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Garfield's Thanksgiving

As a young child my family would make the annual trek from our home just north of New York City to Syracuse to visit my Aunt and Uncle and their large family of 7 children.  I remember not really enjoying the long drive, the cold weather, and the loud crowd of nearly 50 people (most of whom I didn't even know) at Thanksgiving Dinner.  We stopped making the trip when I was 7 or 8 and to be honest I was so young I don't remember much about the trips we did make... but I do remember one important event.  On our last trip one of my many cousins allowed me to take home a book I had picked up from his bedroom to read while the adults talked.

It was Garfield's Thanksgiving.

I read that book over and over again on the ride home and countless times after.  My Mom told me that it was already a movie and took me to the video store and we rented the VHS tape a few days later.  I was already a major fan of the Saturday morning cartoon "Garfield and Friends" but this made me like Garfield even more!  I'm not 100% sure but based on my age it had to only be a few years after it was released in 1989.  Garfield's Thanksgiving is now a must watch in my household as we gear up for the Thanksgiving holiday.

It's original broadcast date was November 22, 1989 on CBS featuring the iconic voice of Lorenzo Music as the voice of Garfield, the overweight orange cat.  In case you never had the pleasure of seeing Garfield, he lives with his owner Jon Arbuckle and Jon's dog Odie.  Garfield talks but Odie does not.  Garfield is rude and obnoxious but Odie is kind and loving.  Garfield only cares about lasagna and his stuffed teddy bear.  He HATES Mondays.

As the cartoon opens, Garfield and Odie team together early in the morning to wake Jon.  Acting like drill sergeants yelling at new recruits, Garfield demands breakfast.  After he eats, he notices the calendar on the wall.  To his horror, he discovers that he has an appointment with the vet, Dr. Liz Wilson, today!   In hopes Jon would forget, Garfield quickly erases the appointment but in the process he is reminded that tomorrow is Thanksgiving!  Garfield, always focused on food, demands Jon take him to the supermarket to purchase the food for a Thanksgiving feast.  On the way home from the supermarket, when Garfield thinks he's home free, Jon swings by the vet causing Garfield to panic.

Dr. Liz examines Garfield while Jon is busy sweet talking her into a date.  Dr. Liz is clearly not interested in dating Jon but she reports that Garfield (obviously) is too fat and must go on a diet.  Garfield begins to panic with the thought of not eating at Thanksgiving tomorrow.  Jon continues to annoy Liz enough until she agrees to go out with him.  She finally accepts his offer to come over for Thanksgiving dinner the following afternoon.

At home, Jon is so busy being excited over his date with Liz he is oblivious that Garfield is absolutely depressed at being put on a diet.  He is given half a leaf of lettuce for lunch while Odie defends the refrigerator from Garfield.  The lovable fat cat is repeatedly foiled by Odie as he tries to steal everything in the kitchen from cookies to a taste of salt.  Making himself feel even worse, he weighs himself on a talking scale and in a very dated reference in 2019, the talking scale compares him to Orson Welles.

On Thanksgiving morning Garfield awakes grumpier than usual.  Jon doesn't have a clue how to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner and didn't even thaw out the turkey overnight.  In one of my favorite gags as a kid, Jon reads the cook book's instructions to "rub butter on the skin" and lathers himself up in butter.  He roasts the turkey at 500 degrees in hopes to cook the turkey in a shorter amount of time.  When he leaves the room, Garfield sabotages the meal in anger by putting garlic powder on everything.

Later, Jon is shaving and picking out his suit in a chuckle inducing scene where he tries on various outfits.  Liz arrives and Jon runs to the door but when she comes in she points out he has forgotten to wear pants (this would not be ok in 2019).  While Jon finishes dressing, Liz spends some time with Garfield.  Liz begins to mention certain afflictions Garfield could be experiencing on his diet and Garfield begins exaggerating and pretending to suffer from everyone she mentions in some fun visual gags.   Liz begins to wonder if she was too hard on him with the diet and eventually, Dr. Liz decides the diet was too harsh and lets him off for Thanksgiving.  His elation is short lived as he remembers Jon's cooking and the side dishes he ruined with garlic powder.

Jon is in the kitchen facing a frozen turkey so Garfield convinces him to call Grandma who arrives in mere seconds.  She pushes Jon out of the kitchen and he decides to kill time and distract Liz with a history lesson style presentation about Thanksgiving.  Grandma cooks the meal in her own style... with a chainsaw.  She deep fries the sliced turkey and then makes her famous sweet potatoes with copious amounts of butter, sugar, and marshmallows.  Cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie complete the meal (of course!)

Granny slips out the back door as and Garfield tells Jon it's all ready.  Liz had fallen asleep from Jon's boring story but wakes and hurries in to the dining room to eat.  Afterwards, Liz declares she had a wonderful meal and puts her coat on to go home.  With a kiss on the cheek, she thanks Jon and agrees to come back next year.   Jon, Odie, and Garfield sit on the sofa with full bellies and they talk about being thankful on Thanksgiving, mostly for Grandma.  Jon decides to take a walk to work off the meal but Odie is too bloated from overeating to get up so Jon immediately puts him on the diet.  To close the show, Garfield gleefully forces Odie into push ups as payback.

The book I so fondly remember getting from my cousin was also titled "Garfield's Thanksgiving" but deviates slightly from the cartoon in a few ways.  In the book, Odie and the Orson Welles weight scale are not involved in tormenting Garfield.  Jon is too happy about having Liz come over for Thanksgiving that he is oblivious to Garfield's misery while in the cartoon he makes a few comments about it.  The book also spends more time on Jon's ruined Thanksgiving dinner but at the end, there is no mention of a new diet for Odie.  Instead, Odie and Garfield watch sleepily as Jon sees Liz out and the three agree that they have Grandma to thank.

Of all the Thanksgiving specials I have watched over the years this one is the least preachy.  It does touch slightly on the history lesson but quickly fades into the Grandma kitchen scene.  As an adult I appreciate Jon's story more now, just being so excited at "adulting" that the secondary details like actually learning how to cook seem to slip past him.

Garfield's sarcasm, over acting, food, fun, and warm fuzzy feelings make it a classic holiday cartoon.   The artwork and cartoon style of the late 80s, with it's solid lines, soft colors, and fuzzy focus makes me feel like a child all over again.  All in all it's a fun 25 minutes of Thanksgiving nostalgia that you should make a staple in your holiday viewing rotation.