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Garfield Holiday Collection: Collectors Edition DVD Review

Buy the Garfield Holiday Collection DVD set exclusively at Walmart Specials & DVD Details

Creator: Jim Davis / Writers: Jim Davis, Lorenzo Music, Kim Campbell / Director: Phil Roman

Regular Voice Cast: Lorenzo Music (Garfield), Thom Huge (Jon Arbuckle), Gregg Berger (Odie)

A Garfield Christmas (1987)
Garfield's Thanksgiving (1989)
Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985)
Garfield on the Town (1983)
Garfield in Paradise (1986)


Running Time: 145 Minutes (120 - specials, 25 - bonus) / Rating: TV-Y

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio) / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned; Extras Not Captioned or Subtitled
DVD Release Date: November 4, 2014 (Walmart Exclusive) / Originally Aired Between 1983 and 1989
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Specials previously released on the Fox DVDs Garfield As Himself (June 29, 2004), Garfield Holiday Celebrations (October 26, 2004), and Garfield Travel Adventures (February 15, 2005)

Buy the Garfield Holiday Collection DVD exclusively at Walmart

Shortly before and after he got his first Saturday morning cartoon series and long before starring in two live-action-with-CGI feature films, Garfield, the lasagna-loving, Monday-hating, lazy orange tabby cat created by Jim Davis, existed in newspaper comic strips and a number of 1980s primetime animated television specials.
Like Charles Schulz's Peanuts, which had successfully transitioned to animated TV specials nearly twenty years earlier, three of the early Garfield programs were half-hour observations of holidays.

Those three, celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, made for an obvious DVD collection. The 71-minute Garfield Holiday Celebrations was released by 20th Century Fox days before Halloween 2004 and just a week after the studio's coolly-received but ultimately sequelized Garfield: The Movie hit DVD. As something distributed but not produced by Fox, the '80s Garfield cartoons were among the various television properties that could easily change hands and suddenly go out of print. Holiday Celebrations did just that sometime prior to 2012. Not surprisingly, asking prices for the platter soared in the secondhand market. On Amazon right now, the cheapest you can find a used copy of the disc is over $50 shipped.

Garfield and Odie go trick-or-treating for candy, candy, candy in "Garfield's Halloween Adventure." Garfield is asked to put a star atop the Christmas tree in "A Garfield Christmas."

That would be money foolishly spent, because this week new Garfield distributor Anderson Digital releases Garfield Holiday Collection, a DVD that adds two additional '80s primetime specials and some bonus features to those three timely holiday specials that formed Holiday Celebrations. For the time being, it's a Walmart exclusive, but that will probably change by fall 2015 (if not sooner).
The suggested retail price is an agreeable $14.99, just one cent more than the less voluminous Celebrations' long since ignored SRP.

Though the packaging assigns these five specials a retroactive TV-Y rating, a TV-G would be more appropriate, since they truly possess general audience appeal. In fact, it's no stretch to say that these surely dated shows will do more as comfort food for children of the '80s than for today's kids weaned on animation adults would struggle to sit through.

Written by Davis, a complete novice to animation, the specials also hail from a plenty experienced crew. Director-producer Phil Roman had directed nearly 20 Peanuts specials starting with 1973's A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. His regular collaborators, Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, also produced the earliest special here, before Roman's just-launched Film Roman studio took over. Where those Peanuts specials had their signature sound of jazz music from the Vince Guaraldi Trio, Garfield's shows feature a number of appealing original songs performed by Lou Rawls and Desirée Goyette (who wrote the songs with her composer husband Ed Bogas, a soundtrack contributor of many '80s Peanuts 'toons).

Without further ado, here is a closer look at the new DVD's five old specials.

Jon's family celebrates Christmas in the country as they always do in "A Garfield Christmas." To Garfield's delight, Jon's Grandma saves Thanksgiving dinner with some kitchen heroics.

A Garfield Christmas (23:34) (First aired December 21, 1987)
Voice Cast: Lorenzo Music (Garfield), Thom Huge (Jon Arbuckle), Gregg Berger (Odie), Pat Carroll (Grandma), Pat Harrington Jr. (Dad), David L. Lander (Doc Boy), Julie Payne (Mom)

Christmas isn't quite the way Garfield dreamed it, as he, Jon and Odie head to Jon's parents' farm for a family holiday full of food and traditions. The special carries a 1991 copyright date because parts of the special were reanimated then.

Garfield's Thanksgiving (23:48) (First aired November 24, 1989)
Voice Cast: Lorenzo Music (Garfield), Thom Huge (Jon Arbuckle), Gregg Berger (Odie), Julie Payne (Dr. Liz Wilson), Pat Carroll (Grandma)

On the day before Thanksgiving, a visit to the vet gets Jon a date with Dr. Liz and Garfield instructions for a strict new health diet, which Odie enforces. At Garfield's suggestion, Jon calls his mother to help him with Thanksgiving dinner preparations.

This 110-year-old man understandably frightens Garfield and Odie on Halloween with a tale of ghost pirates. A stranded Garfield is shocked to stumble across his mother and his childhood home in 1983's "Garfield on the Town."

Garfield's Halloween Adventure (24:07) (First aired October 30, 1985)
Voice Cast: Lorenzo Music (Garfield), Thom Huge (Jon Arbuckle, Binky the Clown), Gregg Berger (Odie, TV Announcer), C. Lindsay Workman (Old Man), Desirée Goyette (Woman at Door)

Excited to get candy on his favorite holiday, Garfield goes trick or treating with Odie. Dressed as pirates, the two wind up in a boat that takes them to an island house where ghost pirates are expected. This fourth special was Garfield's third consecutive to win the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program, which it did by defeating only one other nominee: Garfield in Paradise.

Garfield on the Town (24:11) (First aired September 14, 1983)
Voice Cast: Lorenzo Music (Garfield), Thom Huge (Jon Arbuckle), George Wendt (Ràoul), Gregg Berger (Odie, Ali Cat), Sandi Huge (Garfield's Mom), Julie Payne (Dr. Liz Wilson), C. Lindsay Workman (Garfield's Grandfather), Allyce Beasley (Girl Cats 2 & 3), Desirée Goyette (Girl Cat 1)

In his second special, Garfield falls out the car window en route to the vet and finds himself stranded in the city, surrounded by tough alley cats and disinterested females. He then winds up back in the now ramshackle former Italian restaurant he used to call home and his mother, grandfather and cousins, all scrawny mousers, still do. For children's entertainment, this special is pretty dark and melancholy.

Garfield in Paradise (24:31) (First aired June 9, 1986)
Voice Cast: Lorenzo Music (Garfield), Thom Huge (Jon Arbuckle), Wolfman Jack (Chief), Frank Nelson (Hotel Clerk, Salesman), Gregg Berger (Odie, Pigeon), Desirée Goyette (Princess Owooda), Julie Payne (Mai-Tai, Stewardess), Nino Tempo (Monkey), Carolyn Davis (Woman Cat), Hal Smith (Off Camera Voice)

Jon, Garfield (posing as his son), and stowaway Odie fly to Paradise World for a tropical island vacation. They stay in a cheap motel, rent a classic car that breaks down, and meet a tribe that believes in volcano sacrifice, which just so happens to have love interests for Jon and Garfield. Garfield dreams of being in Hawaii instead.

"Garfield in Paradise" is the third oldest but by far worst-preserved cartoon on this DVD. Jon uses Garfield's Thanksgiving Eve vet's appointment to land a date with the not easily impressed Dr. Liz Wilson.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The age and frugality of these programs must be taken into consideration. Even so, you may be a little disappointed by the results. The low-definition picture cannot hide the specials' age. There are some imperfections that should not have been hard to clean up. The picture is definitely not as presentable as you'd expect from one of the major studios;
Warner has made older Peanuts specials look much better. On the other hand, the transfers do appear to look slightly better than the ones of the holiday collection Fox released ten years ago. And it's unlikely these will look any better anywhere else anytime soon.

The one really troubling presentation is Garfield in Paradise, whose picture is quite lacking and whose sound is practically unacceptable, as dialogue is drowned out by music. Garfield on the Town is fairly unsightly too. By comparison, the other three specials are relatively fine.

It is worth noting that the 1.33:1 specials (which actually perplexingly vary from 1.28:1 to 1.46:1) appear to be unusually encoded within a 16:9 frame with black bars on the sides. That's how Blu-ray handles Academy Ratio fare, but I'm not sure what it means for those still clinging to a 4:3 TV. It seems possible that such screens would display black bars on all four sides instead of just filling the screen. I don't have a way of knowing for sure.

Unfortunately, no English subtitles are supplied, with the disc instead including closed captions that will be inaccessible to many. (Fox's DVD offered English and Spanish subtitles as well as a Spanish dub.)

Jim Davis may draw Garfield digitally for his strip, but he still appreciates using marker and paper in "The House That Garfield Built." A brief trailer leaves you none the wiser as to what the Garfield Living Large app actually is.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

As mentioned above, the DVD includes three extras never before released on disc.

First and by far most significant is "The House That Garfield Built: A Visit with Jim Davis" (22:12), a new featurette.
In it, Garfield's creator demonstrates how he draws his strip digitally nowadays (he uses a marker and pad to draw the cat for us), gives you a tour of his company's scenic Indiana workplace filled with Garfield toys and art (I want to go!), and reflects on the holiday specials that make up the DVD's feature presentation. Though amateurishly shot and edited, this piece adds much value with the insight it provides into Garfield's maker and making.

A 32-second trailer promotes not very effectively Garfield Living Large, a free app of unknown purpose that was released last spring.

An image gallery still shows Garfield looking quite different in his 1978 debut. The creative use of little special-specific graphic cursors makes the DVD main menu slow and difficult to navigate.

Finally, an 18-still image gallery (1:48) displays vintage concept art, comic strips, a magazine cover, and behind-the-scenes looks of Jim Davis at work then and now, changing pictures every 6 seconds, but also allowing you to pause and skip forward or ahead.

The DVD features a silent, static 16:9 main menu whose most creative flourish is changing the cursor to suit the special (a design that slows down navigation considerably). The specials are suitably split into four chapters timed to commercial breaks.

The ordinary black keepcase places no inserts along the plain gray disc, but it is topped by a cardboard slipcover reproducing the front and back cover artwork, which do not necessarily make customers aware that these are classic 2D-animated specials.

Dressed as pirates, Garfield and Odie experience a fright on Halloween night.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Garfield Holiday Collection kindly returns five enduring 1980s animated TV specials to print. The DVD's picture and sound quality isn't always spectacular and the fluctuating aspect ratios are a puzzle, but the presentations are good enough considering the origins and a slight improvement over past releases. With the reasonable asking price and the addition of a really enjoyable tour of Jim Davis' studio, this release is easy to recommend to Garfield fans, cartoon buffs, and holiday enthusiasts who missed out on the Fox DVDs so long ago (which didn't fill up their discs as well). It's a set you're sure to revisit many a holiday season.

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Related Reviews:
New: Santa's Magic Toy BagCartoon Network Holiday Collection
Peanuts Deluxe Holiday CollectionAlvin and the Chipmunks: Classic Holiday Gift SetMickey's Christmas Carol
Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh YearAlvin and the Chipmunks: The ALVINNN!!! EditionThe Smurfs: Season One, Volume One

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Reviewed November 2, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1983-1991 United Media Productions and 2014 Anderson Digital. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.