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.


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.


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.


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.


A Goofy Movie (1995)

Adjusted Score: 58.994%
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

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