A Garfield Christmas Special is a 1987 American animated television special based on the Garfield comic strip, created by Jim Davis. It is directed by Phil Roman and stars Lorenzo Music as the voice of Garfield the house cat, as well as Thom Huge, Gregg Berger and Julie Payne. The special is about Garfield spending Christmas with the Arbuckle family on their farm, and discovering the true meaning of Christmas.
Davis, who wrote the teleplay, cited it as semi-autobiographical. The special was first broadcast December 21, 1987 on CBS and was often rebroadcast in subsequent years at Christmastime. It was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program and has been released on DVD.
In a dream, Garfield is awakened by his owner Jon dressed as an elf, who feeds him a large amount of lasagna before giving him his gift, a robotic Santa Claus which reads minds and produces whatever Garfield wants. When Jon actually wakes up Garfield, he tells him that it is "Christmas Eve morning" and they and Odie are going to the countryside to celebrate Christmas with Jon's family on their farm. Garfield is annoyed that they always go to the farm and the family never comes to Jon's house. During his drive to his family's farm, Jon talks about Christmases he had when he was a boy, with his parents, brother Doc Boy, and Grandma, while Garfield listens with great cynicism.
Upon arriving, Grandma and Garfield quickly grow a special bond. While Jon, Garfield, and Odie take a walk, Grandma spikes Mom's sausage gravy with chili powder, bragging that her sausage gravy just won the Greene County Fair. Jon and Garfield return for dinner, while Odie works on something secretive and then sneaks back into the house. After dinner, they decorate the tree. Jon has Garfield to put the star on, as no one else can reach the top of the tree. As the family sings Christmas songs, Grandma tells Garfield about her beloved and deceased husband, whom she especially misses at Christmastime because of his unspoken, but obvious, love for the holiday. Afterwards, Mom asks Dad to read a book called Binky: The Clown Who Saved Christmas. Dad is reluctant, as he is tired of reading it every year, but gives in. At night, Garfield notices Odie's suspicious activity and follows him to the barn, seeing Odie making something out of a piece of wood, some wire, a plunger handle, and a hand rake. While there, Garfield stumbles upon some old letters and realizes they must be 50 years old.
On Christmas morning, just when it seems like all the presents have been opened, Garfield gives Grandma the letters he found in the barn. These letters were love notes written to Grandma by her husband from when they first met each other and married. Garfield also finds out that Odie has been busy making his ultimate Christmas gift: a homemade back scratcher. This is a rare glimpse at Garfield's other side, as Garfield learns one of the true meanings of Christmas: "It's not the giving, it's not the getting, it's the loving!", and gladly thanks and embraces Odie for the gift he made."Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme" performed by Lou Rawls
"Can't Wait Till Christmas" performed by Thom Huge and Lorenzo Music
"O Christmas Tree" performed by Pat Carroll
"Christmas in Your Heart" performed by ensemble and Desirée Goyette
"You Can Never Find an Elf When You Need One" performed by Lou Rawls and Desirée Goyette
"A Good Old-Fashioned Christmas" (ending song) performed by ensemble
In writing the teleplay, Davis based it on experiences he had celebrating Christmas with his family on their farm in Indiana, with many Arbuckles modeled after Davis family members. Davis' real-life brother was known as Doc Boy. Davis referred to the story as "very autobiographical," adding "That was my Christmas on the farm." However, he noted Grandma was an entirely fictional character, added for the emotional subplot of having time with loved ones at Christmas.
Grandma was voiced by Pat Carroll, who at the time was becoming increasingly popular in voice work. After the 1970s, she was working on Legends of the Superheroes and Pound Puppies.
The episode first aired on December 21, 1987. According to Bustle, the special was rebroadcast every year until 2000. It often played along with the 1965 Peanuts special A Charlie Brown Christmas.
In 2004, A Garfield Christmas was released on the DVD Garfield Holiday Celebrations, along with Garfield's Halloween Adventure and Garfield's Thanksgiving. It appeared 23rd in TV DVD sales for the week of November 10, 2007. In 2014, Entertainment Weekly reported copies of the DVD "were selling on eBay like rare collector’s items." Garfield holiday-themed specials, including A Garfield Christmas, were also receiving millions of views on the website YouTube. It was consequently re-released on another DVD compilation, The Garfield Holiday Collection, on November 4, 2014, sold only by Walmart, and was also made available for digital download on November 11 that year.
The special was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program at the 40th Primetime Emmy Awards.
In 2004, TV Guide ranked the special 10th on its 10 Best Family Holiday Specials list. In 2013, Scott Neumyer of Parade called it "a delightful little short featuring everyone’s favorite cantankerous orange cat." That year, Jef Rouner of the Houston Press described the episode as "depressing" and mostly unfunny, remarking that since Grandma cannot hear Garfield's thoughts, "what we're watching is a sad old widow so desperately lonely without her late husband that she has begun talking out loud to a visiting cat." In 2014, Johnny Brayson of Bustle called it "a bona fide classic".