Many films claim to be the “Family movie of the year”, but so few match this description. Traditionally, a family movie needs to appeal not only to children, but also to their parents, siblings, and anyone else who might be watching alongside them. It needs to have characters and situations that are just as relatable to adults as they are to kids. A Goofy Movie (1995) excels at crafting a narrative that fits the “family film” criteria.
A Goofy Movie was directed by Kevin Lima and is the third feature film produced by DisneyToons. This studio is known for making movies based on pre-existing Disney franchises such as DuckTales and Aladdin. This movie is a spin-off and successor to the Goof Troop franchise and stars Goofy and his son, Max, as they go on a father-son road trip. A Goofy Movie is an example of a successful family film because it contains several elements to which adults and children can relate. This has become clear to me as I have grown up and have come to understand the perspectives of both Max and Goofy. Both characters are flawed and go through drastically different character progressions that are typical for their respective age groups. The main topics I would like to discuss in this post are the relationship between Max and Goofy, and the different things they do that support their decisions from both a child’s and an adult’s perspective.
Goofy is traditionally seen as a comedic relief Disney mascot. One does not typically expect this character type to have deep arcs or emotional development. This movie plays with his tropes and focuses on Goofy’s emotions and insecurities. A large number of Goofy’s decisions in the film are influenced by Pete, Goofy’s co-worker. At the start of the film, Pete explains that, without ample father-son bonding time, Max would go down a dark road in life. When, soon after this very conversation, Max gets in trouble at school, Goofy makes it his mission to have this bonding time so that Max will be raised correctly. Goofy plans a road trip based on the ones he and his own father took, forcing Max to visit places that only Goofy feels nostalgia for. Road trips are viewed as a tired trope in American father-son relationships, and using that as Goofy’s way to bond with Max shows that he is very traditional, a contrast to Max. These attempts at bonding fail, but Goofy is persistent in making the trip enjoyable for Max. Pete also takes his son, PJ, on a similar road trip and ends up crossing paths with Goofy and Max several times throughout the movie. At one point they meet, and Pete evaluates how their trip is going, pushing Goofy to be harder on Max, like he is with his son. Doing this with Max proves to backfire and reinforces Goofy’s insecurities about fatherhood.
After a bonding moment waiting for BigFoot to leave, Goofy entrusts Max to lead the trip’s coming destinations. When Pete overhears Max talking about changing the map, he relays this to Goofy. However, Goofy does not believe Pete. He states: “My son loves me.” Pete replies: “Oh yeah? My Son respects me.” As such their differing parental styles become evident. Pete’s relationship with his son is more assertive than that of Goofy, and it is clear that every time Goofy has listened to Pete it has ended up beeing more negative than positive for Max and Goofy’s relationship.
Despite trusting Max, Goofy keeps in mind that he could be lying to him – and minutes later he finds out the truth and is rightfully disappointed. He is both mad at Max and dealing with his insecurities of being a bad father. With their car going down a river, Goofy tells Max the whole reason the road trip happened in the first place. That leads to Max explaining the situation he is in and Goofy agrees to help him get to the concert to save his relationship with Roxanne. This is a clear indicator that communication is the key to their relationship being on track. Goofy realized that, while his parenting style may be different from that of Pete, he worked in his own way to help Max, and he grows from his insecurity. He successfully was able to grow a bond with his son and was able to accept that Max is growing up and needs his own space too.
Max’s character arcs are quite different, and this is proven as early as the introduction of the dream scene, which shows that Max has a crush on Roxanne and that he has fears of becoming his father. The dynamic he has with his father is shown to be rocky, he feels humiliated about him, and it is clear Max does not tell his dad about things going on in his life. This lack of communication leads to Max getting in trouble at school and having his dad plan the road trip before his first date with Roxanne.
Every effort Goofy makes to bond with Max on this road trip is rejected because Max feels he is forcefully removing him from Roxanne. However, after a dangerous encounter with BigFoot, Max begins to bond with Goofy over the ridiculous situation they were thrust into. However, Max had changed their map’s final destination to the Powerline concert while he was still angry, with the intention to get on stage to impress Roxanne who would be watching. This causes him to feel guilt over his father’s newfound trust in him. Goofy eventually finds out and is upset with him. Later Max tries to apologize and is interrupted by Goofy saying: “Why bother (listening), I’m probably too stupid to figure it out.” This is the moment where Max realizes that Goofy knows he looks down on him. He realizes it is clear Goofy knows his opinions on him and feels guilty for his actions.
After an argument they ends up on top of their car in a river. They let their issues build up to the point of exploding, something common to happen for relationships without communication. Max finally tells Goofy that he is growing up and that he is interfering with his life. Because of their openness, he tells Goofy that he lied to Roxanne and needs to see the concert, which they miraculously succeed in doing thanks to Max embracing Goofy’s signature antics and wackiness. Once returning, Max confesses his lie to Roxanne, and becomes humble of his father, growing their bond and speaking to his father more on his personal life.
Communication is key to any successful relationship. A parent-child relationship thrives on having that communication present in each other’s lives. The conflict in this movie does not just come from Max’s deception, but rather the lack of communication between the two leads. This overall theme of communication is a heavy motif used in the film that ties into the relationship between Goofy and Max. It is clear that both characters, while having their own personal struggles and arcs to connect to one another, failed at communication and learned that it is important for a father-son relationship to thrive.
Ebert, Roger. “A Goofy Movie Movie Review & Film Summary (1995): Roger Ebert.” Movie Review & Film Summary (1995) | Roger Ebert, https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/a-goofy-movie-1995.
Gass, Zach. “9 Ways ‘A Goofy Movie’ Is Disney’s Deepest Film.” ScreenRant, 13 Apr. 2021, https://screenrant.com/disney-ways-goofy-movie-is-actually-deep-film/.
Lima, Kevin, director. A Goofy Movie. Watch A Goofy Movie | Full Movie | Disney+, 6 Apr. 1995, https://www.disneyplus.com/movies/a-goofy-movie/3fo2pP85XXvo. Accessed 27 Mar. 2022.
Nick Mahoney is a student at the University of Texas at Dallas School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication. His focus is on animation and 3D rigging alongside project management and coordination.