The world is changing ominously before our eyes, and it has many of us craving for simpler times. The year 2020 has made even a Black man nostalgic for the “good old days” — as long as he doesn’t go back too far, of course. Who knew he’d find himself in a time where his movements are limited, and there are clear rules about gathering with other folks?
Like most parents during the pandemic, I need to keep entertainment anything but boring while socially distancing with my 11-year-old son. In an attempt to share some of my happier times with him amidst global uncertainty, I’ve introduced him to a lot of ’90s cartoon series: The Simpsons, obviously, but also Dexter’s Laboratory, and a little Pinky and the Brain. But my son’s preferences lean toward the kind of violent anime that makes people wonder about “these kids today.”
You know what the opposite of that is? Disney’s A Goofy Movie, which we watched together for the first time recently. I’d forgotten that this flick is incredibly funny. I saw it for the first time at a friend’s house around 2000. I was well outside the target age demographic; my friend had a daughter of about eight, while I was still single and childless, with an ex-fiancé and a sneaking suspicion that it might be time to settle down.
As usual, my friend and I hung out with some beer and a game of chess. I have to say, I was really good at drinking beer back then. We traded chess moves as Goofy hyuck-hyucked in the background. The film’s theme — a father and son bond during a cross-country trip — was a little over his daughter’s head, but she liked it. A lot.
She played A Goofy Movie nonstop on her tiny television on the living room floor, right alongside us, as we set up shop for our chess game on the coffee table. And here’s where I’ll come clean: Between chess moves, we jammed to all those songs.
He remained unimpressed, and named a number of movies and TV shows that simply had to be better than watching a silly Disney dog-kid take a cross-country trip with a father actually named Goofy.
Our hangout routine went on like this for month — until one day, my friend told me, he heard the VCR jam. Goofy was a goner — when his daughter pulled her beloved movie out of the machine, the shredded tape stretched 15 feet across the floor. She brought it to him in tears.
“Man, get that baby another tape!” I said.
But my friend was done with Goofy. “Nah, bruh. Enough is enough,” he told me.
Fast forward almost 20 years, to me telling my 11-year-old son the story as I quickly downloaded A Goofy Movie from a streaming service. (Yes, I had to explain what a VCR was, and what “eating a tape” meant.) I knew that the wonderful world of Mickey Mouse was a stretch from his usual favorites, so I tried to talk up the movie. It’s full of all of these crazy adventures!
He remained unimpressed, reeling off the names of several movies and TV shows that simply had to be better than watching a silly Disney dog-kid take a road trip with a single father named Goofy.
So I reminded him about the time I nearly bankrupted the household when I took the entire family on a Disney cruise ship and how he’d loved it. That did it; he sighed with resignation and said fine, okay, he’d watch an old film with his old dad. I didn’t much care for his tone, and a prouder man might have called the whole thing off, but I just reminded him that playing video games while watching family movies still was not allowed.
The film opens with Goofy’s son, Max, having a terrifying nightmare that he’s turning into his father. That at least got a smile out of the boy (although I can’t imagine why, I’m better than him at nearly everything).
As the scene fades into kids celebrating the last day of school, my son points out that he isn’t going back to school until at least September, thanks to the lockdown. Then it’s my turn to sigh. He asks me again if there had ever been anything like our current quarantine when I was a kid. I want to tell him about the time that all of the schools closed for an entire year and how there were no computers — no, sir — and we had to do our homework on little chalk slates and mail them back to school from the post office.
But I’ve got nothing.
At this point, we watch Max trying to win over the beautiful bookish Roxanne. I ask my son if there’s a girl at school he likes, but he can’t stop laughing at Max’s failed attempt to impress someone — and a girl, no less! My 11-year old isn’t really into girls yet. He likes them, but he hasn’t reached the point where he’s willing to stage entire concerts and do high-wire work to date one. Yet.
I tell him about the time I bought a girl some shoes for a party and then she used them to walk to the party without me. We laugh about it, but I’m crying on the inside and still secretly hope she developed hammertoes.
I tell him that the voice of the principal is the same guy who plays Vizzini in The Princess Bride, but it’s like he doesn’t even care. Again, these kids today.
When it comes to the soundtrack, my son isn’t into the music. It still seems pretty good to me, and maybe that’s the nostalgia talking, but Tevin Campbell performing as teen rock star Powerline is a big part of the awesomeness. So I explain to him that the legendary Quincy Jones told Tevin that he could be the next Michael Jackson. Or even Stevie Wonder!
At least he’d heard of Michael Jackson.
“Does he have any new music?” he asks. “The Powerline guy?”
I tell him it’s a long story — you can’t sum up Tevin Campbell’s career during a cartoon movie without missing any ’90s Disney action — and he forgives me for not telling it.
We do both agree that our favorite part of the movie has to be when Goofy takes Max fishing and shows him “The Perfect Cast,” passed down through the Goofy family generations. It reminds me of when I took him on an overnight camping trip last summer, and my boy caught a half-dozen bluegills by just pushing the little button on the fishing reel and letting the bait plop into the water. (This was after I tweaked my shoulder and nearly took out an old guy’s eye trying to show him “The Perfect Cast.” Maybe it only works in cartoons.)
But in the movie, that cast catches Bigfoot! My son and I both agree that Bigfoot is not real. On his way to school last year, we regularly listened to a podcast on the search for the elusive creature. If you’ve never heard an interview with a Bigfoot believer, you are missing out, because they say some amusing stuff. The very sight of the animated monster on screen made us laugh hysterically.
My son declares me “Goofy But Knows How to Do Stuff,” which is practically the Good Housekeeping seal of approval coming from an 11-year-old boy.
As the credits roll, my son simply says, “That was cool.”
When I ask him if it’s “as cool” as watching people get their heads chopped off in some of the anime in his rotation, he says, “It’s a different kind of cool.”
I’ll take it. Now, it’s time to introduce my kid to some Tevin Campbell.