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Garfield in Paradise

When I was a kid, I always wanted to fly like Superman.  I had hoped to one day take a running leap and fly into the air.  Think of the things you could do or see with that superpower!  Not to mention the convenience and ease of travel!

Unfortunately, I figured out quite early that superpower would never come to be, and quickly airplanes became the next best thing.  

From a fairly early age, my parents would take us to Florida to visit my grandparents, Disney World, or elsewhere.  I'm fortunate my parents valued these experiences more than toys or things, and we got to travel often as kids.  Frequently, the best part of the trip for me was always the plane ride.  Even as a very little kid at an early age, I loved anything to do with airliners.  Unlike some kids, I never got into fighter jets or military planes.  For me, it was always about airliners and the perceived glamor of air travel. 

Growing up, I'd devour any book, movie, or television show with airplanes.  I'd wear out the books and videos I could find, repeating them over and over as I envisioned myself in the Captain's seat jetting off to some far away, exotic place.  

In the late 80s and early 90s, when Saturday morning cartoons were still a thing, "Garfield and Friends" was one of my favorites and was always on the schedule.  No, really, for a long time as a young child, I would handwrite a schedule of television shows copied from the TV Guide.  I'd pick and choose my Saturday morning routine and then "consult the schedule" to make sure I saw the programs I wanted to see.  I'd frequently make it a habit to watch cartoons from the moment I woke up straight through to noon when they switched over to other programming, much to my parent's chagrin.  

During that time, Garfield, the orange cartoon cat, hit meteoric heights in popularity.  He was seemingly everywhere, selling many books, novelties, apparel, and other merchandise.  As a matter of fact, my parents still have my old Garfield bed sheets, and my daughter slept on them the last time we were at their house!  How cool is that?

As part of that rise in popularity, or perhaps the cause of it, was the release of twelve half-hour-long animated prime-time specials on CBS between 1982 to 1991.  All twelve were directed by Phil Roman and written by Garfield creator Jim Davis.  The great Lorenzo Music voiced Garfield in all of them.

Mom and Dad would record them on VHS for us to watch, as at that age, we were often in bed or heading to bed before the special would air at 8 or 9.  Of course, everyone remembers and rewatches Garfield's Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas specials as iconic representations of holidays during the 80s.  I've written about Garfield's Halloween and Thanksgiving before, which you can find by clicking the links above.  I also wrote about some of my other favorite specials, which you can read about HERE.

Garfield in Paradise was one special that always stood out as important to me.  Back in the dark ages, when we didn't have the internet, it wasn't so easy to find information about stuff, especially when you didn't know the name of what you were looking for.  I was very little when my parents taped "Garfield in Paradise" for me.  The special was released in 1986, and they probably recorded it a few years later when my brother and I were into the weekend cartoon.  In any event, I was under 5 years old.  

For years I just thought of this as some weekend cartoon episode where he was on a plane.  I vividly remembered Garfield being on a plane but couldn't find the episode anywhere.  Remember, there were no on-demand or search engines or anything.  Decades later, when the internet became a thing, I discovered Garfield in Paradise again!  I must not be alone because one of the comments on a Youtube clip of this special was (paraphrasing), "For 30 years, I thought this was just a fever dream as a kid.  Now I know I'm not crazy."  

I feel that comment.  Especially as I continue to search for a random orange soda brand that I clearly remember from the 90s.  It was super important to me back then, but nobody in my family remembers ever buying it.  I know I didn't make it up, but I can't find it anywhere.  Either way, this article is about something else that's orange... Garfield!

As a kid, I always assumed my parents started the tape a little late when they recorded this Garfield special, and we missed the first few minutes.  However, they turned the VCR on just in time to a significant part, for me anyway.  As the recording begins, Garfield and Jon are boarding an airplane!    

I didn't care what I had missed before that set up the episode, but I kept rewinding the entire scene when they were on the plane, over and over.  Soon, the plane lands on a tropical island, and their adventure begins.  Could it get any better for a kid who loved airplanes and the idea of travel?  As a youngster, I frequently turned the VCR off after the plane landed, as my interest quickly moved on to something else.

This special has excellent animation, catchy songs, and a pretty entertaining storyline.  Throughout the cartoon, the background image is painted with vibrant, beautiful tropical colors that evoke the thoughts and memories of summertime vacations to some far-off, exotic, tropical paradise.  The shades and hues used to depict the lush palms, sunny beaches, and crystal clear skies really catch my eye and bring the tropical island of Paradise World to life.  

Rewatching this recently, I realized that all of these years that I thought my parents started the tape late, the episode started just as they arrived at the airport and boarded the plane.  A brief song introduces the special, but it's more of an advertisement for the airline Jon is about to fly on.  As planes zip around the airport tarmac, the lyrics of the song are:

"With the golden promise of the sun, we're the gateway to vacation and some fun.   We seat you, we feed you, but most of all, we need you... otherwise, our flying days are done."  Ain't that the truth?

Jon climbs aboard the plane and announces he can't wait to get to Paradise World, which later Garfield reminds us is only because Jon is too cheap to pay for Hawaii.  Garfield appears embarrassed, dressed in a suit and cap, and Jon reminds him he needs to pretend Garfield is his son to allow him to sit in a seat because pets are supposed to be down below with the luggage.  I guess that's good enough for Odie because he's nowhere to be found.

The flight attendant asks where he's seated, and Jon mumbles, "Third Class."  The flight attendant's demeanor changes, and she brusquely tells him to head to the back of the plane.  Slumped in shame, Jon walks through the plane toward third class, where the seats progressively worsen.  He arrives in third class to find small, dirty, broken seats.  

Garfield reminds Jon that when you travel, you must pay for respect.  Sadly, that's the truth these days.  

As the plane takes off, a dream sequence and the first of several songs begin.  Garfield is singing to many adoring female fans as Garfield Ho, a spoof of Hawaiian legend Don Ho, famous for his song "Tiny Bubbles."  Turbulence upsets his dream, and he's returned to the reality of cattle class flying.  

The plane arrives on the tropical volcanic island, and the two arrive at Paradise World Seaside Motel.  The lobby is decked out in kitschy tiki decor, and the "Rooms Cheap" sign is a nice touch.  A sleazy-looking attendant arrives at the front desk, where Jon checks into his reservation for "your cheapest room, the Jack Benny suite."  

For anyone born after 1950, Jack Benny was famous for playing a character that was "the cheapest man in the world."  It must have been a joke for the parents watching with their children in 1986.  The sleazeball hotel employee was voiced by Frank Nelson, famous for his catchphrase "Eeee-Yesssss" on shows like I Love Lucy, The Addams Family, and, wouldn't you know it, The Jack Benny Show. 

Jon asks for directions to the beach, and the man laughs, saying despite the fact this is the Seaside Motel, he'll need a helicopter to find it!  Arriving at the room, the walls are damaged, the bed sags and the door falls clear off the hinge.  Garfield begins to unpack, and when he opens a suitcase, out pops Odie!  So THAT'S where he's been hiding.  Garfield has a funny line: "One minute I'm sitting happily at home minding my own business, next thing I know I'm traveling third class with a fourth class owner to stay at a fifth class hotel to sleep with a sixth class mutt."  

Jon is pleasantly surprised that Odie smuggled himself in the suitcase to join them on vacation.  I suppose that means he planned to leave Odie home alone? 

After finding the pool empty of water, Jon decides to control his destiny and rent a car to have fun in the sun on a beach!  An identical sleazeball is behind the counter at the car rental place, and when questioned, he says he has a brother in the motel business.  The only car he has available is a "vintage model with a few personality quirks."  

Jon, Garfield, and Odie are disappointed but agree to take the car anyway.  When the rental car slimeball presents them with the car, they fall in love with a vintage, fire-engine red Chevrolet Bel Air.  Happy their luck is changing, the three set off to cruise in style with another musical number about beach, babes, and summertime fun.  They spend time at the beach, but Garfield would rather drive around in the rental car.  

The volcano at the center of the island rumbles, and the car suddenly grows a mind of its own.  It speeds off, steering itself deep into the jungle as Jon is helpless behind the wheel.  When it stops in the middle of a village, Jon and Garfield are terrified at the many pairs of eyes watching them.  

Of course, the car refuses to start as a group of natives come out of their building and approach the vehicle.  Suddenly, they kneel down and begin worshipping the Bel Air.  They chant "chrome" over and over as they bow down before the classic car.  From behind, a voice says he's the village Chief (voiced by legendary DJ Wolfman Jack).  

He explains that in 1957, "The Cruiser," a James Dean or Arthur Fonzarelli look-a-like came into the village with a similar car.  He taught them the ways of the world, like using ballpoint pens.  The volcano was going to blow one day, and "The Cruiser" saved the village by driving his Bel Air into the active volcano to "plug the hole."  The volcano has been dormant ever since... until today. 

The Chief gets one of his people, Monkey (Grease-Monkey), to look at the car and demands that Monkey have it fixed by dark.  He asks Jon, Garfield, and Odie to enjoy his village, people, and even his daughter Owooda.  Jon is instantly head over heels for the beautiful Owooda, and Garfield takes an interest in Mai-Tai, Owooda's cat.  

The volcano rumbles, and suddenly Owooda decides to throw herself and her cat into the volcano to save her people.  The Princess walks off with her cat, horrifying Jon and Garfield.  The townspeople, however, excitedly chant, "Throw her in!"  The Chief doesn't seem to mind, either.  As Owooda approaches the edge, the volcano blows her backward down the hill.  The village appears to be doomed.  

The Chief then decides that the volcano doesn't want his daughter but wants Jon's rented Bel Air.  The mechanic and Odie get it started, and the car takes off for the mouth of the volcano on its own.  Garfield begs Odie to jump out of the car, but it flies over the edge deep into the bubbling volcano.  As it erupts, the ghost of "The Cruiser" and the red convertible float up into the heavens.  

Garfield sadly says goodbye to Odie and admits that he'll miss him.  As everyone returns to the village, Odie and Monkey climb out of the volcano.  The village celebrates as the credits roll to Garfield's "Hello Hawaii" song from the earlier dream sequence.  

As of writing, Garfield and Friends and the twelve prime-time specials are available for free on Tubi!