This childhood classic tells you to Embrace Your ‘Goof’
25 years ago, Disney’s underrated gem, A Goofy Movie (1995), was released. Most of us grew up watching this classic animated film, including myself, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I could appreciate and understand it for all it truly has to offer. From the tender story-line between a father and son, to the themes of self-acceptance, Powerline’s “Stand Out” and “I2I” bops, and finally to the overall Blackness that the film exudes- A Goofy Movie is a critical film in Disney’s Renaissance era repertoire.
A Goofy Movie follows Max Goof (Jason Marsden) and his lovable, gullible father, Goofy (Bill Farmer), on a father-son road trip- a trip that the latter spends most of the time lamenting about. After pulling a harmless stunt on the last day of school, the principle calls up Goofy and tells him that he needs to raise Max better before he ends up “in the electric chair” (a very unwarranted response, I might add.) After that phone call, Goofy is determined to take a fishing trip with Max, while using the time to reconnect with his growing son and keep an eye out on his well-being. A very salty Max, however, is upset over his now-cancelled date with Roxanne-bae (his long-time crush), so he sabotages his father’s fishing plans and makes their final destination the Powerline concert in LA instead.
The core narrative of the film is about the relationship between a father and his distant, teen son. The writers’ decision to place the primary focus on Max rather than Goofy himself is what helps make this film transcend generations. As a kid, I related to Max, and as a parent one day, I’d expect my children to feel the same as I relate to Goofy more. Goofy is a well-intentioned father, who feels his relationship with Max slipping. He mourns over the days that he felt needed by his son, the days when he was Max’s best friend. And all the while, Max is trying to escape his father’s grasp, like he fears if he gets too close, he’ll lose his own identity. He tries to to separate himself from all things ‘Goofy.’
Which brings about another major theme of the film that covers self-acceptance- the embrace your inner ‘Goof’ aspect. When the film opens up, Max is having a fantasy-dream of frolicking in white fields with his crush Roxanne. Then, the dream abruptly turns into a nightmare, because he starts changing into his father. Immediately, you get the idea that Max doesn’t want to be like his dad, nor be associated with anything ‘Goofy’, and that idea carries through his every action and his entire attitude toward his father. The writer’s of this sweet, animated film were well ahead of their time. This well-hidden theme of the story carries a lot weight, and I realized it so much more upon my recent re-watch. So many children grow up trying to separate themselves from their parents in their teens, not just physically or emotionally, but also culturally. Whether it is for the sake of autonomy, individuality, or independence (etc.), many teens begin to detach, and the impact this leaves on a tender-hearted Goofy is sobering. What’s even sadder is that Max’s search for individuality stems from wanting to erase any traces of his dad from his personality. His motives come from others telling him that the ‘goofy’ he gets from his father isn’t good enough, because it’s different. So he has to conform to have friends and the girl of his dreams. Self-love and acceptance is highly praised through social media today, but not everyone lived their adolescence with this mindset. How many teens denied their culture, parents, their upbringing, and circumstances to fit in with what they were told was ‘normal?’ Max’s journey to individuality is his self-acceptance, and it shows him that he shouldn’t be ashamed of who/where he came from, that he can be himself, have good, loyal friends, and win over Roxanne (who already liked him and his “h’yuck” laugh.)
Disney original songs are just as influential in film and pop culture as their films, if not more, because I, personally, believe that their songs have made or broken some of their movies. That can definitely be said for A Goofy Movie. Powerline’s two hits really just elevate the entire film into one of the best of the decade. His character was a rockstar who Max idolized. His smooth voice, along with dance moves akin to Michael Jackson and Bobby Brown gave him an entity that went even farther than himself. Tevin Campbell’s vocals, the back up dancers, and the R&B swagger, all the while music that just makes you want to dance is playing. I enjoyed the film’s songs even more now than I did then. It was Powerline’s characterization that also leads me into the blackness of the film. In a VICE article, they stated, “More than 20 years later, both A Goofy Movie and “I 2 I” hold unique places within the Disney canon for black millennials—places that no other Disney films or songs inhabit.”
The overall Blackness in A Goofy Movie is already perfectly accounted for in a piece by Black Nerd Problems, “A Goofy Movie isn’t a nerd classic; A Goofy Movie is a Black nerd classic. A Goofy Movie is unequivocally the Blackest Disney movie of all time.” This piece and others after it offer the cultural references, the characters’ traits, and of course, Powerline as support to this, and I wholeheartedly agree. Whether you recognized why or not, watching the film always gave a sense of familiarity growing up (it definitely did for me.) And that familiarity definitely makes sense now.
A Goofy Movie was a film I cherished growing up, and a lot of times, it felt like not many other people understood my attachment to it. Then, as I grew older, I found that my fellow black millennials knew exactly what I felt. This film feels like home and like a part of my childhood, more so than many other Disney films I watched during the same era. It exudes that comfort and message that told me it understood me, somehow. It has some truly unforgettable music, and it has a plot that I cherish more and more as the years pass on. I actually feel honored that I can share this film and this part of my childhood now through my writing.