If you were asked to name a cartoon cat, Garfield comes to most people’s minds; the overweight orange kitty from the comics who loves lasagna and hates Mondays. He had in his own animated series for seven seasons on Saturday mornings and stars in the most popular comic strip worldwide. Was there ever any question that you could keep this fat cat off TV for long?
Back in the late 1980s, based on the enormous popularity of the Jim Davis comic strip and several prime-time animated specials, Garfield was given his own animated series. Like the comic strip, the series focused on the adventures of the sarcastic feline along with dippy dog Odie and bachelor cartoonist Jon Arbuckle. The characters shared the series with a cast of farm animals from another Jim Davis strip entitled U.S. Acres.
Garfield and Friends debuted on CBS on Saturday, September 17, 1988 and ran for seven seasons, one of the longest runs of its kind. The 120+ half hours remain very popular today and are thankfully all available on DVD. Part of the reason for the series’ endurance is because of the often tongue-in-cheek storylines and the excellent voice work. At one point, it was reported that 40% of the series audience was made up of adults.
Comedy writer and veteran voice artist Lorenzo Music (who you may remember as the never-seen Carlton the Doorman from the 1970s sitcom Rhoda) played the tubby tabby. The rest of the cast included Gregg Berger, Desiree Goyette, Thom Huge, Victoria Jackson, Howard Morris, Julie Payne and Frank Welker. The guest cast was equally impressive and included legendary Hollywood talent like Pat Buttram, June Foray, Stan Freberg, Chick Hearn, James Earl Jones, Don Knotts , Robin Leach, John Moschitta, Rod Roddy and Paul Winchell. Part of the reason for the series’ incredible voice talent was due to series writer/co-producer Mark Evanier’s appreciation for unique but too-often underutilized screen and voice actors.
The U.S. Acres strip ended in 1989 but Garfield continues to be one of the most popular comic strips worldwide. In addition, two live-action/CGI Garfield films have been released over the past few years. Though neither were blockbusters in the U.S., both have been quite profitable — if for no other reason than reinforcing the Garfield brand. It’s no surprise then that Garfield is coming back to the small screen.
Evanier has revealed that a new Garfield series is currently being planned. The new series, which he’ll be writing & voice directing, will be produced and distributed by Davis’ company Paws, Inc. in partnership with Dargaud Marina S.A. of Paris. Interestingly enough, the tubby tabby series will be produced in both French and English. The show will be CGI and computer-animated but Garfield will look like his classic animated self rather than the recent film version.
Unfortunately, Lorenzo Music passed away in 2001 so an as-yet-unamed new voice talent had to be chosen (not Bill Murray) to voice the kitty in the new series. The first season will consist of 26 episodes and it sounds like a very good possibility that more will follow. It’s unknown right now how the series will be distributed or when it will actually debut but rest assured, when Garfield returns, no lasagna will be safe. Stay tuned!