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Frames of Time...

069_04 - Garfield, Friends and Me...
Pick a TV series that featured a different ending for each opening title, a leading character that thought more of food than others, a TV clown that constantly interacted with the cast, and famous stars doing cameos. If you said THE SIMPSONS, you were off by several years. GARFIELD AND FRIENDS had all these aspects in the days of B.S. (Before Simpsons).

The announcement that they will be releasing the first 26 half hours of GARFIELD AND FRIENDS on DVD brought back lots of fond memories. When asked about my "favorite" productions that I worked on, GARFIELD AND FRIENDS is almost always my first choice. And it should be.

I joined the series just shortly after it had started. Phil Roman, who had produced the many prime time Garfield TV specials was in new waters. My experience in shipping materials overseas (for AN AMERICAN TAIL), impressed him enough to bring me on. Originally, I was to work with the current production person, but after my first week, she became ill and was out for almost 6 months! It caused me to create the entire production process.

The young Film Roman studio was a fantastic gathering of talent. Phil's over 2 decades of experience brought with it many experienced pros. The need for a large staff meant grabbing talented newcomers. The crew had folks who had worked on features for Fleischer and Disney (such as Bernie Wolf and Phyllis Craig) and folks just getting started (such as the now renowned Craig Kellman and Bob Boyle). Running for seven seasons, the series had some variation in its crew.

Though I worked on numerous series at Phil's, GARFIELD was definitely the most fun and lively. I got to share duties with several producers. There was George Singer, whose penchant for change drove almost everyone crazy. Bob Curtis had a laid back style that suited the fat cat so well. Bob Nesler's agitated personality was always more interested in chatting with those above than working with those below. Vince Davis had an outrageous disregard for authority that kept the final seasons from going stale. Each deserves their own frames of time, and will undoubtedly get them.

It was also a series where I was extremely connected with all aspects. The network often asked me to help out in areas I was supposed to "leave alone". I dealt regularly with Jim Davis' key rep, Thom Huge (who was also the voice of Jon). In fact, though I left the series for short periods of time, Jim and Thom's desire for my familiarity kept me getting re-assigned to the show. I was heavily involved with the recording sessions and studio. And finally, I was a key link to the show's writer, Mark Evanier. Probably more than anyone else, Mark is responsible for the flavor of the series. He not only wrote almost every episode, he directed the cast and even picked many of the guest stars. Again, each deserves their own frames.

Finally, the series first showed me the tightrope of production. As the producer (with a variety of titles ranging from Production Coordinator to Associate Producer), I was often requested to pass along messages. It was like the couple that refuses to talk to each other and uses a friend to relay messages. Person A would ask me to mention something to Person B, without saying who had asked it. Person B would ask me to handle an issue with Person C, and not to mention who the source was. This eventually led me to be considered a thorn by some. In fact, a key Film Roman exec used to state I cared more about the staff and the show than what management said. However, Phil would always defend me and state "John is doing his job, which is what he is paid to do."

It probably wasn't a coincidence that I left Film Roman at about the time GARFIELD AND FRIENDS was coming to the end of its seven season run. When I left, almost every member of the studio attended a surprise (to me) luncheon. Many stated that I was the glue of the studio. Though flattered I told them that it was really a good crew that made a good show. That the crews had so much fun, enthusiasm and variety, GARFIELD AND FRIENDS was a fun show. When released, the DVD will prove it.

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