There's a lot to be said about the popularity of Garfield, the tubby orange cat who's appeared in newspapers worldwide since June of 1978. At the time, the strip was a unique concept and deserving of its time in the spotlight. Of course, the level of success Garfield has achieved over the years has been phenomenal: creator Jim Davis has built nothing short of an empire based around the character, and it doesn't look to be ending anytime the near future.
Whether that's good or bad is a matter of opinion.
For those unfamiliar with the comic strip (both of you), the cast of characters is simple: Garfield, the fat feline, takes pride in being lazy, causing trouble, and eating everything in sight. Odie the dog is a sidekick of sorts: loveable, cheerful, and dumb as a post. Jon is the owner of the two, and leads a pathetically dull life; in short, the majority of his Friday nights are spent organizing his sock drawer. Unfortunately, these characters haven't changed much since the strip's creation.
Because of this, there are many who say that Garfield is well past his prime…and they're entirely correct, in my opinion. His 25th "birthday" has come and gone, and yet the comic strip still appears daily. It's degenerated from a once-unique concept into a watered-down parody of itself---a one-trick pony, if you will (I won't even start on the movie, so I'll save that rant for another day). Still, despite the lack of real creativity in recent years, Garfield remains a highly popular and recognizable icon of the cartoon world. From 1982-1991, Garfield made his biggest splash on the small screen: roughly 11 half-hour TV specials were produced (in addition to the long-running Garfield & Friends animated series), and chances are you've seen most of them.
The three classic specials included here in Garfield Holiday Celebrations are easily some of the best-loved. In Garfield's Halloween Adventure (seen at top), he and Odie head out for trick-or-treating but end up in a spooky haunted house. This special originally aired in 1985 and has actually holds up pretty well since then. It's probably one of my favorites from childhood, even though the scary old guy in the haunted house (seen at the bottom) still freaks me out a little.
Also included here is Garfield's Thanksgiving (seen above), the 1989 special about everyone's favorite do-nothing day...unless you're the one cooking. I'll admit that this one was the newest to me, as I've probably only seen it once or twice before now (my extended family usually opts for football). While it's probably the weakest of the three, it still has good reason to be included in the lineup.
Last but not least, we have the perennial favorite: A Garfield Christmas Special (seen below), which I've seen at least a few dozen times since its first broadcast in 1987. With a thoughtful story and an actual moral (remember when most cartoons had those?), it's a classic special that has really aged well. It's a safe bet that A Garfield Christmas Special is probably the most popular of the three, and the producers seem aware of this too (it's featured on the DVD's main menu).
In a similar fashion to Garfield as Himself, Fox Home Entertainment has packaged Garfield Holiday Celebrations as a three-episode, one-disc affair. At just over 70 minutes, it's a little short but still a great slice of 1980s nostalgia. While Garfield isn't necessarily the pinnacle franchise for cartoon holiday entertainment (I'd probably give that honor to the blockhead himself, Charlie Brown), these three specials make for a satisfying combination that no holiday playlist should be without. With a rock-bottom retail price of $15, it also won't put much of a dent in your holiday shopping budget either. With that said, let's see how this disc stacks up, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Presented in their original TV-friendly 1.33:1 aspect ratios, these three specials looked pretty good. Don't get me wrong: these won't stack up to any recent releases, as there are still many glaring imperfections to be found. There's a bit of dirt present, and some of the color and image detail is fairly inconsistent (much like early episodes of The Simpsons, only more so), but most of these problems seem to be source material issues. In any case, they look better than the original TV broadcasts (and your dubbed VHS tapes). Basically, it comes down to this: I know these specials could have been cleaned up a little more, but most fans won't be disappointed with the effort put forth here.
These specials have been presented in their original Mono (a Spanish track has also been included) and sound pretty decent for their age. While some of the music is a little flat, dialogue comes through nicely and never fights for attention. The overall quality isn't anything to write home about, but it's a perfectly acceptable presentation that gets the job done. By the way, you might want to set your receiver to 'Stereo' here: while it won't add a great deal to the overall audio presentation, it certainly makes for a wider and fuller soundstage. English and Spanish subtitles have also been included.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
Although the menus are static with no sound, the colorful designs and easy navigation make up for it. All of the included cartoons are presented with their own sub-menus, including audio setup and other options. Each of these three 23-minute cartoons has also been divided into three chapters, and no layer change is present here (it's a single layer disc). The packaging is fairly standard, featuring colorful artwork and a black keepcase. Although I'm not surprised that an insert hasn't been included, I'm extremely shocked that there's no advertisement for Garfield merchandise.
Unfortunately, there was a total lack of bonus materials here. I doubt there was much to choose from, but Garfield's been around for three decades...you'd think they could have thrown something in the pot. I'd have loved to hear an audio commentary by Jim Davis (or at least an interview!), or even some art galleries or other promotional material. While it's nice to have three vintage TV specials on DVD, the lack of extras really lessens the overall impact of these classic cartoons.
As a "movie-only" disc, Garfield Holiday Celebrations isn't a bad deal, featuring a few modestly-restored classic TV specials for a very reasonable price. Although the technical presentation could have been improved a bit, these three cartoons look a little better than you might remember. While I can't help but be severely disappointed about the complete lack of bonus materials, Garfield Holiday Celebrations is still a classic collection of cartoons that any respectable fan of animation should check out. Despite its relatively short running time, consider this disc Recommended.
Other Recommended Reviews
Garfield As Himself
Garfield & Friends Season 1
A Charlie Brown Valentine
Randy Miller III is a verbose art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.