A Goofy Movie is an animated musical comedy released in 1995 by Disney and directed by Kevin Lima. It’s mostly based on the Goof Troop TV show, albeit with different character designs, and was produced partly by Disney’s television studio despite having a theatrical release. Because of this, the movie doesn’t have the best animation or attention to detail, and looks a bit low budget by Disney standards. It didn’t have the strongest critical reception either, getting some pretty mixed reviews: it’s actually listed as “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes, even though the famous critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel enjoyed it. Personally, I think it’s a great film, but it certainly isn’t perfect.
The story concerns Max (voiced by Jason Marsden, singing voice by Aaron Lohr) and his relationship with his father, the classic Disney icon Goofy (voiced by Bill Farmer). Max is in high school and wants what most teenage guys want: to fit in, have friends, and get the girl. In the first act, he highjacks a school assembly to ask out the girl of his dreams, Roxanne, but in doing so ends up getting in trouble with the principal. When Goofy hears that his son is causing trouble, he takes parenting advice from his neighbour Pete and tries to get his son “under his thumb” (i.e., earn his son’s respect) with a little bonding time on the open road.
If someone told you that there was a Goof Troop movie, would you expect much more than a made-for-TV cash-in? Surprisingly, this movie is more than that. Yeah, it’s a goofy cartoon (get it?) with tons of slapstick, but it never forgets to include the undercurrent of drama required to maintain your attention for the running time. When the film needs to be quiet and mature, it can be — and there are quite a few touching, insightful little moments thrown in — but A Goofy Movie never forgets that it’s essentially a big-screen Saturday morning cartoon. Personally, I think that’s what makes it so good. I don’t want Goofy’s movie to try to be The Lion King. As a family road trip movie, it works.
The film is also a musical, and though the songs aren’t the greatest tunes you’ll ever hear, they’re not too bad either. They work within the context of the film, and one or two of them do stand out as being memorably good — most notably the first song, “After Today”. The song that marks the beginning of the road trip, “On the Open Road”, isn’t that spectacular on its own but is accompanied by countless visual gags that elevate it. There’s isn’t much to complain about, but nothing to write home about either.
The animation, as I said, is a bit bad by Disney standards. Watch the backgrounds and you’ll see extras conspicuously frozen in place, elements that are clearly painted onto separate cells (having mismatched colours as a result), and there’s even a few sequences that appear to have been artificially slowed down in post-production, causing the frame rate to drop erratically. It’s nothing worse than you’d see in a TV show, however, and the movie makes up for it with some very clever use of colour; I especially like the red light that illuminates the map every time someone looks at it dramatically. It isn’t subtle, but that’s what makes it fit this style of animation so well. For a feature film, a bit more effort could have been put in, but it’s passable.
A Goofy Movie isn’t a grand epic tale that digs deep into important issues — it’s a fun little tale about a boy and his dad. Goofy is definitely my favourite Disney character, and the script does an incredibly good job of keeping him ridiculous while still making me feel some genuine emotion about him. Like in Goof Troop, Goofy is a single dad, but now that Max is a bit older, he finds himself struggling to maintain his relationship with his son. Max is embarrassed by his dad in that way teenagers frequently are… and when your dad is Goofy, it’s a pretty believable embarrassment. I can empathize with Max’s desire to gain some independence from his parent, but I can just as easily sympathize with Goofy. The relationship is done very well. Some people might have wanted something with a bigger scope, but I think this modest story does the movie a favour: the emphasis is on what made the TV show good, while still expanding it to fit a movie format. Maybe a “Goof Troop Saves the World” movie could have worked, but that formula has been done to death. This works fine.
Is it a masterpiece? Probably not, but A Goofy Movie is still one of my personal favourites, bias taken into account. I grew up with those old Goofy cartoons, and I can see a lot of myself in Max and his relationship with his father. Sometimes, it is hard for a little boy to tell his dad, “I love you.” If you don’t understand that, you probably won’t understand what makes me like this movie so much. And if you don’t like Goofy… well, don’t expect him to suddenly endear himself to you.
If you’re a fan of Goof Troop, or if a father-son road trip movie with Goofy sounds like something you would enjoy regardless, check this one out. Maybe it’s not really the best Disney movie, but it’s far from the worst.