A couple of years ago, the world of animated film was abuzz with the news that there was a new “Garfield” movie in the pipeline. The world’s favorite cartoon cat hasn’t been seen on the big screen since a pair of movies released in the middle of the last decade, to what we’d politely describe as a lukewarm reception.

The rights to produce the film had been secured by Alcon Entertainment, responsible for movies like “Blade Runner: 2049”, “The Book of Eli” and “P.S. I Love You”, so it was thought that with big studio backing and a fresh take on the tale, the new movie could reach heights that the previous attempts couldn’t muster.

It was back in May 2016 that the project was originally announced, and Alcon’s co-founders sounded excited by the project. Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove released a joint statement, in which they said “Jim Davis’ creation has been an international sensation, for all ages, for decades. We are thrilled to bring an animated "Garfield" feature to the big screen”.

Animation vs Live Action

Note the focus on the word ‘animated’. In contrast with the previous two films, which blended a CGI "Garfield" with live action human characters, the project was to be purely animated this time. Although the previous two films did make money at the box office, many reviews felt that the decision to make a live action Garfield movie took the creation too far from its place of origin and comfort. The hope was that by making it animated, the story may remain more true to original "Garfield" animator Jim Davis’ vision. In fact, Jim Davis himself was completely on board with the process. He’d signed on as an executive producer, and presumably would be there to make sure the tale and the style of the movie stayed on course.

”I’ve been so impressed with the quality of animation and storytelling coming out of Hollywood of late”, Davis gushed, at the time the film was announced. “I can’t wait to get into production with the terrific team Alcon has assembled”.

Davis, sadly, still appears to be waiting to get into production, but we should talk about that team. The project was brought to Alcon by Steven P. Wegner and John Cohen, the producer of animated hits like “Despicable Me” and “The Angry Birds Movie”. John Cohen is, of course, not to be confused with Joel Cohen, who wrote the previous two films, although that would be an easy mistake to make. In fact, confusion around people with similar names is exactly what happened with the last movies.

A Tale Of Two Cohens

Hollywood was surprised when the legendary Bill Murray signed on to voice the title character in the last two “Garfield” films; it just didn’t seem like the sort of project he’d get involved with. As Murray later admitted, he’d signed on based on seeing who was writing the script, as he was keen to work with the legendary filmmaker who wrote “Fargo”, “No Country For Old Men” and “The Big Lebowski”. The only problem with that was it was Joel Coen and his brother who made those films, not Joel Cohen, who’s a completely different person. By the time Murray realized his error it was too late and the contracts had been signed.

Extended Delays

Back in the here and now, it wasn’t just supposed to be one new “Garfield” title we were getting as part of the new project. Kosove and Johnson spoke of a whole new franchise of films, for which this first one was merely a taster. With their company’s long-term affiliation with Warner Brothers, who have acted as an outlet for almost all of their major pictures, it looked and felt like a “can’t miss” project, and was provisionally scheduled for a 2017 released.

2017 came and went, but we were assured that the project was continuing to run smoothly, and we could all look forward to seeing our newspaper strip friend in 2018 instead. Now, here we are at the end of 2018, and it’s evident that the film won’t be released this year. There’s no news coming from anywhere or anyone, and this time around there’s been no statement to suggest that the film is back on the slate for 2019. It just seems to have vanished.

The Mass Appeal of “Garfield”

It’s easy to understand why someone would want to try to make a movie franchise from “Garfield”. The enduring appeal of the comic can’t be doubted. Jim Davis brought the lasagna-munching cat into the world in 1978, and he’s been a fixture in newspaper comic strips ever since. In fact, from a starting point of appearing in forty-one newspapers simultaneously, he’s gone on to appear in over 2,500 magazines and newspapers around the world, with an estimated readership of two hundred and sixty million. That’s an awful lot of people who would potentially be interested in going to see the film on the big screen. Even the smallest fraction of that number turning up at the cinema to watch a new film would result in a huge box office smash, and secure the franchise that Alcon presumably hoped they’d acquired when they took on the rights.

The adventures of the sarcastic title character, along with his hapless owner Jon Arbuckle and fellow pet Odie the dog, have enthralled generations and shifted huge amounts of merchandise. If somebody could get hold of it, nurture it properly and create a truly great script, there’s absolutely no reason why it couldn’t become a box office sensation, the cuddly cat is truly one of the world’s fluffiest favourites.

Sadly though, for now, it looks like the wait will go on. Whether the project has been abandoned, or just remains stuck in Development Hell and going nowhere, remains to be seen. A statement from anybody associated with it would be useful, but given that we’re approaching two and a half years since the original announcement, and no news has been released about casting or release dates, we wouldn’t hold our breath expecting to hear anything in the near future.

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