. I was doomed from the start.
Besides running around and screaming while everything was going down, Garfield dealt with all of it with a sigh and a shrug. Maybe that’s how I processed it. This is definitely one of those moments I wish I could ask 3 year-old me what was going on in my brain. Between this and my obsession with “Ghostbusters,” which is the first movie I ever saw, I was destined to be a little left of center when it came to my tastes in entertainment. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If it wasn’t bad enough to make Garfield lose a wink of sleep, it should do the same for me, I suppose. You put a lot of power in your childhood idols. It’s so easy to think you will be ok as long as Garfield says it is, or Elmo, or My Little Pony. We pray to our cartoon gods, and rest better at night for it.
And although he may be lazy, and he may be fat, the one thing Garfield’s not is a scaredy cat.