At first glance, A Goofy Movie is a movie that shouldn’t have worked. First of all, the show is based Goof Troop, on a Disney Afternoon cartoon that was never as popular as the other cartoons. Then they take the child character and turn him into a teenager. Plus, the last time a cartoon character known for 7 minute shorts was asked to carry a feature length movie we got the disaster known as The Tom and Jerry Movie. With this going for it, people would have expected the movie to have been a cheap cash grab doomed to flop and be forgotten.
But since its release in 1995, A Goofy Movie seems unable to leave the pop culture mindset. If anything, the film is arguably better and more popular than the show. Even to this day, there are a few posts of women cosplaying as characters from the film and its sequel. There are YouTube videos of people reenacting the musical number “After Today”. Even the Entertainment Weekly website posted an article commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the film by rating each of the film’s songs. Article writer Marc Stetiker sums up the fans opinion of the film with the opening line; “Do not let anyone tell you that A Goofy Movie is not a Disney classic.”
Based on the animate show Goof Troop, Goofy (Voiced by Bill Farmer) is still a single father raising his son Max. Max (Jason Marsden) is now a high school freshman with a crush on classmate Roxanne (Kellie Martin). But his is too insecure to even talk to her, regarding being a Goof. On the last day before summer vacation, he hatches a plan to hijack a school assembly and performing a fake concert impersonating pop superstar Powerline (voiced by Tevin Campbell). Not only does this stunt make him a sensation among his classmates but it also lands him a date with Roxanne at an afterschool party.
Unfortunately, the stunt also lands him in hot water with Principal Mazur (Wallace Shawn). When Mazur calls Goofy, he greatly exaggerates the situation and claims Max will end up in the electric chair if Goofy doesn’t reevaluate his parenting. Falling for this hook, line and sinker, Goofy decides reconnect with his son with a road trip to Lake Destiny, a vacation of Goofy’s childhood. Max is upset because this trip prevents him from meeting his date with Roxanne. At first, Goofy’s attempts to reconnect with his son only alienates his son some more, especially considering that he was technically forced on the trip against his will. In time they redevelop their bond and learn to appreciate each other. Plus, they encounter Bigfoot and fall over a waterfall.
Max also has another problem. Fearing losing Roxanne to another guy, he claims that Goofy used to know Powerline and that he will be dancing with him on stage in LA. Now Max has to choose between fessing up to Roxanne or deceiving his father into going to the concert.
How did this movie elevate itself beyond the show and hold up after 20 years? We should thank Director Kevin Lima. Making his directorial debut, Lima could have just rested on the laurels of the show and made a typical 90’s “kids rule” slapstick comedy. Lima however went beyond to create a surprisingly complex and heartfelt portrayal of a Father and Son relationship. He demonstrates how the effort and passion of filmmakers can elevate a goofy premise beyond what’s expected of it. You’ll never see an anniversary tribute for Man of the House.
You can tell this film is something special when you see beautifully animated wheat field that opens the film. In between the scenes of classic Goofy slapstick, there are scenes of beautiful animation to emphasize the mood of the characters. When Goofy gets that phone call, the world around him goes completely dark to emphasize his helplessness and fear. And then a green light flows along the room. It comes from a lighthouse display for some bobble heads. When Goofy gets his epiphany for the road trip, everything goes back to normal. With no words, the scene captures the feel of what Goofy’s going through over the course of 30 seconds.
The film also finds a proper balance between cartoonish humor and warm moments. The perfect example is the generation gap in between Max and Goofy. Sure, most of the jokes are at the expense of Goofy’s cluelessness and clumsiness. The film also finds humor from moments that many families have been through. Max gets annoyed by an obnoxious mascot and slaps the head backwards. Goofy gets sick on a roller coaster, and then gets sick again at the sight of Max’s ultra-cheesy nachos. Both Max and Goofy destroy the car radio battling over choice of music.
In between these scenes are quiet moments focusing on their relationship. It’s here where we see the true strength of the film. While most films choose to side either with the kid or the parent, A Goofy Movie understands both sides equally and presents them as both right and wrong. It understands that Goofy just wants to remain a part of Max’s life. But he essentially forced Max this trip on him against his will and he fails to take Max’s feelings into consideration when planning activities. It also understands that Max just wants his dad to respect the fact he now has his own life. But he fails to consider that no matter how old he’ll get, Goofy will always be his father. And then there’s the whole lying about going to the Powerline concert. When the lie is revealed, the tables turn with Max being the one trying to reach a furious Goofy. Goofy is surprisingly intimidating when he’s pissed off.
It also helps that the film has great actors. I heard rumors that the studio originally considered casting Steve Martin for the role of Goofy. I love Steve Martin, but that thought makes me cringe. There’s a reason Bill Farmer continues voicing Goofy to this day. He perfectly captures Goofy’s aw-shucks demeanor people know and love. For the film, he also brings a lot of emotional range within the bumbling single father. In his first role as Max, Jason Marsden portrays a believable yet likeable teenager. He and Famer play off each other very well. The other voice actors do a great job. Jim Cummings and Rob Paulsen reprises their roles of Goofy’s brawny bully neighbor Pete and his neurotic son PJ and steal the show. With little to work with work with, Kellie Martin still manages to make Roxanne likeable. The film even manages to make Pauly Shore tolerable as the cheese obsessed (and possibly stoner) tech whiz Bobby.
Maybe I have my nostalgia goggles on, but I don’t care. Whether or not the 90s parts ages the film, the rest of the film still holds up to this day. It is a testament to how the passion and efforts of great animators and storytellers can elevate the film to what can be expected from the premise. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to listen to the soundtrack again.
 Admit it. You secretly wanted to do that.
 Mostly with the kid.