Garfield The Movie

Garfield, America's favorite cynical feline, finally hits the big screen in this live action/CGI picture adapted from the syndicated comic strip read by millions of people across the globe. Garfield's perfect world of never-ending lasagna, TV-watching and naps comes to a screeching halt when his owner, Jon Arbuckle, brings home a ditzy dog named Odie. The pair mixes like oil and water right from the start, but when Odie gets kidnapped by heartless animal trainer Happy Chapman (Tobolowsky), Garfield feels he's to blame. With uncharacteristic energy, courage and selflessness, Garfield manages to pull himself away from the TV and rescue his new cohabitant.

  • Starring: Bill Murray (voice), Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Stephen Tobolowsky
  • Director(s): Peter Hewitt
  • Producer(s): John Davis
  • Screenwriter(s): Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow
  • Distributor: 20th Century Fox
  • Animal Coordinator: Birds and Animals Unlimited
  • Release Date: Friday, June 11, 2004
  • Rating: Acceptable

Featured Animal Action

Animal Action Summary

This film contains mild live animal action mixed with the antics of a computer-generated Garfield.

Neighborhood Hijinks

When the milkman pulls onto their street, Garfield and his pal Nermal employ an elaborate scheme to pillage some of the prized elixir as its being delivered. Nermal jumps into a bucket that Garfield raises via a pulley apparatus, setting into motion a chain of events that knocks over the freshly delivered bottles every time. Just as the milk comes trickling into Garfield's mouth, the bucket plunges back toward the ground and lands upside down, trapping Nermal. Two Siamese cats named "Zack" and "Chewy" played the part of Nermal. Trainer Larry Madrid of Birds & Animals explained that for this sequence, he trained the cats to jump into the bucket, ride ten feet into the air, stay and give looks. Although "Zack" and "Chewy" were also trained to ride down in the bucket, rest assured no cat was actually under it for the drop. For additional safety, the cat playing Nermal wore a waist tie attached to a board when the milk truck drove by to prevent it from running into the street.

Restrained by a lengthy chain in his front yard, Luca the Doberman sits and talks to Garfield and his lady love Arlene. The fat cat's incessant taunting goes too far, though. Luca chases him around the yard and ultimately winds up with his chain caught between the myriad lawn ornaments, unable to reach a gloating Garfield. For the first part of the shot, trainers attached a ten-foot-long chain to Luca's collar and left the other end dragging behind him. Three trainers in opposing positions took turns calling to the dog to get him to move in the various directions that make up the chase pattern. Trainers later placed a 25-foot-chain on the Doberman's collar and wrapped it around the various decorative ducks and lawn jockeys. An animatronic Garfield was placed about one foot away from the dog, and the trainer cued Luca to stay while using a buzzer to elicit looks. The dog watched curiously as the animatronic cat moved its head and swished its tail; on some takes, the trainer cued the Dobie to speak.

After successfully distracted their foe, Garfield and Nermal pilfer the pie cooling on the window sill, and Nermal is next seen towing the pastry on a skateboard. Trainers placed the looped end of rope attached to a skateboard around the cat's neck. The lightweight prop pie consisted of a crust placed over aluminum foil plus a ceramic dish weighing less than one pound. Cued by a buzzer, the cat pulled the skateboard and pie in a straight line to a food reward approximately 15 feet away. Trainers stood nearby, and there was no debris or uneven grade to complicate the action.

Back at Jon's house, Louis the mouse walks across the floor and escapes through the cat door as Garfield's guardian implores him chase the roving rodent. Once outside, Garfield chats up his anomalous buddy and goes so far as to hold the creature in his mouth as a gesture of superior mousing instinct to Jon. After the convincing ruse works, our hero spits Louis out onto the sidewalk. Both movie magic and live action are at play in this scene. Louis the mouse was trained to do a simple A to B across the floor and out the cat door. However, once outside the house, a CG mouse was created for the shot in which Garfield spits Louis out of his mouth.

When Jon brings his cat to Liz's veterinary office for a bath, the waiting and exam areas are filled with other cats getting groomed, a retriever on a leash, cats and dogs in cages, and even a woman sitting with a pet monkey. Costumed trainers were used in this scene, and one of the principle handlers sat with the monkey.

Garfield, Plus One

Jon places the newly-adopted Odie in his car and the dog scratches the window and growls at Garfield. The part of Odie was played by two Dachshund mixes named "Tyler" and "Chloe". To get "Tyler" to scratch at the window, one trainer crouched out of frame below the car window and cued the dog to "dig it up" and growl.

Not exactly the brightest pooch in the pack, Odie tries in vain to win over Garfield with a friendly kiss but his bitter host proceeds to shove him away and across the floor. Odie has gone too far, however, when he sits in Garfield's chair. The incensed feline protracts his claws and strikes like a Ninja, causing Odie to pop up from the chair as if on a spring. Unsure of what else to do, Odie grabs his tail with his mouth and turns in circles. Like much of the movie, filmmakers tackled this sequence in several cuts. As the dog waited on mark, his trainer instructed him to raise a paw, speak and look toward the spot where the CGI Garfield would be. For Odie's kiss, the trainer wore blue gloves and cued the dog to lick a finger smeared with baby food. Shots of Garfield bopping Odie were filmed in front of a blue screen and "Tyler" was actually sitting on a table when the trainer, wearing blue gloves, pulled him out of frame. Two blue pillows cushioned the dog's landing and were erased in post production.

To achieve Odie's frightened leap, trainers put "Chloe" in a specially designed harness that supported the dog comfortably without placing undue pressure on her forelegs or stomach. Leashes attached to the harness went up through a pulley and were held by two trainers – one controlling the dog's front, and the other, his rear. The lift height was about three feet in the air, and then the dog was lowered back onto the chair. Both "Tyler" and "Chloe" performed this stunt and felt comfortable with the lift and landing. For the final action, the trainer cued "Tyler" to get his tail and the dog reached back, grabbed his tail with his mouth, and circled a few times.

Garfield's good fortune seems to flag even more the next day, when Luca approaches him without the customary chain to keep him at bay. Odie dashes onto the scene and the stunned neighbor cats look on as the new dog on the block licks Luca all over, quickly making friends with the neighborhood bully. For this scene, trainers filmed the two dogs as they engaged in natural play behind a puppy fence. Cues from his trainer got "Tyler" to bow using his front legs and to kiss the Dobie on the nose. The dogs thoroughly enjoyed their playtime together, and several trainers kept an eye on the twosome during filming.

Back at the house, the pair comes to a tenuous truce. Garfield shoves Odie off the chair various times, and they engage in a dance-off competition that features Odie hopping around on his back legs. Though they're having fun together, Garfield propels Odie across the porch when his other cat friends show up. For this sequence, trainers first positioned "Tyler" in a stay position on a blue screen floor. As "Tyler" hopped on his back legs, a second trainer called the dog to come in the opposite direction and cued him to spin in circles in one spot. This same action was repeated for various takes from different angles, and "Tyler" was conditioned and prepped for this scene for three weeks before actual filming began.

Disorderly Dog Show

Mayhem seems to be his middle name, and Garfield inevitably causes trouble after sneaking to the dog show to spy on the group. The other competing dogs chase after Garfield, who's hiding under a tarp, and when he escapes, several loose dogs run after him in hot pursuit. Wild running through crowds of people and stands of pet food, grooming products and kennels ensues. The grassy area of the pet pavilion was completely closed to traffic to insure the animals' safety. Trainers released eight dogs to run 100 yards through the grass and PetCo display tent and meet up with their corresponding trainers at the end mark. Additionally, trainers used look sticks to grab the dogs' attention for a few beats. None of the toppled pet supplies endangered the animals, and costumed handlers were stationed at various points throughout the tent.

While the other show dogs are busy chasing Garfield, Odie's favorite hip hop song starts to play and he wins the show with his enthusiastic dance moves. The trainer positioned "Tyler" on his mark and cued the dog to stand up and turn. As "Tyler" does his dance in the foreground, seven dogs run by in the background. Each dog had a trainer to release at A and catch at B.

The Odyssey Begins

With some less than subtle goading from Garfield, the misguided mutt chases after a takeout delivery guy on a moped. Trainers placed the dog on the stoop and instructed him to stay. The moped rider drove slowly down the street and called for "Chloe" to come, causing the dog to run after the bike for 50-75 feet to a waiting trainer who took the dog back to the starting mark. Several safety precautions were in place for this scene: six trainers were on set; the dog had been prepped extensively with the slow moving moped; and the street was closed to all other traffic.

Garfield's quest to find Odie is interrupted by hordes of bloodthirsty rats that corner him in an alley. In the nick of time, however, Garfield's mouse pal Louis intervenes and sends the rats away. This scene was done as a split screen in front of a green screen, since the filmmakers used just 12 rats but wanted it to look like scores had descended on the cornered cat. A trainer released the rats from a large container and buzzed them to food that had been placed near Garfield. Louis then arrives at the scene and stands up on his hind legs. The trainer sent the mouse through a "shoot" made of a three-inch piece of PVC pipe, and it ran along the wall against a blue screen board to a mark in front of Garfield. Next, the trainer held up a spoon with food on it to make the mouse reach up for the treat.

Garfield and Louis set off to find Odie on the mean streets of the city. For this scene, Garfield conceals himself underneath a plastic mail box, and Louis hides under a Chinese takeout box. While waiting for the scaredy cat to cross the street, Louis stands up on his hind legs. Working on a closed-off "movie street", a trainer put the well-conditioned mouse under the lightweight cardboard box. He then sounded a buzzer to get the mouse to push out of the box with its nose and sniff around for a few seconds. For the next part of this sequence, the mouse overturned the box and then jumped on the curb and stood on his hind legs. The trainer used a mouse clicker and some peanut butter on a spoon to bring about this action. Extras walking in the background were told to take special care and watch their footing near the mouse, even during additional shots where a blue screen circle was used.

Garfield finds Odie trapped in a cage inside Telegraph Tower. Hidden from view, Garfield witnesses the arrival of the villainous "Happy" Chapman, who takes Odie from his cage and forces him to do back flips in the air by employing a "shock" collar placed around the poor pooch's neck. "Tyler" was extensively prepped for this gymnastic feat. He wore a specially made leather harness and although the dog was trained to back flip, two trainers manually turned him using four leashes. CGI enhancements were later added to the scene.

As luck would have it, Garfield gets picked up by Animal Control and finds himself in a cage at the pound, sharing the sad tale of Odie's disappearance with his fellow feline and canine inmates. Persnikitty – Happy's former co-star and one of Garfield's acquaintances from Liz's veterinary office – is also at the pound. The director wanted very subtle movements for this scene to indicate that the animals were listening and responding to Garfield's monologue. Trainers cued the cats and dogs to speak, lie down, put their heads down or up, and give looks. The reaction shots were done separately, with three handlers per set up. This mild action required very few takes and occurred in a safe, enclosed stage area.

Soon after, a family enters the facility looking to adopt a kitty. An Animal Control officer removes a few cats from their cages – including Garfield – and places them behind a line to give the family a better look at them. Persnikitty, also a potential adoptee, suddenly pushes a button that opens all of the animals' cages and dozens of dogs and cats escape from the pound. This sequence was filmed in pieces and employed a split screen to simplify the action. Two cats sat on a white line, leaving room for insertion of a CG Garfield later. The other two cats entered separately. Trainers set up apple boxes and a long thin board down the length of the pen to create a lane through which a single cat could enter. To get Persnikitty to push the button, the trainer used a buzzer to call the cat over to the table and put its paws up on the wall.

For the great escape, each cat was placed in a holding cage with no back panel. Trainers released the cats, which jumped down approximately three feet from their cages and ran out of the hallway to catch trainers waiting at the end mark 25 feet away. Responding to the trainers' buzzers, the cats each received a plate of food as a reward.

The dogs escape from bottom cages rigged so that a crew person standing on the back side could open the kennel doors. Trainers stood outside of the animal control set and called to the dogs, causing them to run toward the camera and to their end mark. Several trainers maintained control over this potentially chaotic scene, and the dogs were restrained after each take.

The Big Climax

With not a moment to lose, Garfield manages to locate Odie on a train bound for the big city. He frees him from the cage, and Odie gives Garfield a grateful hug before they race off in the terminal. Chapman is hot on their tail, err, trail, though, and a showdown in the luggage warehouse between Chapman and Garfield's pound pals spells the end for the would-be animal exploiter. The group quickly subdues him and gives Chapman a taste of his own medicine when Odie zaps the shock collar now placed around his neck.

Each animal group was filmed separately and layered together in post production. Seven trainers, each holding a dog, stood at point A, and on action, released the dogs to walk down the hallway to one trainer waiting at the end mark. This scene also includes close-ups of dogs verbally cued to snarl or speak. As for the cats, trainers placed two in a sit/stay position; six were sitting or lying on luggage; and another two cats walked an A to B of five feet. The warehouse was enclosed, and seven trainers handled the ten cats, which were all relaxed and responded well to their food rewards.

A trainer cued "Tyler" to pick up the remote control in his mouth and scramble up a five-foot pile of luggage. Crew members had stacked the suitcases so as to create a gradual climb to the upper shelf where Odie paused to turn around, speak and drop the remote.