“Garfield” Creator Jim Davis Makes Rare Red Carpet Appearance at the Film's Premiere

The author and illustrator first introduced the crabby orange tabby to audiences in the late 1970s

<p>B. Gomer/Express/Getty; Kevin Winter/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty</p> Garfield creator Jim Davis in 1983 and 2024

B. Gomer/Express/Getty; Kevin Winter/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty

Garfield creator Jim Davis in 1983 and 2024

Good thing the premiere wasn't on a Monday.

On Sunday, May 19, in Los Angeles, Chris Pratt and Hannah Waddingham stepped out at the premiere of their upcoming animated film, Garfield. Also on hand to celebrate was the grumpy cat's creator himself, Jim Davis, 78. He and the film's stars participated in a hand and footprint ceremony for the orange tabby outside of Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre before stepping inside for the screening.

Garfield actually scored his own PEOPLE cover in 1982, when reporters sat down with Davis to talk about "America's No. 1 pussonality."

"He's a little bit of Archie Bunker and Morris the Cat tossed together," Davis said at the time. "He's a very calculating cat. He's a very believable cat."

<p>River Callaway/Variety via Getty</p> Hannah Waddingham, Chris Pratt, Jim Davis and Garfield in 2024

River Callaway/Variety via Getty

Hannah Waddingham, Chris Pratt, Jim Davis and Garfield in 2024

That year, the TV special Here Comes Garfield was about to drop on CBS, in addition to a hit book series and the ongoing comic strip. PEOPLE estimated that by 1982, the cat had earned close to $20 million since he was "born" in 1976.

Davis shared that he based the character in part on his own grandfather, named Garfield. "He had a huge lap," Davis recalled. "I remember looking up his nostrils most of the time. He was a huge man ... A very stubborn man. A very opinionated man. And cantankerous." Though Davis grew up around dozens of cats on his family's Indiana farm, it wasn't one alone who inspired Garfield's look.

Related: The Garfield Movie Trailer: Chris Pratt Goes from Stray Cat to Sarcastic Pet in Animated Film

Desirée Goyette, who was the lyricist and singer (along with Lou Rawls) for the Garfield TV show soundtrack, said Davis himself was much like Garfield's fictional owner, Jon Arbuckle.

"He is down to earth the way Jon is, completely unpretentious," she shared.

Garfield first came to the big screen in 2004, voiced by Bill Murray with Breckin Meyer as Jon, following a host of classic television specials and series through the years.

<p>Thomas S. England/Getty</p> Jim Davis and Garfield

Thomas S. England/Getty

Jim Davis and Garfield

This 2024 animated version of his tail — er, tale — tells his origin story, with Pratt voicing the titular cat, Samuel L. Jackson voicing his father Vic and Nicholas Hoult voicing Jon. Stars including Waddingham, Bowen Yang, Cecily Strong, Ving Rhames, Brett Goldstein and Harvey Guillén as sweet canine sidekick Odie round out the cast.

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Though Davis has turned out for several Garfield-adjacent events in Los Angeles through the years, he's mostly stuck close to his home state of Indiana, reminding PEOPLE in 1982 that while "I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Garfield, Garfield is famous. I am not."

It's that modesty and levity that seemingly carried him through his career.

"A lot of hopeful cartoonists take the work too seriously," he shared. "The more fun you have with it, the more fun people have reading it."

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