‘Hey, Heathcliff! Eat Your Heart Out!’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Garfield and Friends’
After creating a feline pop-culture juggernaut, Jim Davis tried to go 2-for-2 with his 1986 cartoon strip, U.S. Acres. Following the comedic escapades of a gang of assorted farm animals, the strip and Davis’ Garfield served as the basis for the iconic Saturday morning cartoon Garfield and Friends, which ran from 1988 to 1994. It mostly followed an A-B-A format that saw two Garfield segments sandwiching a U.S. Acres story.
Read on about the classic cartoon that seems to have viewers divided (except on loving the theme), and find out where exactly that farm fits into the Davis Universe…
Written By a Famous Comic Writer
Mark Evanier wrote or co-wrote almost every episode of Garfield and Friends. Evanier himself is a prolific comic book writer, having done issues for iconic titles including Scooby-Doo, Space Ghost, Superman Adventures and The Flintstones.
‘U.S. Acres’ Made History
The 1986 launch of Davis’ other comic strip was unprecedented, with U.S. Acres being published in a whopping 505 newspapers at the time. It did not, however, manage to surpass the popularity of Garfield.
It Could Easily Have Been ‘Jon and Friends’
When Davis came up with the concept of Garfield, he considered making Jon Arbuckle the strip’s main character. “I ran some early ideas at a local paper to see how I felt about it, and I called the strip Jon,” Davis once told Mental Floss. “It was about him, but he had this wise cat who, every time, came back zinging him. He always had the great payoff. At the time, I worked for T.K. Ryan — the cartoonist for Tumbleweeds — and I showed it to him and told him how every time I got to the punch line, the cat zings him. And T.K. said, ‘Well, what does that tell you, Jim? The strip must be about the cat. Go with it.’”
An Orson Cameo on ‘The Garfield Show’ Got Cut Because of India
While U.S. Acres wasn’t featured on The Garfield Show (2009-2016), Orson almost had a cameo in the episode “Down on the Farm.” Evanier explained that they had created a model of the pig and even recorded his dialogue, but the scene was ultimately cut because it aired in India, where it’s forbidden to show a talking pig.
Sick of Garfield
In another rendition of “Criticism That Hasn’t Aged Well,” Garfield and Friends and, specifically, our Monday-loathing feline was lambasted by some critics who apparently didn’t see the need for more of the Orange Grump. Los Angeles Times critic Charles Solomon wrote that Garfield had “lost all his feline qualities and become a crabby little man in a catsuit. With more than 3,500 Garfield products on the market, does anyone really need to see more of the character?” Meanwhile, Gene Seymour of The Pittsburgh Press argued that the show tried too hard to be hip, which, in hindsight, seems like a reach.
The Garfield/Ghostbusters Connection
Lorenzo Music provided the voice of the Lasagna-loving tabby for both Garfield and Garfield and Friends. He also did the voice of Peter Venkman on The Real Ghostbusters. Venkman, of course, was famously played by Bill Murray in the original 1980s movies, and Murray would go on to do the voice of Garfield in the 2004 Garfield: The Movie after thinking he was signing up to do a Coen Brothers movie.
The Inspiration of ‘U.S. Acres’
Davis grew up on a farm in Muncie, Indiana, with the experience leading to him to create a strip about a bunch of wacky farm animals.
That Farm Also Had a Boatload of Cats
Davis’ childhood farm reportedly had 25 cats roaming around, some of whom inspired Garfield. “Dealing with eating and sleeping, being a cat, Garfield is very universal,” Davis told Mental Floss. “By virtue of being a cat, really, he’s not really male or female or any particular race or nationality, young or old. It gives me a lot more latitude for the humor for the situations.”
Nermal’s Gender Doesn’t Matter, Either
Even though Davis has confirmed that Nermal is a male kitten, the cat with the batty eyelashes was voiced by actress Desirée Goyette in the show. In Mexico and Latin America, Nermal’s name has been changed to Telma, with the kitten being considered female.
The ‘U.S. Acres’ Name Change
The middle segment of Garfield and Friends was officially known as U.S. Acres as it was a direct adaptation of the comic strip, but the pre-2019 DVDs changed them to Orson’s Farm — which is what it was called outside of the United States. In Canada, the segment was called Orson’s Place.
The Evolution of ‘U.S. Acres’
The Orson’s Farm segments in Garfield and Friends were originally a tad more serious as they focused on relaying a moral or social lesson to the viewers. Over time, however, it became more slapstick and leaned into the novel idea of “breaking the fourth wall.”
‘U.S. Acres’ Was Supposed to Be a Standalone Show
That is why some earlier episodes included musical numbers you’d find in kids’ shows. On a forum back in the days of yore, Garfield and Friends head writer Evanier wrote: “U.S. Acres was originally intended as a separate show for a pre-school audience. The songs were part of the original format as developed by Jim and his crew. When the decision was made to include it as a feature in a show with Garfield, it was necessary to skew the show a little older, which was my assignment. It took a season or two before it became apparent that the songs weren’t fitting into the new dynamic of the series, which is why we dropped ’em.”
Famous Cartoon, Not-So-Famous Cartoonist
“Being a cartoonist, you really enjoy a lot of anonymity,” Davis told Mental Floss. “You take a half-dozen of the biggest cartoonists and walk them down any street, nobody would notice them. They only know their characters. So I just hide behind Garfield. The only time anyone knows the name or spots me is if I’m out on book tour and I’m meant to do publicity. We don’t suffer any of the kind of attention problems that I think people do on TV or in movies. It’s not a big deal. I’m sitting here in the countryside of East Central Indiana, so it’s pretty quiet.”
The Location of Orson’s Farm
“The Great Snowball Fight” story in Garfield’s Christmas Tales revealed that the U.S. Acres farm is located next to the Arbuckle family farm.
Folks Have Always Been On the Fence About ’U.S. Acres’
Over the years, there have been several online debates over whether the U.S. Acres segments are actually good. Even defenders find certain characters annoying, while others don’t think a Garfield show needs a separate segment. The battle wages on.