Sometimes, Four Weeks of Shrieks breaks away from the Halloween theme more than I’d like it to. It’s hard to find something that fits into each category and also captures the spirit of the holiday at the same time; thankfully, Jim Davis’ annual Halloween hit from 1985, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, features quite a bit of trick-or-treating and a few ghosts as well.
Part of the reason why I’m covering this special has to do with the AV Club’s recent interview with Davis about the special, revealing quite a bit about the reasons for each arc of the episode. But more than that, I remember catching Garfield’s Halloween Adventure on TV one Halloween night at my aunt’s house. We used to go up there after trick-or-treating in my town, because a few of my aunts and uncles lived on the same street and it was easier to catch them all at once. By the time I started watching Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, my own Halloween night was almost over – so it prolonged my enjoyment of the holiday, watching as Garfield did his trick-or-treating.
My memories of the special were a little hazy, though; I was probably only 6 or 7, and one thing that I certainly couldn’t remember was the humor. Perhaps I didn’t get Garfield’s dry wit back then; now, I find Davis’ Garfield jokes absurdly funny, especially paired with the simpler animation of the time. I found that Garfield is actually kind of mean; he treats Odie like he’s retarded, steals things from John, and basically acts like the prickish cat he really is.
I have a hard time believing Garfield would be a readily accepted show in today’s PC world, especially with Garfield’s occasional mean-spirited nature. But it really does make for a fun time, watching him express his greed over “candycandycandycandy”; the first half of Garfield’s Halloween Adventure is about Garfield devising a plan to get the most candy in one night, using Odie as a second trick-or-treater so he can take that bag too. This portion is peppered with punchlines from Garfield, who makes wry comments about Odie’s stupidity.
That’s the ghost-less half of Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, but things get spookier from there. First Garfield finds that a lot of the people out on Halloween are sort of weirdos – stranger danger! – and then he decides to head across the river to get even more candy. There’s a theme about greed in here, that it’s dangerous to push for more than you actually need, and that translates in Garfield and Odie getting scared out of their minds by greedy pirates who return from the grave for their treasure.
As Davis points out in his interview, there’s no conclusion to Garfield and Odie’s adventure; whether the ghosts, and the man they find in the abandoned house who tells them the story of the pirates, are real is up to the viewer’s imagination. Could it perhaps be a sugar high due to the huge amount of candy Garfield consumed? Whatever the case, the ghosts are actually quite eerie thanks to the glowing detail that Davis used to accentuate them; they cast a weird light on the surroundings of the house, and the scene where they give chase is pretty intense for the otherwise lighthearted comedy of this special.
It’s no wonder, then, that many kids – including myself – recall this special, even if the specifics of it are lost within memory’s confines. The ghosts are the reason Garfield’s Halloween Adventure stands out – for a children’s show, it certainly does feel much spookier than the usual specials like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! The supernatural twist allows kids to experience the creeps without being too frightened; but it’s just enough of a thrill to keep them entertained on Halloween.