“The Garfield Movie” Director Mark Dindal on Taking a Famously Lazy Indoor Cat Way Outdoors

Garfield, the lasagna-eating original grumpy cat, has been painted with a fresh coat of animated fur and given a new voice in actor Chris Pratt for director Mark Dindal’s The Garfield Movie, a hilarious roller-coaster romp that’s going to bring out the kid in you, nostalgia aside. Garfield purred into theaters on May 24.

Published as a comic strip in 1978, the beloved feline has made its way onto television series, specials, movies, books, video games, and countless toys and memorabilia. After 45+ years of storytelling, you’d think there’s nothing new to share, but you would be wrong. The Garfield Movie uncovers a side of the pudgy orange cat that we have never seen before—his father. I asked Dindal over a video call how something so obvious had never been touched on before.

Odie, Vic (Samuel L. Jackson) and Garfield (Chris Pratt) in GARFIELD. Courtesy Sony Pictures.

“When you have so many years of material, it’s like what hasn’t been done. His mother was referenced in one of the specials, but not his dad. This is the first time we see his father in anything, and it gave us an opportunity to come up with something unique,” Dindal tells The Credits. “Producer John Cohen has been shepherding the project for quite some time, and the idea of Garfield’s father came from his conversations with Jim Davis. It was part of the script when I got it in 2018.”

The fully animated feature has been in the works since 2016, when Alcon Entertainment bought the motion picture rights from Garfield creator Jim Davis, who hails from Muncie, Indiana. Dindal was tapped to direct two years later after a nearly twenty-year hiatus from the business—his last feature was Disney’s first fully computer-animated film, Chicken Little (2005). Before that was the low-key Disney cult classic Emperor’s New Groove (2000), which spawned from the shipwrecked development of Kingdom of the Sun.

Vic (Samuel L. Jackson) and Garfield (Chris Pratt) in GARFIELD. Courtesy Sony Pictures.

During that time, Dindal worked with producer Randy Fullmer, who retired from Hollywood in 2006 to start a guitar company. He recently passed away in 2023 at the age of 73. When asked if Dindal was able to share any of the Garfield projects with Fullmer, the director graciously replied, “A little bit, but when you’re working on a movie, you can’t share too many of the details.” Adding, “What Fullmer did for me, and I think it’s important for any artist, as a producer, he shielded us from a lot that comes from making a movie. There are a lot of moving parts and concerns and money being spent. He knew me so well that there were certain things he could share with me so that I was aware of them and could make creative choices appropriately. Then, there were certain things he would take care of so I could focus on the story.  He was a real crusader for protecting the creative process. Craig Sost was our producer on the daily production of The Garfield Movie and he has the same quality. I have been blessed twice now with producers like that.”

The story Dindal focused on for this project reunites Garfield with his long-lost father, Vic (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), in an outrageous milk heist that brings along lovable pup Odie (voiced by Harvey Guillén) and several more surprises. There’s plenty that will make you laugh, too, as Pratt delivers some quotable one-liners, and the physical comedy doesn’t disappoint. But what resonates are the character arcs and emotional stakes. For instance, the origin story of Garfield meeting Jon Arbuckle (voiced by Nicholas Hoult).

In creating those moments through animation, the years of comic strips became the defacto reference for character expression and poses. The world-building was brought together by production designer Pete Oswald under Dindal’s direction. “The challenge was translating ideas into CG and developing it in a way that would work with the type of animation that I like… the broad, cartoony stylized animation,” says the director. “One of the influences I brought up was when I was a kid, we had these View-Master viewers. It’s a 3D stereo that allows you to see these color photographs and I remember as a kid I always felt like I wanted to step into the world of those. I showed them to Pete and magical is the only way I can describe it. It makes you want to shrink down and be part of it. I feel the same thing when I see stop motion. I just want to step into that world.”


The View-Master reference was a stepping stone in developing a stylized look with a certain amount of force perspective to the visuals. Another item on Dindal’s checklist was the use of painted backdrops, similar to the work found in The Wizard of Oz (1939). “They create a hyper-reality,” says the director. “One of the things I like to think about is to create a universe in a movie that doesn’t exist. So, if you’re drawn to that reality, you have to come to the movie to experience it. You can’t step outside and say, ‘Well, this is like that movie.’”

John (voiced by Nicholas Hoult) with baby Garfield. Courtesy Sony Pictures.

Getting there is a gut feeling for Dindal—he takes it one step at a time, asking: do these character poses feel like there’s a level of imagination being applied? “I probably do it more subconsciously than consciously, but that’s kind of the way my mind works.”

The animation is also pushed to an entertaining level of absurdity, especially when Garfield, a famously lazy indoor cat, is pulled outdoors with his “what can go wrong” attitude—apparently plenty. Dindal credits his board artists, giving them “the freedom to go as far as they possibly can” for the bigger hijinks sequences.

“Animation takes so long you can kinda take it out for a test drive and get a sense of how people laugh or if it will confuse them with the absurdity. There’s a lot of it in this movie,” Dindal says with a smile. “A simple thing of Vic driving a truck. When you really think about it, can he reach the pedals and all that stuff? That’s all legitimate. But the kid in me, it’s like kids playing in the backyard, and they’re imagining that sticks are swords or laser guns. I like to be in touch with that side of imagination that everybody had as a kit that I think, unfortunately, sometimes goes away. I am still blessed to have that so of course Vic is driving a truck, he’s an adult.”

As for Pratt filling the paws of Garfield, Dindal says the actor was his first choice. “One of the things we do is get sound clips from actors that we feel can play the roles and we put their clips to drawings of the characters. The clips we found of Chris just fit the character so well. We knew we would have a certain level of action and a definite amount of emotion. I felt like he had the range we wanted to have in the movie, and his ability to adlib and improvise I knew I wanted as well. He checked all the boxes and then some.”

Garfield is in theaters now.

For more upcoming films from Sony Pictures, check out these stories:

Danny Boyle’s “28 Years Later” Casts Jodie Comer, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Ralph Fiennes

Tom Holland Slings a Hopeful “Spider-Man 4” Update

Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum Orbit Each Other in “Fly Me to the Moon” Trailer

Featured image: Odie and Garfield (voiced by Chris Pratt) in THE GARFIELD MOVIE.


Daron James

Daron is a veteran journalist, who has been writing about the film and television industry for over a decade.