This underrated Goofy film is the perfect Disney Father's Day watch

1995's A Goofy Movie may not get the fame of other animated films but it's the perfect movie to watch on Father's Day!
Mar 4, 2019; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Disney's Goofy waves to fans before the start of a game between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2019; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Disney's Goofy waves to fans before the start of a game between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports / Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

With Father’s Day coming, there are a few Disney movies some may want to check out. True, dead parents are considered a staple for a Disney film but a few movies do touch on them. The Lion King is usually the top one for those wanting a Father’s Day feel and makes sense thanks to the Simba-Mufasa relationship. 

However, there’s actually a much better Disney movie for Father’s Day. It’s not an obvious pick, but it works as it touches on all the facets of a father-son relationship, a fun story, some comedy, and the family bonds coming up. And it all comes from one of the most unlikely of Disney characters.

A Goofy Movie

Yes, it seems nutty, but anyone who’s watched it can feel its tale of the age-old clash of fathers and sons and how, with all their differences, they can still come together. That makes it the perfect watch for this holiday.

The backstory of this Goofy film

Ask most Disney animation buffs about the 1990s and they’ll often cite the big-screen movies of the time. However, this was also the glory period for Disney animated TV shows, many of which remain beloved classics. 

Duck Tales, Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, Gargoyles, TaleSpin and more created “The Disney Afternoon,” a great block of programming on Disney Channel and some TV stations. They used some classic Disney characters in fun settings to win over new viewers.

Goof Troop had Goofy and his son Max moving to Spoonerville, where Max befriends the son of Goofy’s old frenemy, Pete. The show’s plots play on Max and Pete Jr.’s antics at school and Max is often embarrassed by his bumbling and scatterbrained klutz of a father. 

Given its successful run on TV, it was natural there would be a movie version. However, rather than taking the direct-to-video route, Disney surprisingly decided to make it a theatrical release. Speculation was that it was one of the last projects greenlit by Jeffrey Katzenberg before he departed the company so they had to put it in theaters. 

Most of the cast returned for the film except for Dana Hill as Max, but that was due to the character aging up, so Jason Marsden took on the role. The movie was the first to be directed by Kevin Lima, who later went on to direct Tarzan and Enchanted. The movie was set to take advantage of the big screen for a bigger adventure. 

A Goofy Movie’s plot

The plot was inspired by a story Katzenberg had based on his own daughter. Now in high school, Max imitates pop star Powerline at an assembly, earning the attention of classmate Roxanne (Kellie Martin). The principal makes it sound like Max is on the verge of becoming a juvenile delinquent to Goofy, who decides to take Max on a road trip to his favorite fishing spot in Idaho. Max then lies to Roxanne that he’s headed to L.A. to be on stage with Powerline.

Cue antics such as a run-down possum-themed amusement park (which lets Disney poke a little fun at itself), running into Bigfoot, Goofy getting into antics, and through it all, Max is desperately plotting to detour the car trip toward L.A. It comes together in the end, and the pair ends up dancing with Powerline in a fun musical number.

The movie was a box office disappointment when it opened in April 1995. It only made $37 million off an $18 million budget and critics were mixed on it. However, the movie connected when it came out on VHS and in the years since has grown a cult following and it’s not hard to see why. 

Why A Goofy Movie captures the father-son dynamic so well

The tone of the film is set when Max has a nightmare, seemingly turning into a monster only to become Goofy. It’s the classic worry of a kid that they’ll become the father they see as a bit dorky and nothing like them. It’s easy to see why Max feels worse, given his dad is…well, Goofy, a guy who can barely walk ten steps without instigating some disaster. 

It’s obvious for younger viewers to feel for Max at the start, trapped in a lie, trying to impress the girl of his dreams and dragged on an unwanted family road trip. However, as time goes on, many can see Goofy’s point of view, truly worried that his son might be going down the wrong path and wanting to help. That he does it in such a poor fashion is also standard for dads trying too hard to connect to a younger generation.

On that, the generational touches are just beautiful. A wonderful scene has Goofy making them snacks and musing on how his own father taught him, and Max is touched by how his dad obviously loved the guy. There’s also Goofy hinting he had much of the same problems with his own dad and the classic curse of every guy who says he’ll never become his father ends up emulating him in every way.

The big moment is when Goofy realizes Max has been altering the map to take them to L.A. after he openly told Pete he trusted his son. The heartbreak on his face is clear, as is Max’s guilt at Goofy’s reaction. Off that, we see the connection of Goofy and Max contrasted with Pete being almost a drill sergeant to his son and summed up in this great exchange:

Goofy: “Maybe Max isn’t all the things I want him to be but he loves me.”

Pete: “Hey, my son respects me.”

The look Goofy gives Pete at that speaks volumes, as does Pete’s own expression, realizing just maybe Goofy has a point. Yet it’s always Max and Goofy’s story, all brought up by Goofy uttering a line every dad can agree with: “You’re my son. No matter how big you get, you’ll always be my son.” That it comes when they’re on top of their car heading down a river sounds odd, but it works. 

There’s also when Max finally confesses he’s been doing this to impress a girl and Goofy, without hesitation, drops his own vacation plans to help Max out. In short, Goofy sacrifices his own happiness to help Max, a move even Pete is impressed by. It’s a wonderful analogy for a father doing anything to help his son, no matter what it takes.

It’s the little bits that win a viewer over, like the lovely scene of the pair bonding over the soup, with Goofy bringing up Max’s love for it as a toddler or Max’s old teddy bear, or the patrons at a diner applauding Goofy celebrating Max. It shows the great link of the pair and so many beats that any father or son feels mirror their own lives.

The underrated sequel

While A Goofy Movie is fun, the underrated 2000 direct-to-video sequel An Extremely Goofy Movie is also worth watching. The plot is Max going to college only for Goofy to have to enroll himself. Tellingly, while Max is naturally taken aback, he’s not as embarrassed by his dad this time around. It touches on a father hating to let his son go but also proud of the man he’s becoming. Likewise, Max realizes being a little Goofy isn’t so bad after all.

Taken together, both movies are the best animated Disney take on a father-and-son relationship. It’s there in the conflicts, the misunderstandings but how it’s often the smaller things that bind them together. It’s wonderful to watch at any time today, yet Father’s Day has it resonate more. That’s especially true for those who may have lost a dad and cling to the great times they had.

It’s amazing that among so many classics of the 1990s Disney Renaissance, their most heartfelt and moving father-son tale is so ignored. Yet give it a watch and A Goofy Movie is a reminder that at the end of the day, the bond between fathers and sons is magic in a way no one can top.

A Goofy Movie streaming on Disney+.