It’s that time of year again when Halloween specials from our childhood are being re-broadcast to the masses and a whole new generation will be introduced to the seminal classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Few things are more synonymous with the Halloween season than Charlie Brown in his misshapen ghost costume announcing “I got a rock” while out trick or treating with his friends.
While I would never begrudge Peanuts fans their trip down memory lane–I myself take that trip at least once or twice every Halloween season–there is another, and dare I say, superior Halloween special that unfortunately does not receive the same airtime as its counterpart.
I’m talking about Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, and while it may not be the top of everyone’s list for holiday viewing, it was a brilliant Halloween special that deserves the same attention as Linus in the pumpkin patch.
I know, I know, I can actually see some of you getting ready to throw handfuls of pumpkin guts at me, but hear me out.
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, initially titled Garfield in Disguise, was first released back in 1985, and it was the first television special featuring everyone’s favorite lasagna-loving cat based on original material rather than drawing from previous comic strips.
Garfield creator Jim Davis wrote the special and in 2014 he told the The A.V. Club that he wanted to start the special off with something familiar. Garfield being Garfield getting ready to go trick or treating obsessed with getting “candy, candy, candy.” But after that, he wanted to take it to a place that would “at least scare 4-year-olds.”
In order to do that, he had to get Garfield and Odie away from the familiarity and safety of home.
The idea worked like a charm.
Spying a creepy old house in the distance, Garfield and Odie climb onto a boat and make their way up to the old manor where they are confronted by a creepy old man who tells them a story of pirate treasure and angry spirits out to reclaim what was theirs.
Sounds a lot like The Fog to me, and soon enough, Garfield and Odie find themselves abandoned in the old house with strange and terrifying pirate ghosts surrounding them. This is where Garfield’s Halloween Adventure really begins to prove itself in the realm of Halloween specials.
While The Great Pumpkin was really quite beautifully made with a gorgeous color palette, they stuck to a much safer script. There’s trick or treating, bobbing for apples, and a healthy dose of the expected picking on Charlie Brown from his constant failure as a trick or treater to using the back of his bald head to sketch out a design for a jack o’lantern.
Aside from some rustling in the pumpkin patch, however, they never tried to conjure up the genuinely spooky spirit of the holiday they were celebrating.
Even when Garfield and Odie first set out to trick or treat, however, Davis and company were mining the creepy. The duo meets a series of fellow trick or treaters under the same ghost costume, all of which are actually monsters underneath. There’s also that incredible spooky performance by C. Lindsay Workman as the Old Man to look forward to in each viewing.
Davis also sticks to his narrative unlike The Great Pumpkin, which chose to give viewers an inexplicable interlude with Snoopy’s air-fight with the Red Baron in the center of their special.
Don’t get me wrong, that scene is iconic and for good reason, but it just never seemed to really fit and ultimately felt a bit like filler.
I’m not here to change your mind. I’m not here to tell you that It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is bad. The special has a devout following for a reason. I just think it’s undeniable that Jim Davis gave us something better with Garfield’s Halloween Adventure.
Still, while the former receives annual broadcasts, the latter hasn’t seen much airtime since 2015. Garfield fans can, however, rent/purchase the special on Amazon.
Which one will you be watching this Halloween season?