Alex is a School of Visual Arts graduate with a passion for media, writing and animation. He writes reviews for film, television and games.
When it comes to making animated movies based on iconic characters, it's always a risky move. Take Disney, for instance, when they occasional make theatrical animated features starring their trademark characters. The most prominent examples are Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer's Apprentice from the Fantasia film(s) and Donald Duck in Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Unfortunately, for the latter, these aforementioned characters would frequently appear in package films (i.e., "Jack & the Beanstalk" from Fun & Fancy Free) as individual stories stitched together as "movies" back when the Disney studio was financially fatigued. Despite that, their legacies continue in other media forms, including television.
While the Mickey Mouse Club defined television's revolutionary era, the Disney Afternoon programming block defined a bigger impact during the late 1980s and 1990s. One of these shows was Goof Troop. The show centered on the suburban life of Disney character Goofy and his son Max where they deal with average sitcom situations and their neighbors, the Pete family. In hindsight, the show seems to act like a product of its time for being trendy and have the typical family sitcom tropes. In practice, the show is secretly a homage to the 1950s Goofy cartoons where the comedy and characters are the driving force.
Technically speaking, making a movie based on a Disney Afternoon show is a tall and challenging order. DuckTales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp was the first to accomplish that, regardless of both its positive reception and box-office underperformance. Originally, a television special based on Goof Troop was planned, but Disney decided to make it theatrical with some changes such as aging up Max, removing some characters, and adding new ones. Newcomer Kevin Lima, who went on to direct Tarzan and Enchanted, was chosen to give Goofy an emotional arc while preserving the character’s traits. The film was given a smaller budget and its animation was co-produced by various studios.
Upon its release, critics were mixed and the box office results were weak, despite making more than its budget. However, as home media releases and time went on, A Goofy Movie built a cult following, mostly from millennials around that decade, and it became more perceptible within the Disney company. After over two decades since its debut, how do Goofy and Max fare up?
Goofy and his teenage son Max (voiced by Bill Farmer and Jason Marsden respectively) embark on a summer, cross-country road trip full of wacky and heartening proportions.
A Wild Yet Warming 90s Adventure
As a movie based on a television show, it is surprisingly welcoming to newcomers. While the show's primary characters and the setting are present, the movie feels self-contained and definitely establishes who these characters are without prior knowledge of the show. For the road trip comedy aspect, it is typically fitting for a full-length feature rather than an extended episode and has moments that would give viewers National Lampoon movie vibes. The story also has its cliched and predictable elements involving the relationship between Max and Goofy. Although, this road trip movie may sound generally basic, the execution helps keep both the comedy and emotion in balance. Interestingly enough, the road trip concept was approved by Jeffrey Katzenberg, before his departure, because it was inspired by his alienated relationship with his daughter and eventually bonded during a family road trip.
Starting with the comedy, it doesn't shy away from the wackiness since it stars Goofy. Many would get familiar and accustomed to Goofy's traits, like his naivety, clumsiness and famous laugh and holler. However, that doesn't just apply to Goofy himself, some of the other characters would deliver a legitimately funny line. Uncommonly, we even get subtle Disney references. Even the places that the duo visit bring out a humorous scenario. For example, Goofy teaches Max how to fish, but they accidentally encounter Bigfoot and get locked in their car in the process.
At the same time, the movie would then decide to take a break from the craziness and gives us emotional and relatable banter between the characters. This is where the heart of the movie is. Going back to the Bigfoot scene, while Goofy and Max wait for Bigfoot to leave, they share a moment together that makes Max remember how fun he had with his dad. Moments like this give the characters, especially Max, some development, which will be talked about later.
Despite being an animated movie with anthropomorphic characters, the setting and tone feels down-to-earth and close to reality as possible. Like the show, it also presents its trending 90s identity, which visually contrasts how the characters act in the movie. Classic characters like Goofy and Pete act as timeless as they were in Uncle Walt's days while their children Max and P.J. act like how kids today act...at the time this movie was released. Sure, some would find this movie a product of its time for its use of pop songs and slang. But, with the previously mentioned elements, it doesn't over-saturate the mood and gives its audience the right time to have fun or feel emotionally immersed. It may be a simple road trip comedy, but when Goofy is around, it will be a journey that no one will forget.
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Small Budget, Big Handiwork Animation
When the movie's animation production began, its budget was estimated around $18 million. Many assume having a number this low and comparing to other Disney animated features at the time would've been suitable for television or direct-to-video, since DisneyToon Studios was involved. Strangely enough, even with a small budget, the movie's animation absolutely caught anyone off-guard. Thanks to the combined works of Walt Disney Feature Animation, DisneyToon Studios, and outsourcing from France and Australia, the movie's animation quality looks as authentically cinematic as possible.
When comparing the art direction between the show and the movie, they share a similar yet respectful feel that applies to both. While Goof Troop had a stylized look that was more reminiscent to the 1950s Goofy cartoons, the movie looks more faithful to the 1940s cartoons with likeness from the show sprinkled in. In other words, Goofy and Pete not just act like timeless, but they look timeless as well. Besides aging up the existing characters, Max and PJ apply the same type of design as their fathers have while maintaining their appearances from the show for fans to recognize. It’s almost like a visual representation of old and new Disney character generations. Although the character models appear flat, lighting does occur in certain scenes to help give the drawings some depth.
Having a cinematic update, the character animation is more fluid making the characters move more like humans, with a hint of cartoon-y flair since they are still anthropomorphic. Basically, it keeps both the realistic and comedic animation balanced. Goofy is the sole exception where his movements are more energetic which preserve the character's slapstick core. Even with that, he would settle down whenever an emotional moment occurs. That would also apply to the animal characters and Bigfoot. The character animation would then elevate whenever the characters are in a sticky situation or deliver some well-crafted choreography during the musical numbers. There is also nice use of effects animation (i.e. electricity, bubbles and lights) while there is selective use of CGI for vehicle and depth shots.
As for the background animation, some of them fall under the category of “average”. Not saying they’re bad looking by all means. In fact, the backgrounds are well-painted and detailed. Whether you are familiar with the show or not, the town of Spoonerville is presented as a basic town as you would expect. An average suburban neighborhood, an average high school, an average shopping mall, etc. You get the idea. Then again, once the Goofs hit the road, that’s where we get some interesting locations. In one scene, we end up at Lester’s Possum Park, which is a parody of the Disney attraction “Country Bear Jamboree” complete with an animatronic band and taking a souvenir photo with real hanging possums. You could hang out at Pete’s fully operational and impressive looking RV or spend the night at a mermaid-themed motel. After escaping near-death at a mountainside waterfall, you will cheering and dancing to the Powerline concert. The stadium is a visual marvel full of inventive staging, elaborate costumes and vibrant lights at every angle possible. It’s not everyday where a side project like this holds a lot of unexpected artistry.
An Entertaining Cast of Not-So-Goofy Characters
At first, you think a movie about Goofy would focus more on the comedy than the characters themselves. However, thanks to Lima’s direction, the movie managed to provide a cast of funny and reliable characters.
Beginning with the main characters, Goofy is the most fleshed-out of the bunch. Yes, he acts as clumsy and unintelligent as anyone would anticipate. At the same time, he is characterized more as a kind and caring father who wants to help be part of his son’s life. Not only that, Goofy could also has his limits when he becomes understandably angry after Max lied to him throughout their trip. This is one side of Goofy that NO one saw coming and helps build the emotional aspect of the movie. You could also say Goofy makes a great role model.
Max is Goofy’s teenage son and the most developed character of the movie. Like the show, Max would get roped into his Goofy’s shenanigans and often get embarrassed by him in public. Here, he initially wanted to start his own life this summer away from Goofy and tried winning the heart of his crush Roxanne. Max even went out his way where he and his friends put on a concert in the school auditorium to impress Roxanne and later lying to her about attending the Powerline concert in person. But, once you get past his angst, Max is not really a bad kid as he gradually grows and accepts being a "Goof" due to his dad's good hearted nature.
For the supporting characters, we have their neighbor Pete. While Pete seems to get along with Goofy fine as opposed to the show, Pete is still as antagonistic as he was in the classic cartoons, but for a subtle reason. In terms of the story, Pete acts more of an overbearing parent where he believes children should be forced to behave under their parents' control as a sign of "respect". In layman's terms, he treats his son P.J. like a servant more than a son. Some could say Pete could be a negative influence on parenting or treating children, like in one scene where he forcibly keeping a little girl still for her photo. As for his son P.J. (Pete Junior), he remains as Max's best friend as he was in the show. Nowadays, fans still question the whereabouts and absence of Pete's wife Peg and younger daughter Pistol. It's as mysterious as the existence of Goofy's wife.
For the new kids on the block, we have Max's love interest Roxanne. Outside playing that archetype, she is a sweet and friendly girl that shares the same feelings for Max, though shy about it. On top of that, the romance between her and Max is genuine whenever these two are screen together. We also have Max's eccentric best friend Bobby with an obsession for cheese spray. Actually, this movie has a bunch of wacky yet memorable minor characters that have their moment in the spotlight. These characters include the strict Principal Mazur, student body president Stacey, the animalistic Bigfoot, Roxanne's overprotective father, the famous pop singer Powerline, and a surprise cameo of another iconic character not spoiling here.
The voice acting also helps bring life into the characters. Bill Farmer is charming and lovable as ever as Goofy. Jim Cummings knows how to bring out Pete's bullying nature. Even Jason Marsden is well-suited to capture Max's cool yet selfless nature. Other familiar voices include Rob Paulsen, Frank Welker, Wallace Shawn, an uncredited Pauly Shore and a young Dante Basco. Sadly, this movie was also the last film role for Disney veteran actor Pat Buttram, known for voicing Napoleon from The Aristocats, the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood and Chief from The Fox and the Hound, before his death. These characters, silly or not, left a big impression and will keep you thrilled throughout the ride.
Catchy Musical Moments
It's hard to imagine that whether if this decision was last minute or not. Okay, so Disney is no stranger to having musical numbers in their movies whether they are necessary or not. But, like the animation, the musical numbers are impressive and fun to listen to. It seems that a lot of care was put into the songs and each stand out with the right mood and scene accompanying it. "After Today" is the hype-inducing song where any schooler would be excited for when school is ending and summer vacation is beginning. It even expresses how Max plans to rid of his "Goof" side and reaching his goal. "On The Open Road" is a tuneful number that excels both in the entertainment and humor departments. The entertainment part is where anyone would sing to help pass the time on a long road trip. At the same time, we get a chorus of unpredictable drivers that convey on the comedy. "Nobody Else But You" is a mellow song that carries the emotional bonding and reconcile between Goofy and Max during the peak of their journey. Lastly, we get two pop songs sung by Powerline, or Tevin Campbell to be more precise. "Stand Out" is the self-explanatory number that Max uses as an attempt to be cool and getting attention from Roxanne. "I2I" is the not only visually the best song in the movie, but also the metaphorical song about relationships where it is romantic and family oriented. It may sound something out a time capsule, but the energy, lyrics, and vocals will make you dance and connect with those dear to you. It was an unpredictable yet endeavoring move to make A Goofy Movie a musical experience.
Overall, A Goofy Movie is an underrated gem that really shaped a generation while making a character like Goofy timeless. It may be simple and cliched to a lesser extent, but the writing, animation, comedy, songs, acting, and heart took a lot of talent and effort to make a movie based on a television series great. Speaking of which, it is highly recommended for of either Goof Troop fans or general Goofy fans. It is also recommended for kids and families that would have a feel-good time. As mentioned before, no early viewing for Goof Troop is necessary before watching...unless you need some context to know what the show is to begin with. It is a shame nowadays that Mickey and his friends continue to appear either on direct-to-video movies or television series. Heck, there were plans for a full-length Mickey Mouse feature at one point, but never came to full fruition. Maybe someday we will see any of these characters again on the big screen, whether hand-drawn or digital. As long if they take some influence from Goofy out of all characters, maybe there can be something fun and entertaining to remember a character's legacy.