In honor of A Goofy Movie’s upcoming 25th anniversary in 2020, as well as the recent release of A Goofy Movie and An Extremely Goofy Movie on Blu-ray for the first time exclusively through the Disney Movie Club, we Disney geeks at A Bright Little Lamp wanted to revisit the classic and explore why this highly underrated animated film is a perfect little snapshot of the 1990’s.
The 90’s was the end of the analog age, and this is painfully obvious watching A Goofy Movie today. There is little-to-no digital technology throughout the film, and instead we see various relics of the 80’s and 90’s like corded phones, tube TVs, and cassette tapes.
From analog cameras to the portable TV cart wheeled around by Max and P.J.’s friend Bobby, A Goofy Movie delivers a serious blast of nostalgia for many older viewers, and will surely spark various questions about all of this analog technology by younger viewers.
Saved by the Bell
At the beginning of the film, we see Max heading off to his last day of school before summer break, and through a catchy song, we are introduced to various high school cliques that were popularized in the media throughout the 90’s. The “nerds” wearing Star Trek outfits and reading comics, the goths wearing all black and black lipstick, and of course the jocks and cheerleaders (often called “preps”). No 90’s high school was complete, however, without the tough-guy bullies seen shoving around and tormenting Max on his way to school.
Portrait Studios and the Golden Years of Big Box Department Stores
In A Goofy Movie both Pete and Goofy work at a portrait studio at a big box department store. These portrait studios were notorious in the 80’s and 90’s, and often featured strange gradient solid color backdrops and awkward family photos. While these types of photo studios have all but disappeared over the years, many folks from the 80’s and 90’s remember them all too well, and still have embarrassing family photos buried deep in a scrapbook album.
Even more loaded with nostalgia is the big box department store Pete and Goofy work in. It’s clearly supposed to be Kmart, since there’s even a scene with Goofy stopping to check a Bluelight Special, made popular in Kmart stores across the nation. Many folks remember rushing to these Bluelight Specials in the store, since they would only be announced via the intercom while you were shopping. Sadly, Kmart, along with many other big box retailers, are on their way out with the increasing popularity of online shopping.
This setting for Pete and Goofy’s employment, along with the photo studio they work at, serves to really date the film, and might be a bit confusing to especially young viewers. For us older folks who lived through the 80’s and/or 90’s, it’s a complete blast to the past.
A 90’s Road Trip
The road trip Goofy and Max take to the fictional Lake Destiny, Idaho, is straight out of the 90’s. From the cassette tape in the car that eventually gets jammed to the paper map used throughout the trip in place of a cellphone or car-mounted GPS, this road trip would have looked a lot different in the digital age.
Consider the Route 66 that Goofy and Max travel to reach the west coast. What was once a staple in cross-country travel has largely been decommissioned. Once called, “The Main Street of America,” Route 66 stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles and served as a popular route for dust bowl migrants in the 1930’s and long-haul truckers in later decades due to the relatively flat drive.
As traffic increased, gas stations, motels, diners, and other mom-and-pop establishments lined the route, offering quick access to amenities for travelers. While the route was officially decommissioned in 1985, it would still have been fresh in the minds of the creators and part of the history and culture of cross-country road trips into the 90’s.
While various interstate bypasses have been constructed over the years, the historic Route 66 still exists today, and many local establishments have taken advantage of the historic designation to embrace nostalgic tourism. This is exemplified in A Goofy Movie as the backdrop of the road trip becomes not just a highway, but later a mom-and-pop diner and an underwater-themed inn.
Closely connected to Route 66 and highways like it were roadside attractions. These mom-and-pop small attractions cropped up along the highway systems to take advantage of increased traffic. They were sometimes bizarre or strange and meant to be eye-catching. The scene where Max and Goofy stop at Lester’s Possum Park seems to be a nod to these roadside tourist attractions of the past.
The animatronic critters of the Possum Posse Jamboree seem to be reminiscent of ShowBiz Pizza Place or Chuck E. Cheese, both staples of 90’s birthday parties and nightmare fuel for small children. I speak from experience when I say those animatronic animals were truly frightening!
The mythical ape-like creature known as Big Foot or Sasquatch really had its heyday in the 90’s. From the 1987 movie and later 1991 TV series Harry and Hendersons to the limited-run of Bigfoot Pizza at Pizza Hut, Big Foot seemed to be everywhere in the 90’s—except, you know, in real life. A Goofy Movie was no exception. The addition of this character was hilarious to me and my sister watching this movie as kids, and while it may seem random to the younger generations, Big Foot was something of a pop culture phenomenon in the 90’s.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning the fictional pop star Powerline, who was based on the real-life musician Bobby Brown. Fitting perfectly in the genre that had come to be called, “new jack swing” or “swingbeat”, these hits by Powerline (sung by a real life R&B star of the early 90’s Tevin Campbell), are super nostalgic in the present times, and remind listeners of old hits by Bobby Brown himself, Janet Jackson, and New Edition.
While Powerline’s appearance is influenced by Bobby Brown’s signature look of the late 80’s/early 90’s, Tevin’s voice has reminded viewers of the late Prince or king of pop Michael Jackson. Either way, the hodgepodge of influences is straight out of the early 90’s.
Overall, A Goofy Movie is a fun watch even today, and becomes ever more nostalgic as time passes. If you want to relive the magic yourself, it’s available on digital platforms like iTunes and Movies Anywhere, as well as on DVD. The 2019 Blu-Ray release of both the first and second movies are Disney Movie Club exclusives.
I hope this article brought back some good memories. Until next time!