A Goofy Movie: Disney’s Nod to Single Black Fatherood

After five days of everyone in the house catching a stomach bug, Sunday was a day of hitting the reset button.  I had three articles and an edit test due Monday morning, a podcast to mix, and two playoff football games to watch as well.  At 11 am, I figured if I could knock out at least two articles by kickoff, I could have caught up to the eight ball I had gotten behind due to ailments.  Before doing so, I needed to make another ginger ale run; but my sister, who was tending to her recovering son, couldn’t watch Cydney for a couple of minutes.  In what was going to be my work space for the day, I reluctantly turned the TV to Disney Jr.  I saw that criminally slept-on and underrated A Goofy Movie had begun twelve minutes earlier.  My eyes lit up  and I said to Cydney “Yo, we are watching this!”

While singing “Stand Out” and mumbling the rest of the words because it had been twenty years since the film’s release, I began to watch this movie with different eyes than the fourth grader in 1995.  Not only was A Goofy Movie incredibly black; Goofy was a black single father.  The whole movie was a homage to single black fatherhood.

Goof Troop, the Disney Afternoon show that the film was based on, was pretty popular, even though it only lasted one season…presumably because it was too black for a television show.  The theme song had hip hop drums and was sung by high note extraordinaire, Phil Perry (Cues “Love Don’t Love Nobody”).  Legendary Disney antagonist, Pete, has always been what one would colloquially refer to as a “nigga,” with his mannerisms all while having the fly and thick wife, Peg.  Goofy was straight-laced and while his son wore baggy clothes.  Looking back, someone in the corporate offices probably said “I don’t know if we can have this, Talespin, and Darkwing Duck. Our afternoon lineup is getting a little too black.  But this would make a great movie!

I have always wondered “Where and what happened to Max’s mom?  Did Goofy “Michael Jackson” Max?”  Nonetheless, he was just a father raised with older values who was constantly trying to relate to his kid that he didn’t get.

In 1995, Max was an awkward teenager, like most of us.  His protruding front teeth and silly laugh suggested that both nature and nurture made him a little goofy for lack of a better expression.  So he saw this fly girl he had a crush on and his boys pulled out all the stops so he could front on her…That’s what we jokingly call “acting light-skinned.”  On the last day of school, Max gets onstage and does a spot-on imitation of hip-pop icon, Powerline.  If Max could pass for Powerline, who was drawn with darker features, he clearly was black.  Powerline’s vocals were recorded by Quincy Jones prodigy and Ashley Banks’ tween crush, Tevin Campbell, who sang the blackest of black suggestive songs about love and hitting skins in the early 90’s.

Of course, Max gets into trouble.  The principal calls Goofy, racially profiles and stereotypes him by saying he was dressed/acting like a gang member (there may be some validity to this with Max’s affinity for wearing red), and insinuates that if Goofy doesn’t do a better job with his son that he could wind up in jail and on death row.  Black.  Black.  Blacktiy BLACK.

Goofy and his son lived in Spoonerville, Ohio.  I assume that is a suburb to Cincinnati.  Everyone that I know from Cincinnati has tales of its realness, rampant gang life, running from gunshots, and it’s racism.   After years of being saving up checks and being the Buckwheat to Mickey Mouse’s Alfalfa and a failed situation with Clarabelle Cow, Goofy-and Pete-moved their families from Los Angeles-by-way-of-Orlando-back to where they grew up to have a “regular” life.

Back to the movie…Goofy adheres to what the principal says and figures that the best thing that he can do for his son is take him on a road trip to Lake Destiny in Idaho.  What he pictured in his head looked something along the lines of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Lawrence Fishburn fishing in Boyz In the Hood.  Before leaving, Max pulls one of the most light-skinned moves of all times by lying to shorty by telling her he can’t go to her party because he’s going to be onstage with Powerline…because he and his pops go way back.  Along the way, they bicker about music in which “Oops, There Goes Another Rubber Tree” and whatever rock and roll Max was listening to could have been substituted for “Between the Sheets” by the Isley Brothers and “Big Poppa” by The Notorious B.I.G.  But that would have made the movie too real.

Along the way, Goofy does what many single black fathers try to do: relate to their kid by overcompensating for the motherly nurturing gene we lack by being our kid’s best friend because our life experiences have made us too hard to give our kids hugs.  As a result, Goofy tries to negotiate with his kid and be his best friend.  Pete magically shows up and somewhere between being a “real nigga” and a hater tells Goofy he’s too soft on Max.  If it wasn’t a Disney movie, Pete would’ve said “Pete don’t play that shit.”  In his second random cameo while bonding with his son, Pete blurts out “My nigga, your kid is playing you!”  And Goofy shows that he too is light-skinned by getting a little too into his feelings and not slapping the shit out of Max when Max still goes with his plan of sneaking the two of them to Los Angeles so that he can front for shorty who eventually will friend-zone him for being a “nice guy.”

The movie ends in a touching moment-in which if one ever second-guessed anything I have written-whips, nay-nays, moonwalks onstage, and Powerline gets the choreography by looking at it once.   This flick could’ve easily been called “A Black Movie.”

In summation, I love this movie.  Goofy is now my favorite Disney character.  He shucked and jived for “the man” for decades, left it all behind so that the glitz and glam wouldn’t affect his son, and worked in a mall in a small town where no one would pay attention to his celebrity.  He realized that his kid had concocted this elaborate plan to get some skins and was with it.  The movie could’ve ended its homage to Boyz In the Hood with “Max went to Morehouse College and Roxanne across the street at Spelman.”  Lawrence Fishburn would’ve been proud.

…While Cydney liked the movie, she hated the music.

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