20 Things You Didn’t Know about Garfield

Garfield, everyone’s favorite fictional cat, is the protagonist of the comic strip by the same name and is the creation of Jim Davis. Garfield is a cynical, fat, lazy cat who loves lasagna along with sleeping and coffee. His love of these favorites can only be surpassed by his hatred of Mondays and exercise. Although the newspaper is becoming less and less popular, this lasagna-loving cat with a disdain for Mondays is still quite recognizable; after all, Garfield is a comic strip legend! Even if you’ve been reading this comic strip for years, there’s certainly some things about Garfield that you don’t know. Here’s 20 things you didn’t know about Garfield.

1. Comic Strip Debut

Garfield debuted all the way back in 1978, June 19, to be precise! That’s thirty years of popularity which has spawned not only a legendary newspaper following, but also holiday specials, a television show, two movies, various video games, and a bunch of books, in addition to all kinds of merchandise, such as clothing, toys, phones, memorabilia, and the like. The comic strip books have been terrific hits. All eleven Garfield books have placed at the number one position on the NY Times Bestseller List. In fact, there were seven of the comic books on the list all at the same time; they had to change the way the list was put together because so many other publishers were complaining their books couldn’t get into the list because of Garfield. Garfield at Large, which was released in 1980, was at number one for two straight years; that’s over a hundred weeks! In addition, Garfield almost had a theme park in his name. It was to be a full theme park with Garfield-themed rides, water attractions, and entertainment venues. However, the idea was scraped. Nonetheless, there was a dark water ride at Kennywood in Pennslyvania called “Garfield’s Nightmare”. That’s as close as it ever got.

2. In The Beginning

Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, was actually planning on the comic strip focusing on Jon in the beginning. However, several agencies ask him to concentrate on Garfield instead. Davis says that he ran some original ideas by the local newspaper to see what they thought about the comic strip, calling it Jon. The comic strip was about Jon and this wise-cracking cat that was always coming back with zingers. Davis said that he was told that every punch line was the cat zinging Jon and that the strip had to be about the cat instead. He went for it and, obviously, it was gold. Garfield is still running to this day. One of the most successful comic strips of all time, Garfield still appears in newspapers every day after more than thirty years and the comic strip has more than two hundred million readers all over the world.

3. Jon The Cartoonist

Garfield’s owner and the comic’s costar Jon Arbuckle is actually a cartoonist, something that was addressed in the initial comic strip and then was never mentioned again. Davis says it was really just something he did right off the top of his head in order to avoid being asked in interviews what Jon does for a job. Nonetheless, after choosing cartoonist as Jon’s job, he felt that it might make put him on the inside too much, making it too obvious for him to write. Davis didn’t want the number of readers to decline because of writing for his and his friends’ amusement. He added that he purposely gave Jon a job because of other comic strips he’d seen which didn’t specify and nobody ever knew what they supposed to have done as a job/for a living. He wanted to make sure Jon had that covered up front.

4. In A Name

What’s in a name? Some are named after others, some names are made up, and some are old favorites. In the case of Garfield, he was actually named after the creator’s grandfather and he was named after a president with that same name Garfield, James A, who was the twentieth president of America. His grandfather was also named the same, in addition to “Davis” tagged onto the end. So, Garfield is named for a man who’s named after another man who at one time, was one of the most popular men in America. It seems fitting since the comic strip Garfield is also one of the most popular of all time.

5. Change Is Always Constant

If there’s one thing that’s definitely been a constant with Garfield, it’s that the design of Garfield’s character has changed several times over the years, as have Jon and Odie as well. However, he’s always been on the husky side. As Davis’ put it, if Garfield had become skinny, that would have completely ended the comic strip that we know and love. Davis believes that the fat cat sends a healthy message about the way he is, that he’s not perfect. He knows he’s not perfect and he’s okay with that. In fact, he represents any of us, with little imperfections underneath. Davis believes it makes him easily identifiable, better to identify with than an athletic, slim character.

6. Not Just One and Only

Garfield wasn’t the creator’s only comic strip. Noticing there was something still missing in the comics section for younger children, he created “US Acres”, which starred a swarm of barnyard animals, all with unique quirks. The rooster overslept, a chick still walked around in his egg shell, and other such ironic characters. The comic strip only last three years, but was adapted for “Garfield and Friends”, the Saturday morning cartoon show. Classic “US Acres” strips are still published daily on the official Garfield site. Just for the record, Garfield wasn’t Davis’ first comic strip, either. His first one was called “Gnorm Gnat” and was about a sarcastic bug. (Seems to me there’s a trend here on ‘sacrcastic’.) After running in his home town’s paper, the editor told him that people just didn’t identify with bugs. Davis scanned over the comics’ section and noticed there were many dogs, but not any cats and that’s where the idea began.

7. It’s A Garfield Halloween

Davis said he really loved making Garfield’s Halloween Adventure and scaring the kids. He said thinking of something that would be scary was a huge challenge. Luckily being able to use animation, he could pair scary sounds and scary music with scary images, setting Garfield up for a scary experience. Davis went on to say that the voice character used for the old man, who tells Odie and Garfield the story of vengeful pirate ghosts, had the perfectly scary voice. Furthermore, he says that they took a lot of time creating the pirate ghost scene where the house is invaded as they’re looking for buried treasure. They threw as many aspects into making a scary situation as they could for the younger viewers.

8. The Hard Part

Speaking of the Halloween special, Davis said the pirate ghosts were more difficult to create than one might think. He said they created it at Paws, Inc in their own department because they wanted it absolutely precise. Paws, Inc is Davis’ business in which he calls his portion of merchandising rights from his syndicate. Paws, Inc handles all the merchandising rights as well as prototypes for various Garfield designs such as toys, mugs, shirt, and other products. Paws, Inc also has a creation department, where they animated film. He said they used a chalky white pencil on a rough texture so the film would look grainy and exposing the film twice in order to overexpose the ghosts, giving them an eerie glow. Davis says they were in complete command of the creative process and that he felt it turned out to be very good.

9. Just One Regret

As far as licensing merchandise, Davis says he only really regrets one Garfield item. Garfield merchandise brings in a whopping seven hundred and fifty million to one billion dollars annually. Although Garfield has been adapted and licensed more times than Davis can count, there’s only been one item that he wasn’t thrilled with. He says that a few years ago, he was talked into doing a “Zombie Garfield”. Davis said it was super gnarly and he thought it’d be fun. It did sell, but later he thought that it had done nothing for character advancement and that he only did it because everyone else was doing it. He also says that he just didn’t get that warm, fuzzy feeling after making them, but says they’ve finally gone away after all.

10. The Roommate

The Garfield comic strip originally had a fourth main character. In the initial run of Garfield, some strips included Lyman, who was Jon’s mustachioed roommate and original owner of Odie the dog. Davis wanted someone for Jon to be able to communicate with since Garfield couldn’t talk. However, after finding a way for Garfield and Odie to communicate with Jon, Lyman was no longer needed, sending him to the trash along with a myriad of other characters, such as Nermal, Garfield’s annoying albeit gray doppelganger.

11. Walk Like A Cat

Garfield originally walked like a cat on all fours until Peanuts’ creator Charles Schulz helped him to walk around on two feet instead. Garfield was originally depicted to be morbidly obese instead of the slightly overweight tabby we know and love today. Davis wanted to make the fat cat more endearing but still wanted him to retain some of his personality which had already gained him so many readers. Three years after Garfield’s creation, Davis began syndicating it, drawing it at a Hollywood studio which he shared with an animator who worked for the Peanuts’ creator. One day, Schulz suggested that Davis draw Garfield with bigger feet, making it easier for him stand and viola, the Garfield of today was born.

12. Demanding Garfield

The famous comic strip was once cancelled by the Chicago Sun Times, but it was brought back after a massive reader protest. A few years into syndication, Garfield was dropped by one of the biggest newspapers, right when the strip had become so popular in the late 1970s. The paper didn’t Davis a reason for dropping him, other than siting their budget. The readers didn’t like it one bit, launching a massive letter-writing campaign which included phone calls, demanding the comic strip to be returned, changing the mind of the powers-that-be at the newspaper. It seems some thirteen hundred letters and calls convinced the paper they were making a bad decision and they paper, for once, agreed.

13. The Garfield Movie

Davis says he absolutely loved having Bill Murray voice the part of Garfield in the 2004 movie, saying it was Murray’s attitude that made the creator want him as the voice of his main character, instead of Murray’s voice. Davis says that he was concerned that if they didn’t find the right voice, that people would turn it down as the Garfield they’d known all these years, but that Murray was a voice he felt everyone would just get. He felt that Murray’s voice would have the inflection of attitude, transferring it to the character. Funny story, Murray only agreed to do the voice of Garfield because he thought someone else was the screenwriter. It wasn’t until later when he began to record his lines, finding that the script was up to par with who he thought the writer was that he figured out that it wasn’t. Luckily, he was already on-board and didn’t decide to leave. The movie was called Garfield: The Movie.

14. The Garfield Link

There’s a Garfield link between Murray and Lorenzo Music, the voice actor. Music voiced all of Garfield’s television specials from 1982 until 1991 and again with Garfield and Friends from 1988 until 1994. Music also supplied the voice of a character in The Real Ghostbusters, Peter Venkman. Murray played Venkman in the Ghostbusters movie in addition to voicing Garfield in the movie.

15. Garfield Misunderstanding

Remember the plush Garfield that had suction cups for sticking him on car windows in the 1990s? Well, that popular design which wasn’t unusual to see on many cars, wasn’t either the initial design or its intended use. It was originally designed to have Velcro on its paws for sticking it on curtains and whatnot. However, it came back with suction cups, not having understood the directions. Davis’ stuck it to a window, saying if it was still stuck there in two days’ time, he’d approve it. Obviously, it stuck, because the suction cup Garfield became very popular there for awhile. Davis says he never imagined people would put them in their cars, but that’s where most of them ended up.

16. Garfield In The Parade

Garfield always makes an appearance in the Macy’s Parade. One year, the parade named Shamu the Whale as the biggest balloon to ever be entered into the festivities. However, Garfield was bigger. The balloons’ size was judged by volume. Shamu came in at just over eighteen thousand cubic feet. Nonetheless, Garfield came in at eighteen thousand, nine-hundred and seven cubic feet, making it the larger of the two, at least by gas volume.

17. Garfield Is Gustav

What? Garfield’s name is Garfield in all but three countries, all of which are Nordic. In Sweden, Finland, and Norway, Garfield is called Gustav. It may seem weird, but that’s what they call him in these three countries. I guess as long as his sarcastic wit is the same, it really doesn’t matter what he’s called.

18. Davis Who?

Even though Garfield has been extremely popular for over three decades, his creator, Davis is still mostly unknown. He says that because he’s a cartoonist, he gets to enjoy remaining anonymous. He says if six of the biggest cartoonist were to walk down the street, no one would even notice them. People only recognize their characters, not the creators. Davis says he uses Garfield to hide behind and that the only time he’s recognized is during book tours. He says he doesn’t suffer the attention that movie stars do and that’s its really not a big deal to him.

19. Most Syndicated Strip

Garfield is the most syndicated comic strip in the world, having the highest readership ever produced by any strip. In fact, the comic holds a Guinness World Record, syndicated in over twenty-five thousand journals and newspapers worldwide. Garfield has around seventeen million fans just on Facebook alone. That’s incredible! That is definitely one popular fat cat!

20. The Creator Stopped Creating

Davis doesn’t draw the comic strip anymore although he retains complete control over it. A staff of cartoonists now work to put together the comic strips, with a staff of about fifty. Some handle the daily strip while others spend time writing quips and working on shaping gestures, expressions, and the like. Then it’s all put together with Davis having the final say on what goes and what doesn’t. However, Davis says you can’t tell who does what, the work is so seamless.

On a final note, you’d think that creator Davis’ father would at least say that Garfield is his favorite comic strip, but as the creator admitted, his dad’s fave is actually Beetle Bailey. On another note, two celebrities hold their very own original strips. Stephen King and Steven Spielberg both ask the creator for their own strip and Davis gladly obliged. I wonder if he gave his dad one?

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