SUMMARY: On a dull, wet day, Garfield dons a trenchcoat and fedora he finds in a closet and disappears into a Film Noir fantasy.
WHY IT’S HERE: By 1989 the Garfield franchise was chugging along nicely. Having got several high quality TV specials under their belts, Film Roman had finally launched the inevitable tie-in TV series in 1988. ‘Garfield and Friends’ ran for seven seasons and did a fine job of keeping up the character’s popularity with TV audiences. With the new series handling the everyday exploits of the fat orange cat, the TV specials that emerged alongside it began to get more ambitious and unusual. The feature length ‘Garfield: His 9 Lives’ from the previous year had been an excellent experiment in different animation styles and emotional tones of storytelling. Based on an experimental book by Garfield creator Jim Davis in which he examined Garfield’s previous incarnations in a range of often more adult-oriented strips, ‘Garfield: His 9 Lives’ differed slightly from some of the book’s content. Notably, a very promising strip in which Garfield was a detective was not included in the film. Fortunately, that was because it was being held back for a 25 minute special all of its own.
‘Garfield’s Babes and Bullets’ takes place almost entirely in Garfield’s fantasy that he is a detective in an old Film Noir mystery. The style of these hard-boiled detective films of the 40s and 50s is adopted completely, right down to the entire fantasy being in authentic black and white, a highly uncommercial but creatively inspired touch. The more adult source material is clear in many of the great jokes (Garfield’s character is called Sam Spayed, for one!) and the suggestive relationship the cat has with several beautiful human women, all of whom have cat-based names like Kitty and Tanya O’Tabby, suggesting their humanisation is for the audience’s benefit rather than a sign of any supressed cross-species desires! ‘Garfield’s Babes and Bullets’ won a well-deserved Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.