Few companies throughout the history of the world have been so shameless in their pursuit of the almighty dollar as the Walt Disney Company. After breaking the mold in 1934, Disney has never shied away from creative marketing and release strategies to wring every last dollar out of its most beloved pieces of intellectual property. Each week, we’ll look at the House of Mouse’s various sequels, prequels, spin-offs and various misadventures relegated from the silver screen to the small screen. Is there any artistic merit to be found? Or was each film mostly conceived as an excuse to print more money? Join me as we search for the answers from the wonderful world of Di$ney.
Why does this exist?
There will always be die-hard Disney fans who will see any piece of intellectual property the company puts forward, whether it’s an original film or a new story revolving around one of its OG characters. The phenomenon sorta worked in 1995 with A Goofy Movie, as the film ultimately turned a profit; the Disney brass likely didn’t expect a breakthrough similar to Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast. Call it a low-risk, low-reward experiment.
Between the release of the original film and An Extremely Goofy Movie, Disney had purchased ABC, which owned the sports channel ESPN. Given that ESPN and the X Games were at the height of their popularity in the late 1990s, Disney surely had to show off its shiny new toy. And let’s face it: An X Games subplot in The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Tarzan would’ve just been weird.
Neither could this sequel have been very expensive to make. The main difference between the original film and other Disney films of the era is that Goofy doesn’t feature any A-list voice talent. (Yes, I know Pauly Shore is in the film). Bill Farmer, Jason Marsden, Rob Paulsen and Jim Cummings, et al were verified company players by 1995; surely the list of Disney cartoons in which they don’t participate is much shorter than the ones in which they do. Because of this, Disney didn’t have to shell out the big bucks to bring a major celebrity back into the fold, as they did with the Lion King and Aladdin sequels.
What’s going on here?
At its core, An Extremely Goofy Movie is a reform against the American capitalistic system, one that rewards those fortunate enough to attend higher education and punishes those that are not. And yet because of this, the same institution pushes the same individuals into crushing debt for the majority of their lives as they toil away at meaningless corporate desk jobs, with their only hope of a cushy retirement that’s perpetually out of reach.
The film simultaneously explores the fleeting relationship a man has with his father — how neither one will ever see the other as the idealized person they have in their mind and the constant disappointment that comes with that. From the moment he’s born, a man will always long to live up to his father’s expectations, but no amount of trophies, job titles or gifts will ever get there, and so the former resents the latter for it. Further complicating this narrative is the son’s lack of a maternal figure and the stress on the father for the son’s reliance on him to perform both parental roles.
An Extremely Goofy Movie is also a film about how we can never really go home again no matter how frightening the adult world becomes — how sometimes the hardest task in life is to face our problems head-on when we’re all alone and have nobody to whom we can turn.
It’s also a film about skateboarding and disco.
How much of the original is preserved?
One character trait that sets Goofy apart from Walt’s other original creations — and which justifies his own theatrical film — is that he actually has, well … character. Mickey loves Minnie Mouse and is also a good friend. Besides that, what else is there to hang a film around? Donald Duck is always up for wacky adventures, but you can barely understand what he’s saying most of the time. Meanwhile Goofy is a well-meaning character who just happens to fall into some Marx Brothers / Three Stooges / vaudeville-style shenanigans. So if you’re looking for a harmless cartoon with recognizable personalities that’ll occupy the kiddos for 80 minutes without all those annoying songs, rest assured: Goofy’s gonna goof.
Does this ruin the original film?
Look, I did not grow up in a Disney-centric household. Our cable package did not include the Disney Channel. As of this publishing, I still have never been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. My family would certainly see the big theatrical releases when I was growing up, but our lives did not revolve around the Disney mythos in the same way as many other families I know. Therefore, I have no long-standing brand loyalty to Disney, Mickey or Minnie Mouse or any of their pals, including one Mr. Goofy Goof.
I’m sure I saw A Goofy Movie soon after it was released, though I can’t recall if it was in theaters or at home, and I can probably count on one (glove-covered) hand how many times I’ve seen it. I’m sure there are Disney purists who staunchly defend the original film and this one — as well as plenty of ’90s kids who had the films on heavy rotation at home. As for me, it all just feels … well, extremely goofy.
- Next Time: It’s The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. Sounds like another case of fraudulent advertising for Lionel Hutz.