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Garfield is living in a black-and-white world, where he is waking up in the same old bed, facing the same old morning routine, stuck in the same old stretch and the same old food, claiming that all the color has gone out of his life. He finds Jon in the kitchen but is also bored. He is excited to learn that Jon wants to take him and Odie on vacation, where he wonders where they are going on vacation. He imagines himself in Honolulu enjoying himself until the volcano erupts and a girl cat wants him to save her father's village and that if he can save the village, her father will give her hand to Garfield in marriage and that he just has to stop a molten lava flow. He replies with "You're cute, but you're not that cute". He then imagines himself in Acapulco where attempts to impress a female cat by dancing on a sombrero. He asks her out but her brother won't let her because he is upset that Garfield ruined his sombrero and beats him up. He then imagines himself in Venice where he is rowing with a female cat and singing. The female cat asks him to her place for some lasagna making Garfield jump out of the boat and swim for it. Garfield goes to Jon and asks him where they are going, only to be disappointed to learn that they're just going camping.
While on the road, Jon is excited but Garfield is still mad at him. When they stop by the ranger station, Garfield learns that they will be staying a week. They continue on until they find a spot where they prepare the camp. Jon catches Garfield trying to eat the food and tells him to leave it alone for a week. When Jon is finished setting up the tent but now realizes that it is small and that it looked larger in the ad.
It takes a while for Garfield and Odie to adjust to the great outdoors and Jon tries to see what's on the radio. There is news of a panther that escaped from the zoo lurking at Lake Wobegon in the very woods they are in and that all residents are to stay inside until the beast is captured. The radio then plays the "So Long Old Friend". Garfield believes the news and tries to leave but Jon stops him and claims that they are in no danger, that Lake Wobegon is miles away and that they are safe and they sing a song that Jon's mother used to sing with Jon's banjo playing until they go to bed. After they go into their tent, a distance away, the panther comes out and quietly growls. Garfield and Odie eventually eat all of the food Jon packed, of course.The next day, Odie wakes Jon up by licking his feet until they fall into the lake. Garfield tells Odie to go play with something poisonous. When Odie goes past a sign, the camera goes closer to the sign which says "Lake Wobegon" meaning that Jon, Garfield and Odie are at the place where the panther is lurking. The forest rangers are hunting for the panther, and attempt to warn Jon to evacuate, but he is away from the campsite when they arrive so they leave a note. This proves unfortunate as a gust of wind blows the message into a recently extinguished campfire, where it burns up. When Jon finds that all the food is eaten except for the dried fruit, he get very angry that he can't get more food, that they are miles from nowhere and that they could die out in the woods. Garfield takes a hike and starts to appreciate the beauty of nature, until he believes that there will be animals that could eat him until he meets two forest animals named Dicky Beaver and Billy Rabbit who tell him that he has been watching too many jungle movies. They warn Garfield about the escaped panther, claiming it has already attacked forest animals like Dicky's friend the other night.
Dicky and Billy leave after they hear a sound. Garfield hides in a log but finds that it is just Odie. Garfield and Odie return to the campsite and try to warn Jon of the danger but Jon insists that they should have dried fruit, until the escaped panther enters their campsite. Garfield runs up a tree while Jon and Odie at first hide in the tent but then hide in the car after the panther destroys their tent, Jon finds that Garfield isn't with them and that they can't leave without him but the panther spots them and manages to break into by smashing through a window.
In a dramatic scene, Garfield comes to the rescue when he leaps from the trees and takes on the panther, clawing at its head and neck but the panther throws him off. Garfield is in serious danger until the park rangers enter the campsite and subdue the beast with a tranquilizer dart. Jon then says he feels they have had enough adventure and recommends they break camp and return to civilization, much to Garfield's joy. While heading home Garfield can't pronounce the words of "When the tough gets going, the going gets tough" even when he said it the right way.
- The Panther
- Ranger #1 (voiced by Gregg Berger)
- Ranger #2 (voiced by George Wendt)
- Dicky Beaver
- Billy Rabbit
- Honolulu Cat (voiced by Desirée Goyette)
- Acapulco Cat #1 (voiced by Desirée Goyette)
- Acapulco Cat #2
- Venice Cat (voiced by Desirée Goyette)
- Radio Announcer (voiced by Gregg Berger)
- This is the first Garfield feature to be produced by Film Roman.
- Although Garfield's art style had evolved to its current state by 1984, the character designs from 1980-1982 are still used here. Jon's eyes are larger, but nobody else's are.
- Following the radio report about the panther being located in the Lake Woebegone area, So Long Old Friend is briefly heard.
- The radio announcement warns that the escaped panther has been sighted in the Lake Wobegon area and for all people to steer clear. Jon's geography skills are off, as he says that Lake Wobegon is miles away. Garfield and Odie later pass a sign which says "Lake Wobegon", indicating they are much closer to the danger area than Jon thought. (The fictional "Lake Wobegon" is best known for its use in the long-running radio series, A Prairie Home Companion, making its reference an apparent breaking of the fifth wall).
- In the comic adaptation, Billy Rabbit and Dicky Beaver played bigger parts and just before they leave, Garfield tells them of the panther's capture.
- Also in the comic adaptation, at the end, Jon hears scratching at the door and tells Garfield to answer it. Garfield claims he is no longer afraid of anything and says he'll take care of it. He peers out into the dark and sees a pair of glowing eyes. After Garfield screams and faints, a little black kitten walks into the house. Jon also wants to go camping again, but Garfield and Odie pounce on him every time he suggests it.
- "Get Me Some R and R" performed by Lou Rawls
- "When I'm Out in the Rough" performed by Lorenzo Music and Thom Huge
- "So Long Old Friend" performed by Desirée Goyette (briefly heard on the radio)
- "Camping is My Life" performed by Thom Huge
- "The Music of Nature" performed by Desirée Goyette
- "Run-Run I'm Afraid" performed by Thom Huge and Desirée Goyette
- 1984 Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program
Quotes adapted from the strips
- Garfield: Ho hum.
- Garfield: Have you ever had a day when you feel like you've eaten it all?
- Originally from March 25, 1979