Invisible Animation: The Goofy Movie

Goof Day continues with a piece from the one guy Michelle loves more than Mickey Mouse — her animator boyfriend, JP, who takes a look at The Goofy Movie!

The Goofy Movie animation

While creating your senior film in animation school, one often encounters repetitive tasks.  Necessary evils that can sometimes serve as a quick reprieve from your hectic schedule.  For me, watching movies is a common pastime during these situations and this is how I rediscovered the technical masterpiece, A Goofy Movie.  Released in 1995 by first time director Kevin Lima, A Goofy Movie is the product of Walt Disney Animation France.  This now defunct French studio was established by Paul and Gaetan Brizzi to assist with the production of Disney’s various animated films and television shows.

When I hear people talking about the great technical feats of Disney Animation, sadly A Goofy Movie is almost never mentioned.  Even I was skeptical when a fellow classmate recommended the film to me. I did see the film in theaters when it was first released, but the only thing I could remember was being uncomfortable with the Max/Roxanne situation (I was ten at the time, so the notion of the opposite sex was still awkward for me). But after procrastinating and watching the film in its entirety, I was blown away.  Not only did I love the musical sequences and finally appreciate the story, but the animation was simply outstanding.  Subtle emotions with moments of zany exaggeration, the animation was snappy and fluid and at times, truly mesmerizing.

The Goofy Movie animation

The film’s use of Exaggeration and Squash & Stretch, or how the characters form takes different shapes but maintains its original volume, was absolutely engrossing. Particularly evident in the film’s more dynamic moments, like musical numbers and action sequences, but if you look hard enough, it constantly pops up throughout the film. When a proud Max is running home from school, he jumps and spins midair, transforming into a tornado like form, before slightly smushing on the ground and bouncing back to his original self.  Even though he is highly exaggerated, the animation is smooth and seamless, adding a greater sense of weight while continuing to add to the films appeal. The use of Exaggeration and Squash & Stretch is also very evident in the characters facial expressions. With wide eyes, pronounced eyebrows and big mouths, the design of these characters only helps to strengthen every facial expression and the resulting emotional impact of the film. This allowed the animators ability to work with a dynamic range of expressions adding another layer of emotional intensity to the film that not only helped the viewer better relate to the animation, but to further humanize the characters.

The Goofy Movie animation

The Goofy Movie animation

But what I particularly loved about the film was its direction and staging, the visual library the director chose to illustrate the film. Through composition and camera angles, these choices greatly impact how the viewer interprets them, while cementing the emotion and tone. Flat angles are used for the humorous scenes, like when Goofy is taking pictures of a baby with a squeaky toy in his throat. Scenes of action or emotional intensity drastically shift in angle, color and composition. For example, when Max is in trouble at the principal’s office, the camera is overhead and angled to create striking vertical shapes of light.  When Max is performing on stage for his school, he rolls from an incredibly wide camera into a fish eyed close up. This serves to not only raise the appeal by distorting his face, but  it also gives us a perfect reflection of Roxanne in his goggles. Through these techniques- overhead shots, striking angles, fish eye lenses and extreme close ups, the director creates shots that are not only beautiful, but help to raise the emotional intensity and appeal of the film.

Another one of my favorite aspects of A Goofy Movie was its visual flow. With the ability to seamlessly move from one scene to the next, the film is laden with extremely clever transitions.  As Max is dancing for the whole school on a giant screen, the camera zooms into the screen and we are instantly taken back stage to him being filmed.  Later in the film, we see Goofy fussing with his tent when suddenly Pete’s RV drives over him, transitioning into the next scene. And even in the climax, we transition from Max and Goofy dancing with Power Line and suddenly zoom out of the TV in front of Roxanne. These transitions are some of the most imaginative I’ve ever seen in an animated film. I am sure that with repeat viewings, it is littered with other hidden gems, drawing us deeper into its narrative.

But the true animation feat is its consistency. From the very first frame to the last, the animation in A Goofy Movie is of the highest level and continues to impress me with each viewing.

It was really no surprise that with some quick research, two of my favorite pieces of Disney animation were produced by the same team,  Paul and Gaetan Brizzi.  Their animated shorts, Runaway Brain and The Firebird Suite from Fantasia 2000, are more examples of their animation prowess.  I can sit here all day and explain to you how their animated shorts, as well as A Goofy Movie, are shining examples of the Twelve Principles of Animation but watch them for yourself and you will be able to experience their magic.  What truly saddens me is not the fact that A Goofy Movie is not more appreciated, but that the animation team behind it, to my knowledge, are not major players in the animation world today.

A term I like to use lately, is Invisible Animation, which is animation so good that you can barely notice it. It transcends a mere series of drawings and becomes something greater. The spectacle fades away and what is left are endless possibilities that are totally engrossing. A Goofy Movie is a shining example of this phenomenon, a great technical feat of Disney animation that every animator should study and honor.

Thanks for watching!

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