Hear Us Out

Hear Us Out: A Goofy Movie Is the Unique and Underrated Star of Disney's '90s Renaissance

The quirky father-son tale may get overshadowed by the lions and Beasts, but it's a moving, joyous, small-scale gem.

by | April 7, 2020 | Comments

Max and Goofy in A Goofy Movie

(Photo by Buena Vista Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

After a very dark and financially difficult period during the 1980s, Walt Disney Animation Studios went through what we know now as “The Disney Renaissance,” a decade full of critically and commercially successful animated films that changed our perception of not only what Disney films could do, but what animation itself could accomplish. With powerhouse musical numbers, moving stories, and innovations in the medium, Disney pumped out unforgettable movies for most of the decade. While everyone remembers The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Aladdin – and if they forgot them, the live-action remakes have surely jogged memories – there is one film that came out during this period that is as good as, if not better than, some of the big guns, but is seldom considered part of the Renaissance itself: A Goofy Movie.

Featuring a small-scale story that kids can see themselves in, an excellent portrayal of teenage life and father-son relationships, and, crucially, a soundtrack filled with earworms to rival the work of Rice and Menken, the movie has something for everyone. For its 25th anniversary, we’re going to stand above the crowd and shout out loud why A Goofy Movie deserves to be considered one of the big players in the Disney Renaissance.


ITS SMALL-SCALE STORY IS A REFRESHING CHANGE – AND MOVING AS HELL

Goofy and Max in A Goofy Movie

(Photo by Buena Vista Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Released in April of 1995, A Goofy Movie arrived on the back of several high-concept movies like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast, the latter of which earned an Oscar nom for Best Picture. Compared to the Shakespearean tale of a lion cub having to fight to regain his crown or the fantastical story of a genie in a bottle granting wishes, or pretty MUCH everything about Beauty and the Beast, Goofy’s story was decidedly low-key: A single dad plans a fishing trip to connect with the teenage son who’s drifting away from him.

A Goofy Movie doesn’t have a villain with grand designs to rule Pride Rock/Agrabah/the Ocean. Indeed, the film stays focused pretty much on Goofy (Bill Farmer) and his son Max (Jason Marsden, with Aaron Lohr as his singing voice) as they take a road trip just like they used to when Max was a kid. There is no outside force trying to ruin their lives or even their trip. Instead, the emotional weight of the movie lies in the fleeting relationship between father and son – the former who wants his son to remain a young kid while his son wants nothing more than to be treated as a young man. The tears you’ll feel by the end are enough evidence you don’t need an epic stampede to craft a beautiful and moving tale.


IT DARED TO BE CONTEMPORARY BOTH IN STYLE AND IN MUSIC

Max in A Goofy Movie

(Photo by Walt Disney Pictures)

Where the vast majority of Disney animated films at the time were either period pieces or set in fantasy worlds, A Goofy Movie is the rare film that looks and feels of its time. Even if it features anthropomorphic dogs, the film screams ’90s, with characters wearing ripped jeans and cropped tops; as Austin Williams wrote for Vice, Max’s look is undeniably hip-hop, with an oversized hoody that “might as well have read ‘Hilfiger’ across the front.” The ’90s feel extends not only to the look, but the sound of the film.

The soundtrack for A Goofy Movie mirrors the push and pull of Max and Goofy’s relationship: the songs that Goofy takes part feel more like traditional Disney; the songs Max is interested in are all about R&B. On the Goofy-led side, Jack Feldman and Tom Snow wrote and composed “On the Open Road,” which includes a vocal ensemble and skews folk, and “Nobody Else But You,” the duet ballad that serves as the movie’s emotional crux and is the closest to the Broadway-heavy soundtracks of other Disney Renaissance movies.

But what makes A Goofy Movie feel memorably of its time are the other two songs in the movie, the tunes that are used to show Max becoming his own man and which are entirely rooted in the mid-’90s. Right after the High School Musical-meets-Grease number “After Today,” which gives a ’90s rock musical feel to Disney’s usual “protagonist walks through town as everyone joins in song” number, comes the bombastic, moonwalk-dancing pop power anthem that is “Stand Out.”

This is even reflected in the use of two (well three if you count “Lester’s Possum Park”) teams working on the score: Feldman and Snow writing for Max and Goof, and the team writing for the actual star of the film: Powerline.


IT GAVE US AN ANIMATED SUPERSTAR AND A FINALE WE CAN’T FORGET

Powerline in A Goofy Movie

(Photo by Walt Disney Pictures)

The first time we see the character of Powerline, he comes in the form of a cardboard cutout in a record store: a Michael Jackson-meets-Prince-meets-Bobby Brown figure with a three-line fade and an otherworldly space suit who’s meant to be the biggest star in the world of the film. Even though we only meet the real thing towards the end of the film, seeing Max moonwalking his way through the school’s auditorium while lip-syncing “Stand Out” as his classmates lose their minds tells us everything we need to know about the singer.

According to Vice, when Disney set out to make A Goofy Movie, they had intended to cast Bobby Brown in the role of Powerline, which makes complete sense: After the success of “My Prerogative” and Ghostbusters II hit “On Our Own,” Brown was at the height of his career when the film was in development. But by the time the film’s production was coming to an end, Brown’s drug and alcohol problems led to the singer being replaced by a relatively less known Tevin Campbell.

Campbell had already risen in popularity rather quickly. His debut album was produced by Prince and Quincy Jones, and it became certified platinum in 1994. Campbell had also appeared in Prince’s sequel to Purple Rain, as well as an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but it was with A Goofy Movie that the world was gifted the unique blend of R&B sensibility and teenage appeal. Speaking with Forbes, Campbell recalls seeing the songs already written out before he was cast. “I did some dance moves at the green screen,” he said, though he doubts that they based Powerline’s dance moves off of him. Powerline’s songs were written and composed by Roy Freeland and Patrick DeRemer, and produced by David Z, who also engineered Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

Goofy, Max, and Powerline in A Goofy Movie

(Photo by Walt Disney Pictures)

When we finally see Powerline on screen, he radiates swagger. In the film’s most bombastic, balls-to-the-wall music number, which sees Goofy and Max on stage with Powerline and using Goofy’s fishing moves as dance moves, the incredibly catchy hook of “I 2 I” sneaks itself into your brain and carves a nest there. And for many, it’s stayed there for 25 years. The melody sounds straight out of a power anthem from the late-’80s to mid-’90s, the lyrics are empowering, and paired with the stadium-filling stage show that Disney’s animators create, it makes for a thrilling climax. And one with emotional payoff: father and son are finally dancing to the same tune.

The concert may not have the gravitas of a beast poetically returning to human form, or a new cub being foisted into the African sky, but for many Disney fans it packs almost as much punch. And it is just one of the reasons A Goofy Movie may be the strangest thing Disney put into theaters during its 1990s Renaissance, but also one of its best.


Where You Can Watch It Now

FandangoNOW (rent/own), Amazon (rent/own), Disney+ (subscription), Google (rent/own), iTunes (rent/own), Vudu (rent/own)


A Goofie Movie was released on April 7, 1995.

#1

A Goofy Movie (1995)
58%

#1
Adjusted Score: 58.97%
Critics Consensus: A Goofy Movie offers enough of its titular ingredient to satisfy younger viewers, even if most parents will agree that this beloved character deserves better.
Synopsis: This animated Disney feature centers on Goofy's teenage son Max, who is dragged off on vacation just as he was... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Lima

Tag Cloud

BAFTA travel VOD Chernobyl monster movies SundanceTV Alien police drama Marvel NBC free movies TBS Schedule sequel hollywood Family Holiday Travel Channel elevated horror Esquire New York Comic Con unscripted Comic Book VH1 spinoff DirecTV BET Awards stop motion YouTube Red crossover child's play Certified Fresh The Witch comiccon news period drama discovery Premiere Dates Shondaland Pixar Turner mutant TCA Awards Brie Larson BBC America HBO Go theme song robots E3 cancelled ID ABC Family hist Trophy Talk FXX The CW Disney dragons Animation TV One thriller Apple TV Plus Thanksgiving christmas movies 45 composers Lifetime Christmas movies Winter TV Valentine's Day football Sony Pictures crime best crime drama YouTube Television Critics Association Broadway APB teaser biography batman blockbusters mockumentary sitcom fresh DC streaming service Teen parents See It Skip It criterion based on movie 2018 Tubi satire Marathons Universal strong female leads Tomatazos Oscars Country Dark Horse Comics spy thriller Disney streaming service japanese RT History jamie lee curtis canceled TV shows Black Mirror TV Land 4/20 Apple kids Academy Awards Trivia Paramount Plus nbcuniversal comic books blaxploitation Amazon zombies richard e. Grant ABC golden globes Polls and Games Crackle Awards Tour Character Guide Mystery rt archives miniseries diversity obituary sag awards pirates of the caribbean CMT Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt MCU stand-up comedy spider-man Tumblr RT21 documentaries true crime Cartoon Network what to watch Amazon Prime Video TruTV Cannes hispanic Fox News Nominations Funimation Cosplay History NYCC Fall TV cartoon scorecard Kids & Family comic Vudu toy story Endgame Comedy Central latino ESPN Year in Review Columbia Pictures screenings YA A24 TCA Winter 2020 Shudder Amazon Studios golden globe awards medical drama razzies prank cats dceu natural history Film Festival rom-coms Stephen King docudrama popular 21st Century Fox Song of Ice and Fire twilight 99% BBC reviews cancelled TV series Best and Worst cops witnail Masterpiece television Music CBS All Access DC Universe zero dark thirty singing competition rotten Baby Yoda venice Bravo Holidays Hear Us Out TCA cancelled TV shows TV nfl Turner Classic Movies Sundance Now space social media Reality Competition LGBTQ American Society of Cinematographers Western Women's History Month BBC One fast and furious Syfy classics Exclusive Video cars Discovery Channel Star Wars GIFs SXSW The Purge war Comics on TV streaming romance Rom-Com Classic Film FOX godzilla Mary Poppins Returns Sci-Fi talk show Netflix Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Spike south america Emmy Nominations BET The Walt Disney Company ViacomCBS supernatural festivals revenge spanish cinemax kaiju Crunchyroll serial killer Action green book award winner superman MTV harry potter A&E WGN Superheroe Awards laika sports comics Opinion Showtime FX on Hulu adventure Sundance Creative Arts Emmys 72 Emmy Awards IFC Films Fox Searchlight Legendary Sundance TV Election trailers E! Extras films WarnerMedia Ghostbusters Apple TV+ LGBT Pop TV Paramount Network Paramount french X-Men Elton John Winners renewed TV shows TNT Musical sequels Pet Sematary Black History Month 2017 DGA VICE king kong boxing Box Office historical drama breaking bad dramedy Heroines telelvision Tarantino directors The Walking Dead remakes technology Pirates SDCC Starz Lifetime Calendar PaleyFest Acorn TV Mindy Kaling Rocketman ratings comedies The Arrangement The Academy spanish language asian-american versus boxoffice dark superhero First Reviews Musicals Rock Biopics Binge Guide anthology anime Hulu australia Mary poppins Marvel Television worst Martial Arts rotten movies we love tv talk Disney+ Disney Plus Warner Bros. Adult Swim dogs Spring TV psycho foreign italian CW Seed casting doctor who Lucasfilm Red Carpet OWN 71st Emmy Awards San Diego Comic-Con TV renewals ITV Quiz all-time Summer HBO Peacock book zombie Sneak Peek nature Nat Geo HBO Max slashers docuseries aliens DC Comics 24 frames die hard Mary Tyler Moore Interview Film FX Mudbound Podcast TCA 2017 AMC video movie universal monsters facebook Logo blockbuster james bond MSNBC worst movies Rocky romantic comedy 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards 20th Century Fox spain Watching Series deadpool GoT emmy awards name the review women TCM Anna Paquin Britbox 2021 toronto Drama Countdown Emmys critics Spectrum Originals jurassic park Horror indie Walt Disney Pictures screen actors guild disaster archives Comedy game of thrones 2015 007 Lionsgate Nickelodeon Fantasy series Hallmark Christmas movies PlayStation Netflix Christmas movies TLC cancelled television science fiction YouTube Premium mission: impossible ghosts movies Ellie Kemper politics 2020 ABC Signature adaptation Trailer Amazon Prime kong Set visit Hallmark canceled indiana jones cults finale halloween tv CBS President PBS psychological thriller USA Network justice league black Disney Plus Arrowverse Avengers Television Academy vampires quibi Ovation Reality cooking Superheroes concert stoner Food Network halloween game show Grammys CNN First Look National Geographic reboot hidden camera Epix Photos 2019 Toys children's TV Pop Pride Month IFC documentary crime thriller TIFF Freeform USA Infographic 2016 Christmas binge independent Disney Channel El Rey werewolf video on demand Video Games Captain marvel transformers Marvel Studios political drama scary movies OneApp dc animated Writers Guild of America GLAAD joker festival franchise a nightmare on elm street Super Bowl chucky Star Trek