1995 was not only a great year in film but a noteworthy year for releasing the first entirely computer-animated feature film, Toy Story. Some of my favorites from that year include Clueless, Jumanji, and Heavyweights. With so many great movies coming out in one year, it’s no surprise that a few good movies slip through the cracks, specifically one of the most underrated animated movies, A Goofy Movie. Despite being a member of the Disney Fab 5, Goofy’s popularity still remains inferior to that of Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, which may be a reason why this film is often overlooked. For those unfamiliar, A Goofy Movie follows Goofy (Bill Farmer) and his son Max’s (Jason Marsden / Aaron Lohr) summer road trip in a story that has heart, will make you cry, and encourage you to take risks.
The music in A Goofy Movie stands out from other films, mostly because there isn’t a bad song to be heard. How music is used to juxtapose the dynamic between Goofy and Max is incredibly ingenious. Goofy takes part in and enjoys songs that are more “traditional” Disney, while Max’s musical interest lies in contemporary rock and R&B. During a radio control battle between the two, the tape breaks, leaving them with no music, so Goofy improvises a melody inspired by the sounds of the road to cheer up Max. His lyrics highlight his optimism and glass-half-full attitude, while Max’s parts highlight how much he doesn’t want to be with his dad. Despite the push and pull of their relationship, they ultimately come together for the emotional father-son ballad, “Nobody Else But You.”
In my opinion, the 90s rock song “After Today” is the best opening number ever scored. It is a perfect complement to the scene and is incredibly catchy. The opening guitar riff instantly puts me in a good mood, feeling reminiscent of “Belle” in Beauty and the Beast. Still, instead of solely being a “walking through town” song, it is an “I want” song. It’s if a flash mob and the Newsies opening number had a love child with the beginning guitar riff from “You Don’t Know.” Every character has their own personality and feels relatable, allowing viewers to connect with them the way you would someone in your own life or school.
Another infectious song in A Goofy Movie is “Lester’s Possum Park.” What makes that scene perfect is that it highlights the differences between Goofy and Max as we get to experience the park from both their points of view. Goofy is, for lack of a better word, goofy and feels nostalgia when he says the attraction “hasn’t changed.” He is always authentically himself and doesn’t worry about what people think. Max, by contrast, is going through the growing pains where he doesn’t know who he is, only that he doesn’t want to be his father. The film does a good job of transferring Max’s emotions to the viewer by the use of an “uglier” color pallet usually reserved for villainous lairs, with the dilapidated animatronics falling apart, and the nauseated distortion of the music and background. When Goofy sings and dances with the entire park looking on, he is having the time of his life; all Max wants to do is run and hide from embarrassment.
If you were to take Bobby Brown, Prince, and Michael Jackson, smash their heads together, wipe off the blood, you would get the Goofy Movie character Powerline (Tevin Campbell). Powerline is the “biggest rock star on the planet” and has plenty of swag. Everyone at Max’s school loves Powerline, and Max, afraid of losing his crush, Roxanne (Kellie Martin), to a romantic rival, lies about the reason for canceling a date with her by saying he’s going a Powerline concert she’ll be watching. Being a teenager that doesn’t know when to quit when he’s ahead, Max further lies that he will be on the stage and wave to her. This leads to “Stand Out,” a power anthem on the surface but underneath say directly to Roxanne what Max is too shy to express. This is also reflected on the screen. During the performance, Max looks out to the audience, and only Roxanne is visible, so he dances around the stage and sings directly to the girl he likes. Following this up with the final song “I2I,” we not only get a catchy hook but also an emotional payoff where Goofy and Max dance together on stage.
In A Goofy Movie, storytelling is done with a minimalistic approach. The story is low-key- just a dad planning a fishing trip with his teenage son- yet moving. This is different than most high-concept films we are used to seeing from Disney, being a “road trip-meets buddy comedy” at its core. Goofy is trying to be a good dad (i.e., trying to remember to knock before entering, making Max’s lunch), but, like most teenagers, Max has trouble opening up to his dad. Like most dads, Goofy doesn’t notice that what was fun when Max was younger is embarrassing now as a teenager. Goofy is trying to hold onto Max’s youth and closeness, possibly heightened by the fact he is a single dad, while Max wants his dad to respect him as a young adult. Actions speak louder than words, which is why I cry every time Max hands Goofy the alphabet soup spelling out “Hi Dad.”
Quite uniquely, this film is honest about the struggles of a parent coming to terms with their kid growing up, as well as the teenage experience of young romance. Max and Roxanne being awkward around each other, not knowing what to say or how to say it, is more accurate than most teenage coming of age stories. Most teenagers don’t know how to communicate and end up telling lavish lies in the name of getting someone to like them, even if they’re not as grand as what happens in A Goofy Movie. The film’s ending is perfect: no grand over-the-top display of love, but rather Roxanne forgiving Max by giving a quick kiss and a giggle. Instead of being embarrassed, Max introduces Roxanne to his dad.
Despite not being a period piece or set in a fantasy world, everything from Max’s oversized hoody to ripped jeans and crop tops screams “90s film.” Unlike other Disney films, A Goofy Movie doesn’t have a villain. Max’s lie and the father-son dynamic drives the conflict and carries to the emotional load, instead of having a personified villain. Yet this simplicity in the story, combined with other impeccable elements like the voice-acting and score, continue to make this film so great and beloved 25 years later.