If you can believe it, A Goofy Movie came out 25 years ago. The ’90s animated adventure has become a stone cold classic in the two plus decades since it came out. Spinning off from the popular Disney series Goof Troop, the movie was originally meant to be “A Goof Troop Movie” but it ended up becoming an emotional meditation on fatherhood, friendship, and growing up which has found a long lasting popularity and passionate fandom that has far outlasted the expectations of the people who made it.
To celebrate the anniversary we chatted to the iconic voice of Goofy, Bill Farmer, and voice actor extraordinaire Jason Marsden, the voice of his too cool for school son Max, to chat about the making and legacy of the beloved movie.
Farmer has played Goofy in over 4000 projects for Disney since taking the role in 1987 and the character’s capacity for reinvention still delights him. “Goofy more than probably any of the other main characters was really malleable. They changed him even before I was doing it. He was kind of simple, just regular old Goofy. Then in the 1950s they changed him into a dad and a kind of an every man. Disney even changed his name to George G. Geef for a while; and they even got rid of his ears in some cartoons. So there’s been kind of different incarnations of Goofy.”
When it came to crafting the character for Kevin Lima’s A Goofy Movie, the team had a tough challenge on their hand. “With A Goofy Movie, we had to add on a lot of layers of emotion and create a real, caring father kind of thing, this more heartfelt side of Goofy that we’d never had to do before. That was a unique challenge because before that I’d done a series called Goof Troop. And A Goofy Movie was originally scheduled to just be an extension of the cartoon show. But the powers of Disney decided, ‘Oh, you know, this might work as a buddy picture’. So then the whole thing kind of took on a life of its own.”
That buddy who would play such a vital role in the film was Goofy’s young son, Max. Being a huge Disney fan meant that for Marsden it was a dream role, though the process of getting it was just like any other day. “It was just another audition, just another day as a freelance actor. I got a call, I was 18 years old at the time and I remember I went to Vegas for the first time with my best friend and his family. But I had to cut the trip short because I had to come back and audition for this big movie, a Disney movie starring Goofy and based on Goof Troop. I went in, I read, and they liked what I did. And lo and behold, here I am,” Marsden laughed.
The intensive years-long production of the movie was a far cry from the cartoons that Marsden was familiar with working on. “I was used to doing television animation, which is about four hours of your day, you’ve knocked out an episode and you’re done. You work with a group and, you know, it’s one day. This was my first animated feature where the process was a little longer but I wouldn’t say it was tedious as it was just too much fun.”
With such a long gestation period, Farmer and Marsden were given far more time to explore characters and performances, a process that the Goofy actor adored. “It was very much a collaborative effort with Kevin Lima. Even though it was still in the Goofy character, it was finding that fine line between too far or not far enough to keep it in the Goofy world and still encompassing all of those human emotions that we’d never done before. It took a while and we tried a lot of things and we found the right balance that seemed to work and I think the test of time showed that it did work.”
Something that helped Farmer shape the new iteration of Goofy was his relationship with his young son. “At the time when we were doing the movie, my son was about four or five years old. Of course, you kind of grab onto whatever emotionally hits you and helps you with the character. So I was making this into a buddy picture in my own mind with my real life son. So, in fact, my son became Max and that gave me the emotional heart of how to play it.”
Though he was a teenager when the film was made, Marsden is a father now and it’s given him a new emotional connection to the movie. “I definitely have more sympathy for Goofy because Max is such a dick to him in that movie. My parents were very strict and instilled the fear in me so I never reacted to them like Max did, so that was actually very challenging to do. But it made sense, you know, Max is going through this major life change. He really wants to impress this girl and guys will do stupid things to impress women.
“But all Goofy wants to do is just hang out with his boy. Especially now, I’m a dad and my son is with his mother in Los Angeles because of this pandemic, and I haven’t seen him in over a month. It’s gonna be another few weeks. It’s very emotional, you know?”
The pair who regularly appear at fan conventions together both have many fond memories of the impact that A Goofy Movie has had on audiences around the world. “They’ll always say, you know, I couldn’t talk to my dad. But when we watched that movie we kind of opened up and it was a thing that brought us together. And that’s really amazing for an animated movie,” Farmer shared. Marsden also remembers those encounters fondly. “People would come up to me and the majority of their feedback would be ‘I had a tumultuous relationship with my parents,’ or ‘Me and my dad never got along but we bonded over this movie.'”
One of the highlights of their convention trails was the D23 reunion panel from 2015 which showcased just how much fan love the film had garnered since its release. “The idea for the panel was pitched to D23, and they gave us a very modest room not thinking it was gonna be as popular as it was. We had people turned away at the door with a standing room only. I remember the energy in that room was ridiculous. At the very end, Powerline himself, Tevin Campbell, came out and that just blew everyone away,” Marsden told me. Farmer agreed. “When I came on the stage the crowd just went nuts. I felt like one of the Beatles coming on stage. It was an amazing event. I was just totally amazed at the fans and how they supported the movie. It was incredible.”
So what do they think made the film such a beloved classic? Marsden has a theory. “It was the perfect mid ’90s movie. It hit all the feels that were going on at the time, including the music, which you know, we can’t overlook. As you get older, it still holds this special nostalgia in your heart. And then you want to revisit that and maybe it still holds up. Then you want to share that. These kids, they grew up, they had relationships, they had kids, and they want to share those feels, they wanna share that feel good with everyone else!”
Featured Image: Disney