A Goofy Movie star reflects on film 25 years later: ‘Unlike any other project I’ve worked on’
Longtime Goofy voice actor Bill Farmer talks to EW about the 25th anniversary of 'A Goofy Movie.'
Goofy, the iconic vest-wearing dog of animated fame, has been palling around with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck for decades now. Most of the time, Goofy plays a decidedly second-fiddle or comic relief role; even in the Kingdom Hearts games, surely one of the wildest Disney tie-ins ever made, where Goofy is wielding a shield and fighting monsters made of darkness, he’s mostly there to support Sora, the player character. But A Goofy Movie, released 25 years ago this week, is a major exception to that rule. Directed by Kevin Lima, the movie put Goofy (voiced by Bill Farmer) front and center alongside his son Max (Jason Marsden). The result is a heartwarming, hilarious movie that’s stayed with people for decades.
“I’ve probably done close to 4,000 projects for Disney, but A Goofy Movie was unlike any other project that I’ve worked on over the last 33 years,” Farmer, who has voiced Goofy since 1987, tells EW. “Whether it’s fans at Comic Cons or just people writing to me, nothing I’ve ever done has equaled A Goofy Movie in terms of the effect that it’s had on audiences. I hear people say, ‘Yeah, I couldn’t talk to my dad very well, we weren’t that close, but A Goofy Movie kind of brought us together and we would play it every year, or put on the soundtrack in the car.’ That one movie has kind of identified with people more than anything else I’ve ever done.”
Building off the Disney Afternoon series Goof Troop, A Goofy Movie finds Goofy raising his son Max as a single father. Now a high school student, Max wants nothing more than to be cool (in the vein of his favorite rock star, Powerline) but his dad is anything but. Just as Max secures a date to watch the next Powerline concert alongside his crush Roxanne (Kellie Martin), Goofy makes a spur-of-the-moment plan to take Max fishing with him on the other side of the country, hoping to recreate a bonding experience that he once shared with his own father. It’s a bumpy road, but eventually Goofy and Max are able to use the time to genuinely grow closer and see past their differences.
“The situation rings true to people,” Farmer says. “Most people thought their dad was Goofy, or at least I did when I was growing up. I didn’t understand where he came from, he didn’t understand where I came from in a lot of ways, but we overcame those differences and bonded. During this movie, the bonding between Goofy and Max rings true. It was also the first time that I’d ever had to show that much emotion with the character. That movie allowed us to add layers to his personality. He had to be worried, he had to be hurt. These were emotions that we had never really done before. It was a little difficult to hit the right note with them in the studio, but we took our time. I think it’s gotten more popular over the years than even when it came out.”
A Goofy Movie portrays such a compelling father-son relationship that sometimes it’s easy to overlook one particular absence in the Goof family: Who is Max’s mother? In his original 1995 review, Roger Ebert mused, “Someday I would like to see a cartoon about the court battle he went through to gain custody of Max.” Far from it, Disney has never provided a canonical answer as to Max’s maternal parentage.
“That’s probably one of the biggest questions people ask me: Who’s Max’s mom?” Farmer says. “There’s never been any explanation from Disney on any level at all. They just don’t know. My theory is, he was married to Jessica Rabbit before Roger, and it just didn’t work out. It’s one of the great mysteries of life, I guess!”
For those wondering what Max and his dad are up to these days, look no further than the season 3 premiere of DuckTales that aired on Disney XD this past weekend. The episode “Quack Pack!” marked Goofy’s first appearance on the show. In an episode where the DuckTales characters were magically trapped in a ‘90s sitcom, Goofy popped by like a good sitcom neighbor to help Donald (voiced by Don Cheadle in this magical wish world) with some parental advice. In the process, he told Donald and the audience a story about a recent trip to an amusement park with Max. Told through Farmer’s genial dialogue and a string of photo booth snapshots, the story involved Goofy riding a roller coaster with his son and somehow ending up in a cotton candy bin. Eagle-eyed viewers probably noticed some snapshots of Max and Roxanne in the mix, too.
“Fans have wondered about Max and Roxanne's relationship,” DuckTales co-showrunner Frank Angones tells EW. “Because that’s how big a nerd I am, I too have always thought, what happened there? We couldn’t quite do everything we wanted to do in that episode or so far in this season, but there’s enough there that lets you know things have gone well. There’s something appealing to me about Donald needing parental advice from Goofy because Goofy in the ‘90s was the definition of a good Disney dad. In this situation Goofy is the smart one; he’s the well-adjusted parent.”
If you're interested in celebrating the 25th anniversary even more, Disney's official fan club D23 is hosting a virtual Disney+ viewing party of A Goofy Movie on Friday, April 10, featuring untold stories from Farmer, Lima, writer Jymn Magon, and more.
But even as we look back at the legacy of A Goofy Movie, Farmer has a new project on the horizon. It’s a Dog’s Life With Bill Farmer premieres May 15 on Disney+ and features Farmer stepping out from behind the microphone to meet real-life dogs in a 10-part documentary series that will release new episodes weekly.
"When you're doing animation, you're in a booth with a microphone, and that's about it. For this, we traveled through 11 states over four months," Farmer says. "There are a lot of celebrities who do voiceover, but not too many voice actors who go the route of on-camera actors. So it was a different skill set I had to learn, but it was so fun. I got to be silly. I got to be buried in snow and have avalanche dogs find me. I had to be stuck in a rubble pile and have rescue dogs find me. I met all these other dogs, even out on the ocean finding whales. There's a dog that finds whale poop, believe it or not, for research purposes. All of these things were great adventures, and I got a much greater appreciation for dogs and what they do, how they help us. They're not just pets but co-workers as well. And of course Goofy gets to help out with a segment called 'Goofy's Hometown Heroes' where we highlight a dog who's done something special. Pluto helps out with 'Pluto's Pointers,' teaching kids at home how to take care of your dog."
In other words, though Farmer has already voiced Goofy for Disney for more than three decades, he has no intention of stopping anytime soon.
“Mickey, Donald, Goofy are iconic characters that have been around since 1928. It’s a great legacy. They’re the best cartoon characters I could ever be involved with,” Farmer says. “Goofy was my favorite growing up as a kid. Being able to carry the torch for a little while is the best thrill that I can imagine. Getting to do your favorite cartoon character for 33 years, and continuing to do so today and however long they want to keep me around, is a dream come true. It really is.”