Saturday, March 16, 2019

Garfield in the Rough (1984)

As with most of the Garfield specials, I knew absolutely nothing about this when I went into it on YouTube in late 2018. I had a bit of an idea about what the title meant but wasn't completely sure until I started watching it. Upon realizing that we were talking about Garfield on a camping trip, I was intrigued, as I knew this had a lot of potential (I could just imagine the shenanigans Garfield could get caught up in while out in the middle of the woods). Watching it, though, I was quite surprised by how different it was from what I was expecting. Like Garfield on the Town, this is often considered one of the best of the specials (like that one, it won an Emmy, as would Garfield's Halloween Adventure the following year), with an 8.0 rating on IMDB, and for good reason, albeit for very different ones. Instead of having a strong emotional core, it takes a very simple premise and not only does it well but also adds in some elements you wouldn't expect. While it does, indeed, have a lot of comedy, with Garfield not being at all outdoor-friendly and having to endure Jon's abundant enthusiasm for it, it's also genuinely suspenseful and, at times, unsettling in its depiction of the escaped panther that terrorizes the group (yeah, don't let the human shadow on that video cover fool you), leading to a pretty serious climax involving it attacking their campsite. In addition, it has some nice songs, most courtesy of the voice actors, Lorenzo Music and Thom Huge, some nice animation, lovely designs of the forest surroundings, and well-done atmospheric effects for the suspenseful, nighttime sequences. Like I've said before, I recommend watching each of these specials at least once but this is one I particularly suggest you check out to see just how good it is.

Garfield's life has lately become extremely boring and repetitive, as has Jon Arbuckle's, who suggests they take a vacation to get out of their rut. Garfield is ecstatic about this, despite some trepidation he has over the down sides of possible spots, figuring that anywhere would be better than there... until Jon tells him that they're going camping. Needless to say, Garfield is not at all enthused at the prospect of being outside, away from his comfy bed, television, and refrigerator, especially when he finds out that Odie's coming along as well. But, he doesn't have much say in the matter, as Jon forces him to go, and after a journey that Garfield finds long and torturous, they arrive at the campsite. The cat does not take well to the prospect of life in the rough but Jon is absolutely thrilled about it, even though the "super deluxe" tent he sets up doesn't match the advertisement at all (i.e., it barely has room for Garfield and Odie, let alone all three of them). That night, they hear a news report on the radio about a panther that has escaped from a zoo and is believed to be at large in the region of Lake Woebegone. Garfield is instantly terrified by this news and wants to leave but Jon assures him that they're safe, as Lake Woebegone is miles away. Little does he know how wrong he is, as that night, the panther hungrily eyes their campsite from a hilltop. The next morning, a commotion causes the three of them to end up rolling down the hill from their camp, causing them to miss a couple of forest rangers they met the day before who've come to warn them to evacuate because of the panther. The rangers leave a note telling them of the news before continuing to search for the panther but, after they leave, a gust of wind blows the note into the fire-pit, where it burns up from the still hot embers. Now, the three of them have no idea of the danger they're in, with Jon more concerned with learning that Garfield and Odie have eaten just about all of their food after one night. What's more, Odie has wandered off into the woods and Garfield follows suit, attempting to escape Jon's wrath for the food, leaving them sitting ducks.

While not intended at the time, Garfield in the Rough would serve as a significant project in regards to the character's history in animation, as it was the inaugural production of director Phil Roman's company, Film Roman. The first two specials had been produced by Mendelson-Melendez Productions, since Roman had worked for them for many years, directing a number of the Peanuts specials, but it was soon decided that the company couldn't go on producing both series. So, Roman created his own company, producing and directing this special all by himself, which he would continue to do on the rest of them, save for the last one, 1991's Garfield Gets a Life (he produced it but didn't direct). Film Roman would go on to become a pretty successful studio, working not only on the show, Garfield and Friends, but other shows like Bobby's World, the animated series of The Mask, Eloise: The Animated Series, and Dan Vs., as well as doing the animation on The Simpsons since its fourth season and others like King of the Hill and Family Guy.

At the start of this special, Garfield (voiced by Lorenzo Music) is more miserable than usual, as all the color has gone out of his life (literally) and he's stuck in a very boring, predictable routine. He soon finds that Jon feels the same way and is elated when he suggests they take a vacation to try to remedy the situation, packing up a bunch of stuff to take with them that far exceeds the bare essentials, including a TV set. Thinking that they could go to Hawaii, Acapulco, or Venice, he decides that anywhere is better than staying at home. This elation is shattered when Jon tells him that they're going camping, as seen when Garfield drops both the beach umbrella and beach-ball he was carrying, his diving mask falls off, followed by his swimming shorts, and he grumbles, "I'll try to contain my excitement. Ho-hum." His lack of enthusiasm doesn't get any better later on when, hearing Jon singing to himself in anticipation, Garfield can only respond, "We're going camping, whoop-de-doo, ha ha, whee, clap paws, glow with glee. I'm so excited, I could just barf." The time comes and Garfield says, "I don't know how to break this to you, Jon: I'd really love to go, but I have to stay home and pluck my nose hairs," and when he learns that Odie is coming along too, he says, "Odie's going, too? That's it, include me out. I'd rather be declawed than go camping with that slobbering flea hotel." And then, in the next scene, Garfield is sitting in the passenger seat of the car, as Jon drives to the campsite, adding his own take on Jon's song about loving life out in the rough. Upon arriving, he learns they're going to be there for a whole week, much to his chagrin, and is about ready to take his claws to a forest ranger who makes an insulting remark about him. Once they've set up camp, following a few bumps in the road, Garfield is still not impressed with the great outdoors, commenting, "It'd be greater if it were inside," and that night, when they hear a news report about a panther that escaped from a zoo that morning, he's ready to pack up and leave right then and there. Unfortunately, Jon assures him that the panther is miles away and he and Odie, after enduring some more of his singing (though they both do seem to enjoy it), have to share a very small tent with him, Garfield forcing Odie to sleep outside at Jon's feet.

The next morning, Odie's foolishness ends up sending both Garfield and Jon into the lake, prompting him to tell the dog to go play with something poisonous. The dog runs off into the woods and Garfield follows suit later when Jon starts ranting upon finding that he and Odie ate all of the food, with the exception of some dried fruit. Out there, he begins to appreciate the beauty of nature, until he begins thinking about the wild animals that could be around. He frets so much that he's terrified of a rabbit and beaver, Billy and Dicky, when he meets them and is initially begging them not to eat him. Learning that they're not going to, he tries to brush it off with, "You can never be too careful out here in the wilderness, you know?" But then, they tell him about the escaped panther, which has been terrorizing the other animals, and he finds himself alone when they run off upon hearing some rustling nearby. The rustling just turns out to be Odie, but while hiding, the two of them overhear the pair of forest rangers from before as they search for the panther. Realizing the danger they're in, Garfield and Odie rush back to the campsite and try to get Jon to leave with them but he doesn't understand what Garfield is trying to tell him. The panther then enters the campsite and Garfield promptly takes shelter in a tree, while Jon and Odie are chased from their tent into the car, where they end up cornered. Seeing that they're sitting ducks, Garfield swallows his fear and actually jumps onto the panther and claws at and bites its back. But, it doesn't have much of an effect and he's flung off, onto the ground, where the panther closes in for the kill. Garfield comes close to buying it but the rangers arrive and tranquilize the panther right before it can tear him apart. Jon and Odie revere him as a hero and Garfield brags about how he would have gotten rough with the panther if the rangers hadn't shown up. The special ends with them driving home, as Garfield struggles to get the saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going," straight.

In stark contrast to Garfield's attitude about camping, Jon (voiced by Thom Huge) can't get enough of the great outdoors, singing songs about how he doesn't need much to get by out there and how camping is his life. Despite having to put up with Garfield and Odie's antics at the campsite, like keeping them out of the food, Odie getting a coffee pot stuck on his head, and Garfield filling the pot up with water, only for it to end up with a fish inside it, as well as the "super deluxe" tent he sets up looking nothing like its advertisement, nothing dampens Jon's good mood at being out in the wilderness. He's not the least bit concerned when he hears the report about the escaped panther, as he thinks Lake Woebegone, where it was spotted, is miles away, unaware that it's much, much closer. After singing Garfield and Odie a camp song, the three of them bed down for the night, with Jon and Garfield being snug inside the tiny tent, while Odie sleeps outside at his feet. The next morning, when Odie wakes up, he starts licking Jon's feet, tickling him and prompting him to get up and jump around the site, trying to get away from him. Before long, he ends up rolling down the hill and into the lake, along with Garfield. While Jon finds this funny in hindsight, Garfield doesn't, and it results in them missing the warning from the park rangers to evacuate because of the panther. Later, Jon finds that Garfield and Odie have eaten everything but some dried fruit, sending him into a rant about how he can't just pop over to the grocery store and restock. That night, though, he doesn't seem as worried, as he's casually waiting for Garfield and Odie to return and even offers the former some of the fruit, not realizing that he's trying to warn him about something. The panther then shows up and, while Garfield runs up a tree, Jon and Odie try to hide from it in the tent before forcing to take cover in the car. Even that proves to be no refuge, as the panther breaks through the driver side window and rips off a big chunk of Jon's plaid shirt. That's when Garfield comes to the rescue, and after the rangers tranquilize the panther, Jon compliments him on his bravery, telling him, "I love you very much," to which he replies, "Yeah, well, I guess I must love you, too." Probably deciding they've had enough of the outdoors for a while, Jon drives them home that night.

When you watch these first few specials, it's interesting to see just how truly dumb Odie (voiced by Gregg Berger) initially was. He's never been all that bright but, later on, he would have enough personality to be considered an actual character; in these early cartoons, he's so oblivious and dopey that he's little more than just another thing that's taking up oxygen. He just happily goes along with the camping trip, often panting with a big stupid grin on his face and not being fazed at all by things like a coffee pot getting stuck on his head or Garfield's constant tormenting of him. He seems a bit concerned about the report of the escaped panther, as well as not too thrilled over listening to Jon's campfire songs, but it doesn't stick for very long. The next morning, his tomfoolery ultimately results in them missing a warning from the rangers about the panther, and when Garfield tells him to go play with something poisonous, he initially whines but just happily runs off into the woods. Later, he comes across Garfield hiding in a stump and he tries to warn him about the panther but Odie just keeps panting and licking him now and then. Even when Garfield pulls him into the stump, Odie is still happily panting, his long tongue is sticking out of a hole in the side. He finally seems to get it when they overhear the rangers talking about the panther and he and Garfield rush back to the camp... only for him to again be oblivious when Garfield tries to warn Jon and licking him when he tells him to get in the case. When the panther attacks, Odie tries to follow Garfield up the tree but ends up trapped with Jon, nearly getting killed by the panther. Garfield ends up saving them and, once the crisis is over and Garfield admits he loves Jon, Odie barks and he warmly says, "Yeah, you too, Odie."

Reviewing these Garfield specials is particularly easy in the character department, since the stories often just focus on Garfield, Odie, and Jon, with few other noteworthy characters. Garfield in the Rough, in particular, only has a small handful of other characters period. Two of them are these forest rangers (voiced by Gregg Berger and George Wendt) who greet them when they first arrive at the campsite. One ranger is polite enough, while the other instantly makes Garfield's enemy list when, upon asking Jon if he's his cat, he says, "My condolences." Jon has to restrain Garfield from ripping him up following that remark and, before they drive off, he blows a raspberry at him. The next day, the rangers are on the hunt for the panther and stop by the campsite to warn Jon and the pets to evacuate. Finding no one there, they leave a note on a small twig in the ground but some wind blows it into the fireplace. Later, Garfield and Odie overhear them as they're continuing the search, packing a tranquilizer gun rather than a real rifle, which the one ranger feels isn't adequate enough for the job. And finally, just before the panther can eat Garfield alive, the rangers arrive at the campsite and shoot it with the tranquilizer, saving the group. They then proceed to take the panther back to the zoo it escaped from.

While out in the woods, Garfield meets a couple of animals whom he's initially afraid but quickly learns are harmless. The first one, a rabbit named Billy (voiced by Orson Bean), greets Garfield, only to find him groveling at his feet, begging not to be eaten and coming up with a number of reasons why he shouldn't be. As this is going on, a beaver named Dicky (voiced by Hal Smith) enters the scene and the two of them try to figure out what Garfield's problem is. He calms down when they flat-out tell him they aren't going to eat him, with Billy adding, "You've been watching too many jungle movies, pal," but when Garfield brings up the escaped panther, the two of them jump for cover behind a log. They tell him that the panther has been terrorizing all of the animals in the area, Dicky telling him of an encounter the night before that ended with the panther killing a friend of his and then looking right at him, like it intended to go after him next. Billy assures Dicky that it will eventually move on and tells Garfield that he hasn't seen the panther himself, adding that Dicky is the one who's seen it and lived. Garfield becomes scared at the idea of it still being around and then, they hear some rustling nearby. Dicky and Billy jump behind Garfield before quietly slipping away, abandoning Garfield altogether. They're never seen again after this one scene.

The style of Garfield in animation continues to evolve with this special. Though it's the first one to be produced by Film Roman, it retains much of the feel of the previous two that were produced by Mendelson-Melendez Productions. Garfield, Odie, and Jon still have those same sort of "beta" designs from before, not much different from how they looked in Garfield on the Town, save for a bit more tweaking; in the next special, Garfield's Halloween Adventure, they would reach the finalized designs they would carry with them for the rest of their time in hand-drawn animation. You also get to see what's something of a rarity with these cartoons: animals other than dogs and cats drawn in the Jim Davis style. Despite being in only one scene, Billy the rabbit and Dicky the beaver come off as memorable characters simply for that reason, as it's interesting to see these types of animals with Garfield-like faces and expressions. The animation, as usual, is fairly simple, for the most part, being just a couple of steps above what you would see in those old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but there are instances where it's much more fluid. This happens during the song sequences, both the opening one by Lou Rawls and those that are sung by Jon, as well as other sequences like when they're greeted by the rangers, when they're setting up camp, and when Odie wakes Jon up in the morning by licking his feet. The look and feel of the special retains that of the two before it, no doubt as Film Roman was still finding its footing in that regard, and the tone is, for the most part, more about silly fun with Garfield on a camping trip than surprisingly emotional drama like the two before it, save for the latter half when the panther shows up.

Stylistically, the special may throw you when it first begins, as it's in black-and-white in order to simulate how boring and lifeless Garfield's existence has become. Realizing how surprised and confused people would be, they felt the need to put a disclaimer at the beginning telling them that there's nothing wrong with their TV sets. In any case, when you combine it with the bluesy score and Lorenzo Music's typical lethargic voice, it gets the point across perfectly. When Jon tells Garfield that they should take a vacation to get out of their rut, he excitedly runs to the window, pulls the blind up, and the black-and-white gives way to gorgeous color, which really hits your eyes when it first filters in. After that, you see some fantasies Garfield thinks up about various places they could go, such as Hawaii, Acapulco, and Venice, and while there's not much memorable detail to the design of those places, it's still nice to see them depicted in this style. Plus, Hawaii would later get the full Garfield treatment in Garfield in Paradise. (That said, however, the Venice scene looks quite nice, with the canals, the gondola, and the Italian-styled buildings.)

The real beauty of the special's look comes through when they reach the campsite, as the artists really strove to make the forests and landscapes look absolutely picturesque. There are lots of lovely shots of the environment but the best are when Garfield wanders off into the wilderness and is amazed himself by how gorgeous it looks. You first get a nice shot of him walking a path with the sun peeking over a mountaintop in the background, its rays illuminating a few sections here and there of the darkly-colored forest. Then, when he finds a spot to lay low, you get a montage made up of panning shots of his surroundings, which are breathtaking, to say the least, and are punctuated by Desiree Goyette singing a song called The Music of Nature. Another really nice shot, one that you could easily hang up as a painting, is when, after they've gotten the tent up, Garfield and Jon watch the sun setting behind some mountains on the other side of the lake. And the place's beauty isn't at all marred come nightfall, as those shots of them sitting around the fire and the wide shot of their campsite as they're sleeping are just as ripe for postcards. But, the artists aren't so hung up on making the place look lovely that they forget it needs to have some menace to it because of the panther. When Garfield and Odie overhear the rangers talking about how the panther is in the area, they run back to the campsite to warn Jon and you get a short sequence of them running amidst a bunch of creepy-looking trees. One of the trees has a face in its trunk that glares at them but the most memorable part of this bit is when you see a wide-shot of them running with the full moon and some clouds in the background. And when they fail to warn Jon, you see the clouds parting to reveal the moon, the growing light illuminating the panther as it prepares to attack.

Speaking of the panther, it's where the special develops something of an edge, as there's nothing comical about this thing whatsoever. Not only is it drawn in a menacing, realistic style, with black fur, enormous teeth, and evil, glowing yellow and green eyes, but they use what has to be real snarls and roars for its vocalizations and the animation on it is kind of unsettling, as it can be seen slowly creeping up on its prey from afar and getting closer and closer to the screen. What's more, it's made clear that the panther has already killed a number of animals, including a friend of Dicky's, who just happens to be the only one who's seen it and lived to tell about it. And the climax where it attacks Garfield, Jon, and Odie at the campsite is rather intense. Jon and Odie just barely manage to avoid getting clawed while hiding in the tent, and when they take shelter in the car, it almost turns into Cujo for a bit, as the panther claws at the window, rams its head against it, and then smashes through and swipes at Jon, taking off a big chunk of his shirt. Garfield may end up saving them when he jumps on the panther's back from a tree but it flings him off and then comes in for the kill, the only thing saving him being the rangers' tranquilizer dart. Even then, the scene ends with one last bit of scariness when the panther momentarily wakes up and reaches for Garfield with its enormous paw before finally falling asleep.

The special opens with a shot of Garfield's neighborhood, albeit in a black-and-white, with a caption saying that the reason for this is because all of the color has gone out of the cat's life. Panning over to the Arbuckle house, we cut to Garfield as he wakes up with a start, looks around, and then sighs, "Ho-hum. Double ho... hum. Heck with it, let's shoot the works: triple ho-hum." Getting up, he grumbles about how he's waking up in the same bed, facing the same morning routine, and then he stretches, only for his back to crack and to find himself stuck in mid-stretch. Walking over to his food bowl, he manages to straighten himself out and, looking at the bowl, he groans, "Ho-hum. Same old food. Have you ever had a day where you felt like you've slept and eaten it all? All the color has gone out of my life." Getting up on the table, where Jon is sitting, just as bored with life, Garfield bids him good morning and pats his back, only for him to face-plant right on the table. Jon then concurs that all of the color has gone out of their lives and suggests they take a vacation. He becomes instantly excited upon hearing this news and runs to a window, pulling up the blind and declaring, "Rest and relaxation!" In doing so, color filters in, along with the title, as Lou Rawls sings the song, Get Me Some R and R, a short, very upbeat little tune that's all about going on vacation, though it sounds more appropriate for a beach trip (this is the only time Rawls' voice is heard in this particular special). Garfield runs, grabs a suitcase, and starts filling it up with everything imaginable, such as a radio, fishing pole, catcher's mitt, frying pan, a ukulele, foot stool, tennis racket, alarm clock, and even a vacuum cleaner. Walking into the scene, Jon, his hands on his hips, asks, "Is that all you want to take on our vacation, Garfield?" He answers that he has one more "tiny item" and pushes a TV set in on a roller. Jon says, "You can't be serious," and Garfield responds, "I didn't pack 200 miles of extension cord for nothing." Jon simply moans, "Help me."

Sitting by a dresser, Garfield wonders where they're going to go and starts fishing through one drawer, pulling out a diving mask and some scuba fins before getting a lei. Putting it on, he figures Hawaii may be nice and imagines himself on a beach, holding a ukulele. But then, the place rumbles from a loud explosion and a female native cat comes running in, telling Garfield that the volcano has erupted and it's going to destroy her father's village. She adds that, if he saved them, her father would give him her hand in marriage, and that he has to stop a molten lava flow. This kills any resolve Garfield may have had, as he says, "You're cute, but you're not that cute." That fantasy ends and Garfield then pulls a sombrero out of the drawer, thinking Acapulco might be nice. He dreams up another fantasy, this one involving him seeing a senorita cat (the same one from before, only now wearing a tiara and a love mark, rather than a flower behind her ear and a lei) sitting by a sombrero on the ground. He then attempts a hat dance, crushing the sombrero in the process, and asks her for a date. She says that her brother wouldn't let her, seeing as how he's upset about Garfield crushing his sombrero. Her brother, a big, brown, mean-looking cat, snarls at Garfield and, in a cut, he's sent packing with the sombrero shoved over his whole body, save for his feet. He stumbles away, singing La Cucaracha in a muffled voice. With that fantasy over, Garfield tosses the sombrero away and then picks up an oar, thinking Venice might be his type of place. He now fantasizes about rowing a gondola with the same female cat, now wearing a feminine version of his gondolier hat (Desiree Goyette voices all three of these characters, with different accents), as he sings, "Oh-so-la-meow!" He asks her where he'd like to go next and she says, "How about my place for some lasagna?" Garfield, of course, is all for that and he jumps into the river and swims up the canal, leaving the girl stranded in gondola. Cutting back to reality, Garfield is now wearing a diving mask, swim trunks, and fins, while holding both a beach ball and an umbrella, deciding, "Wherever we're going, it's going to be fun 'cause it's not gonna be here."

With all that gear, Garfield walks back to the table where Jon is and asks where they're going. Jon then drops a bombshell: they're going camping. It hits Garfield like a ton of bricks: his umbrella folds back up and drops out of his hand, followed by the beach ball, his diving mash slips off his face, and his swimming trunks drop to his ankles. He groans, "I'll try to contain my excitement. Ho-hum." In the next scene, Garfield is sitting in his bed, as Jon packs up for the trip, happily humming to himself, and dropping a frying pan next to Garfield. The cat, however, is as displeased as ever, saying, "Don't get me wrong, camping isn't all that bad. Aside from the inconvenience, dampness, filth, second-rate food, insects, and cold nights, it's kind of fun." That's when Odie walks by and Garfield, with a devilish grin on his face, grabs the frying pan and follows after him with it, deciding to have his own version of fun. He swings and misses but, when Odie stops, he's about to whack him, when Jon takes the pan from him, thinking he was bringing it to him. Garfield, not realizing this, swings forward and falls flat on his face. Jon announces that they're all packed and asks Garfield if he's ready to go camping, to which he responds with his comment about having to stay behind and pluck his nose-hairs. He tries to walk away but Jon grabs him and then asks Odie if he's ready to go, getting some enthusiastic barks in response. The realization that Odie is going is really the last straw for Garfield, as he proclaims that he's not going camping with him, no matter what.

The next shot shows Garfield sitting in the passenger seat of the car, with his arms crossed, as Jon drives while whistling happily and Odie sits in the backseat, happily panting like always. Jon tells them that the wilderness provides everything a man needs, leading into the song, When I'm Out in the Rough, the first instance where Thom Huge gets to show off his singing skills. A small, very simple tune, it has Jon singing, "Gimme a pup-tent, gimme some wood, gimme an old plaid shirt, I'm feelin' so good. Just gimme a compass, some jerky that's tough, that's all I need, to get by when I'm out in the rough." Once they leave the neighborhood and enter the countryside, Garfield adds his own side to the song: "Gimme my catnip, a sofa to scratch, gimme lasagna, make it a triple batch. Gimme a pillow, with plenty of fluff, that's all I need, to get by when I'm out in the rough." They then reach the ranger station and are greeted by the two rangers there. Giving them his name, he tells them they'll be staying for a whole week, much to Garfield's horror, who exclaims, "A week?! I'll be covered with moss in a week!" The one ranger makes his not so nice remark about Garfield, who lunges at him and has to be held back by Jon, asking, "Come on, please! Let me hurt him!" After learning that the most dangerous around is "a beaver with a nasty disposition," they drive on to the campsite.

Having reached their campsite, Jon begins unpacking the car and we get a short reprise of When I'm Out in the Rough between him and Garfield, this time as a duet: "Gimme my campfire", "Where's my TV?", "My boots and my jeans", "You seen my blanket?", "Roasted marshmallows", "Now, you're talking", "Some refried beans ", "Yuck!", "Just gimme my mess", "Gimme my sandbox!", "Utensils and stuff", "Yeah, where's my stuff?", "That's all I need, to get by when I'm out in the..." The last bit of the song is repeated and sung by both of them before they move on. Odie then comes running in and a coffee pot atop the car falls off and gets stuck on his head. He runs off in confusion and can be seen slamming against a tree in the background of a scene where Jon, as he's trying to get the tent up, has to stop Garfield from getting into the food, telling him it'll be metered out to last one week. To that, Garfield asks, "Where's the rest of it?" Odie joins them and Jon pulls the coffee pot off of his head, giving it to Garfield to fill with water down at the lake. Garfield, acting like a stereotypical mad scientist assistant, growls, "Your wish is my command, master," and walks off in a hunchbacked gait. Jon then has to deal with Odie getting into the food but the dog completely ignores him, prompting Garfield, when he returns, to kick him away when Jon has his back turned. Jon compliments him on getting the water and Garfield sets the pot down, only to then realize that a fish is in it. Garfield reaches into the pot but, failing to catch the fish, puts the lid on the pot and pours the water out through the spout. Jon notices the pot hopping around and, taking the lid off and seeing the fish, he hands the pot back to Garfield, telling him to take the fish back to the lake. Garfield walks offscreen and then immediately walks back, surprising Jon at how little time it took. Garfield says, "The lake isn't that far," but hiccups in the middle of his sentence, revealing what actually happened to the fish. After a dissolve, Jon shows the pets his "super deluxe" tent, which is supposedly water-tight, mold-proof, and sleeps three... though, as you can see, that's a bit hard to believe.

That night, Jon suggests they relax to some music on the radio. Neither Garfield nor Odie are too thrilled with that suggestion, as they hiss and blow a raspberry respectively, but Jon turns the radio on anyway. The first thing they hear is the news report about the escaped panther, which has been spotted in the Lake Woebegone area. He then returns them back to the broadcast of "fun music" but said music is that sad song from Here Comes Garfield, So Long, Old Friend! Garfield and Odie seem to react that, as if it actually does bring back bad memories, the former quickly shutting the radio off, but he then picks it up, announcing, "That's it! Pack it in! We're going home. I don't want to be a panther snack." Jon stops him, though, and tells him that Lake Woebegone is miles away. Putting him down, he puts the radio away and pulls out a banjo, saying that he's reminded of a campfire song his mother used to sing. Again, Garfield and Odie aren't thrilled at the prospect, with Odie yawning and Garfield groaning, "He's gonna entertain us." He then starts playing and singing the song, Camping is My Life, and like with When I'm Out in the Rough, Garfield provides a counterpoint to Jon's rose-colored glasses view of the great outdoors: "I don't miss the city", "I do", "The flashing neon lights, I don't miss the traffic, coming home from work at night", "Home!", "The tension on the turnpike, you can cut it with a knife", "I miss my tension", "No, I don't miss the city, 'cause camping is my life." Despite their initial objections, Garfield and Odie start to get into the song, both of them howling, and Jon goes on, "All I need's a loincloth, a little sack of salt, whatever you hear on the 6:00 news, buddy, it ain't my fault", "Not my fault", "Out here in the backwoods, amongst the leaves and trees, I'm in seventh heaven..." And then, he hits a momentary snag, unable to think of something appropriate that rhymes with "trees." Throwing out some suggestions, he just decides to go on with it, and now, Garfield and Odie are dancing with each other, while Desiree Goyette's voice can be heard doing some vocalizing. (I might have said it before in another review but I'll say it again: Thom Huge sings really well. His voice has a nice, smooth sound to it and it makes this song the best in the whole special.) But, once the song's over, Garfield groans, "Take me home." With that, they decide to go to bed. Jon crawls into the little tent, struggling a bit to get comfortable, followed by Odie, and then Garfield, who promptly kicks the dog out. Undeterred, Odie sleeps at Jon's feet. Little do any of them know that the escaped panther is watching them from a nearby hilltop, snarling as it eyes them.

The next morning, Odie is the first to wake up and starts licking Jon's feet, causing him to laugh in his sleep. Waking up, Jon bounces amidst the trees, with Odie chasing after him and continuing to lick him. Unable to see, Jon hits a tree, hops right into the unlit but still smoldering fire-pit, trips over a log, and rolls down the hill behind it, ending up in the lake below. Sitting up in the water, he has to stop Odie from trying to lick him again, when Garfield pops up, gasping for air. Jon explains what happened but Garfield doesn't find it funny at all, telling Odie to go play with something poisonous. Odie then runs off, passing a sign on a tree that reads, LAKE WOEBEGONE, while up at their campsite, the two rangers have found it empty. Looking for the panther, the one ranger decides to leave a note behind for them so they can continue the hunt and sticks it on a small stick jutting up from the ground. But, after they leave, a gust of wind blows the note into the fire-pit. Before it's burned up, you can see that it reads, KILLER PANTHER LOOSE IN AREA. YOU MUST EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY. Later, Jon looks through the box of food and sees that it's almost a completely gone. Garfield has an answer for every question he asks: "Where's the bacon I packed?" "I ate it." "Where are the biscuits?" "I ate them." "Where are the eggs?" "Don't look at me, Charlie. That egg-sucking dog of yours got to them first." "Where's our food?" " It was declared a midnight snack." Finding that they're now left with only some dried fruit, Jon starts ranting about how they're now in the middle of nowhere without any food and Garfield takes the opportunity to slip away in order to find a place to lay low.

Garfield walks a fair distance into the woods and stops beside a log, figuring he's found a good spot to lay low until Jon calms down from his rant. Looking around, he's quite taken by how genuinely beautiful a place it is and we get a montage of panning shots across the forests, showing them off in all their glory. This montage is set to the Desiree Goyette singing The Music of Nature, which makes the place feel all the more lovely, as you see well-drawn shots of forests and rolling hills, filled with trees and flowers everywhere you look. Garfield decides that it's not too bad being out in nature (doesn't he look a little strange when he smiles there?), until he remembers that there are potentially dangerous animals to be found out there. He starts freaking out, thinking, "They're gonna come here, and they're gonna eat me, and then, I'm gonna die... and that could really hurt my bowling average. They'll be here any moment. I sense their approach." That's when Billy the rabbit pops up behind him and merely says, "Hi, there!", only for Garfield to yell and get down on his knees, pleading for him not to eat him and throwing out reasons why he shouldn't. As he falls down and grabs Billy's feet, Dicky the beaver comes into the scene, the two of them trying to figure out what's wrong with Garfield. It then dawns on Garfield that they're not going to eat him and he gets up, dusting himself off, before asking the two of them about the escaped panther. Just mentioning it causes them to jump behind the log for shelter and they tell him that the panther has been terrorizing the forest animals. Dicky goes on to tell Garfield: "It's 10 times our size, it's as black as midnight, and its evil yellow eyes stare right into your soul. I was in the lake last night, and I saw it on the shore. What it did to a friend of mine is too ghastly to repeat. And then, it pulled itself up to its full height, and stared right at me, looked right through me, with those eyes... those eyes, as if I were next." During the last part of Dicky's story, you get a close-up of the panther's snarling face, with its yellow eyes glowing in the dark.

After Billy assures Dicky that the panther will move on soon enough, and tells Garfield that Dicky is the only one who's seen the panther and lived to tell about it, they hear some rustling nearby. The rabbit and beaver both take cover behind Garfield but, when the rustling gets closer, they flee, leaving Garfield by himself. Panicking, he takes cover in a hollow tree stump, when the source of the rustling turns out to be Odie. Smelling Garfield's scent inside the stump, Odie licks him through a hole in it. Garfield initially panics, thinking he's just been eaten, but he calms down and realizes that he was merely licked. Looking out from the top of the stump, he sees that it's Odie and gets licked again. He tries to warn Odie that they're in trouble, that they're going to get eaten by the panther if they don't get out, but Odie just sits there, absentmindedly panting with a dumb look on his face. He licks Garfield again, much to his irritation, and Garfield hears some more rustling. He ducks back into the stump and pulls Odie inside, the dog's panting tongue sticking it through the hole in the stump. This time, the rustling was caused by the rangers in their continued hunt for the panther. They stop by the stump, talking about tranquilizing the panther and that they'd best find it before it attacks one of the campers. They move on, as it's getting dark, and Garfield and Odie, having heard everything, make a break for their camp, hoping they're not too late to reach Jon. This leads into a short montage of them running through the darkening and increasingly creepy-looking forest, set to a "song" called Run-Run, I'm Afraid. I put song in quotations because all it is is Thom Huge repeatedly saying, "Run, run," while Desiree Goyette counters with, "I'm afraid, I'm afraid," set to a very simple beat. As the sequence goes on, both the beat and the singing get faster and more intense, only for it to abruptly stop when they reach the campsite. I don't know if that was completely necessary but it only lasts for twenty seconds, while there are other pointless moments in some of these specials that last much longer.

Reaching the campsite, where Jon is waiting by the fire, Garfield tries to warn him that they need to pack up and get out but Jon doesn't get what he's trying to tell him. When trying to pull Jon to his feet doesn't work, Garfield tries to get Odie into the car but the dog, who seems to have completely forgotten about the panther, just licks his face. Getting to his feet, Garfield tells Odie, "If we don't get out of here right this instant, we're gonna be dead, and if that happens, heaven forbid, I'm never gonna speak to you again." The clouds then part, revealing the full moon, and the light illuminates the panther. All three of them watch as it emerges from some bushes and starts closing in on them. Jon tells Garfield and Odie to run and the former immediately heads up the side of a tree. Odie tries to follow suit but is unable to do so and he takes cover with Jon in the tent. Garfield watches from the tree as the panther stalks towards the tent, Jon and Odie just barely managing to get out before it gets ripped open. While the panther rips up the tent's remains, Jon and Odie crawl to the car, using a bush as cover, and Jon prompts the dog into the car. The two of them are then inside, thinking that they're safe, as Jon wonders what happened to Garfield (the shot here is odd, as it makes it look as if the car has been bisected). The panther pops up next to the driver's side and snarls, scraping its claws along the window. Jon honks the horn, hoping to drive it away, but the panther backs up and lunges at the window, ramming it with its head and cracking it. With that, the panther then manages to burst completely through the window and swipe at Jon, ripping off a big chunk of the front of his plaid shirt. The panther is now poised to kill him, when Garfield, who's been watching everything from atop the tree, brandishes his claws and, with an angry cat screech, jumps on the panther's back. He claws and bites at the panther's shoulder blades, screeching and hissing as he does so, but gets flung off and lands on his back. He watches as the panther begins approaching him, preparing to rend him to bits, but fortunately, the rangers show up. They fire on the panther as it jumps at Garfield, hitting it right in the neck with the tranquilizer dart. It instantly becomes woozy and collapses to the ground, Garfield breathing a sigh of relief upon seeing this. However, it then wakes back up and tries one last attempt to get at Garfield, putting its enormous paw on him, but then it collapses again, now truly out cold. Its paw recedes from Garfield, who comments, "Nice touch."

Jon and Odie both cheer at being saved and Garfield runs and jumps into Jon's arms, joining Odie. One of the rangers tells them that they're lucky and that things could have been disastrous had they been any later. Garfield jumps to the ground and proclaims, "Yeah, well, if those guys hadn't shown up, I would've had to have gotten rough with that big cat. Wouldn't have been a pretty sight. But a cat's gotta do what a cat's gotta do. When the tough gets going, the going gets tough." Realizing he got that last saying wrong, Garfield spends the remainder of the special trying to get it right, fumbling with, "When the get tough going... or, I mean," as they're last shown driving home.

The first bit of music by Ed Bogas and Desiree Goyette that you hear in the special is a very bluesy, harmonica/guitar combination, with the latter being very low-key strumming, and it captures both the lifeless, bored mood of the opening, when all of the color has gone out of Garfield's life, and his general disdain for the idea of going camping. As usual, instrumental versions of the songs are often heard, such as a subtle one of When I'm Out in the Rough immediately following the actual song, a soft, horn version for a moment when Jon is setting up camp, and relaxing harmonica version for the scene where Garfield and Jon are watching the sunset (harmonica pieces are often used in the score to accentuate the country feel and vibe of the story), and an oboe version when Jon finds that Garfield and Odie have just about eaten all of the food. You also hear a playful, mischievous version of Camping is My Life the morning after the song is played when Odie wakes Jon by licking his feet, causing him to roll into the lake with Garfield, and you get a bit of the instrumentation of The Music of Nature before the song itself kicks in. Besides that, there's some intentionally melodramatic, poignant music when Garfield begs for his life when he meets Billy and Dicky, they themselves have a soft, laid back leitmotif that's made up of strumming and flute-work, and there's an upbeat, horn piece that plays when Garfield finds out there's a fish in the coffee pot he filled with water. The music that follows the panther is just as menacing as it is, with the moment you first see it transitioning from a peaceful bit of music when Garfield, Odie, and Jon have gone to bed to a really harsh, menacing, electronic piece when it's shown to be watching them from a hilltop. There's a creeping piece of music for the scenes where the rangers come by to warn Jon to evacuate, for when Dicky tells Garfield about the panther, and when they think they hear it rustling nearby. And the music for its attack on their campsite is just as intense as the sequence itself, with percussive, driving beats, and freakish sounds mixed in. Following that, you get some warm, harmonica themes for when they're all safe afterward and when Garfield is flubbing the, "When the going gets tough, saying, and an instrumental version of Get Me Some R and R plays over the ending credits.

Garfield in the Rough is nothing less than another well-done, enjoyable special featuring everyone's favorite fat tabby cat. It has a lot going for it, such as the way in which it not only capitalizes on its very simple but ripe premise but also manages to add some serious suspense to it at points, the lovely way in which the wilderness setting is designed and given some atmosphere at night, the interesting style choices at the beginning, Jim Davis' charming character designs being applied to other animals besides cats and dogs, nice bits of animation, memorable songs sung by the main characters, a nice score to go with it, and a surprisingly menacing portrayal of the escaped panther that acts as the antagonist, which results in quite an intense climax. There are some little nitpicks I could make but, on the whole, it's yet another solid Garfield special and another that I recommend checking out for any fans, be it of the character or good, family-oriented animation in general.