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happy birthday goofy

It’s the 90th anniversary of everyone’s favorite goof. Whether you know him as Dippy Dawg, George Geef, Mickey’s loyal pal, Max’s dorky dad, one of Donald’s many sources of frustration, or just the character you compare to Pluto when debating pants and anthropomorphism, Goofy is the best kind of everyman. He’s adaptable to any situation and a master of physical comedy. Name a sport, and he’s “mastered” it. Name a job and he’s tackled it; his resume is nearly as long as Homer Simpson’s. Goofy’s cartoons have aged the finest out of the Fab Five’s thanks to a healthy dose of slapstick and wry modern commentary. He even survived the move to mundane 50s suburbia with most of his good humor and personality in tact. And like his costars before him, we honor him and his nine decades of goofing it up here today.

The usual rules apply: no bits from films, only short features (but A Goofy Movie would be Number One if that weren’t the case). And while Goofy works just as well on a team as he does solo, this thankfully won’t be another matter of sorting through Mickey cartoons where he steals the spotlight. But before we begin, here are some well-deserved Honorable Mentions:

  • Goofy and Wilbur – Goofy officially gets his moniker in this charming short where he and his grasshopper pal risk life and limb in the name of fishing.
  • Victory Vehicles – Goofy and his ilk develop a variety of creative and implausible modes of transportation as a response to the war effort.
  • How To Be a Sailor – The reason why I barely saw this cartoon growing up is because the ending is one big screw you to the Japanese due to Pearl Harbor. But everything else up to that point is fantastic.
  • Goofy’s Big Kitty – This Mouse Works short has Goofy confuse an escaped circus lion for his new kitty.
  • How to Wash Dishes/Be a Waiter – These shorts appear to have misleading titles as they instead show Goofy globetrotting and becoming an actor respectively…but how they circle back to what the titles promise is genius.
  • How to Play Golf – Playing a good game is easier said than done when an angry bull gets involved.
  • Baggage Buster – Gags run amok when Goofy is tasked with unloading a magician’s trunk.
  • Get Rich Quick – Goofy catches the gambling bug; a quick reminder that golden-age animation was created with adults in mind.
  • Double Dribble – The rules of basketball barely apply when Goofys of varying size are involved.
  • Fathers Are People/Father’s Day Off/Father’s Weekend/Father’s Lion – Goofy’s first forays into fatherhood come with many pitfalls and pratfalls – and the occasional risqué joke.
  • The How To Stay At Home shorts – These extra-short shorts were created for Disney Plus in response to the pandemic, but Goofy learning to adapt to these unusual circumstances will make you smile.
  • Goofy’s Radio – Goofy spends a day in the countryside, oblivious that his radio is the only thing keeping him from being a mountain lion’s lunch.
  • Teachers Are People – Nothing but respect for good teachers in my house, even though Goofy doesn’t get much of it here.
  • How To Take Care of Your Yard – Goofy gains a green thumb but destroys his home in the process.
  • How To Sleep – An insomniac Goofy tries varying methods of getting forty winks when it’s time to actually go to bed. Shockingly relatable.
  • How To Be A Spy – Paranoid that his neighbor is out to get him, Goofy attempts to master the art of espionage.
  • How To Be A Rock Star – Goofy pursues stardom in the music world.
  • How To Camp – This How To short takes an interesting turn when Goofy is abducted by aliens.
  • A Goofy Movie – How could I not mention this? It’s Goofy as we’ve never seen him before, a fully-developed, compelling character that makes you feel things other than humor.

20. Motor Mania

Talk about the fast and the furious! The hassles of the road gives Goofy a Jekyll and Hyde-like split personality: good-natured pedestrian Mr. Walker, and nightmare behind the wheel Mr. Wheeler. It’s rare to see Goofy wreak such havoc intentionally, but it is quick-paced and hilarious.

19. For Whom The Bulls Toil

If you can get past the somewhat stereotypical depiction of Mexicans, this is a really fun short. Goofy unwittingly proves himself an excellent matador while vacationing south of the border and gets himself roped into a bullfight. Too bad Bugs Bunny isn’t around to make things easier for him! The fight animation is delightfully frantic, and there’s some decent early design work by the great Eyvind Earle.

18. How To Fish

Goofy shows off his rather lacking angling skills as the uptight narrator presents his usual dry notes. Shockingly, this is NOT where Goofy learned how to do The Perfect Cast. He does, however, demonstrate what not to do when fishing in his usual fun, klutzy way.

17. Goofy’s Glider

Ah, the very first How To short. Goofy tries to get his glider off the ground with varying amounts of success and encouragement from the narrator. This feature boasts some phenomenal physical comedy and earns its place in the canon for kicking off the style of shorts we always associate Goofy with.

16. Two-Gun Goofy

Goofy is the oblivious hero of a traditional Western. In a single day he’s made sheriff, stops notorious outlaw Pete, and wins the girl thanks to his natural clumsiness. It’s an enjoyable send-up of the genre and many of its cliches.

15. The Art of Self-Defense

It’s funny how often the How To Goofy cartoons overlap with the Sports ones. We’re shown the advancement of self-defense from cacophonous cavemen to boisterous boxers, leading into modern-day Goofy training for a boxing match with the aid of the stuffy narrator. It’s always a treat watching Goofy getting the best of himself.

14. How To Be A Detective

This short is another genre parody, this time focusing on detective noirs. What puts it in a higher spot than Two-Gun Goofy is that it isn’t afraid to get as dark as what it’s spoofing. It’s difficult to believe some of the imagery here comes from Disney of all places, but keep in mind that animation isn’t always geared towards children (something many people would do well to remember). Goofy’s tasked with a missing persons case while crossing paths with the usual mystery ensemble: the secretive dame, the hardbroiled cop, and the shady gangster (who bears more than a passing resemblance to one of Mr. Toad’s weasels). It culminates a fantastic cartoony car chase that’s like if What’s Up Doc met The Blues Brothers.

13. How To Haunt a House

Remember when I briefly discussed how disturbing the idea of Goofy being dead was in my review of Mickey’s Christmas Carol? Well now we get to see that premise play out in full as Goofy gets killed by a car (offscreen, but still…) and must now haunt a house and scare a poor shmuck of his choosing. Naturally, he goes with Donald, which presents its own set of challenges. Grim though it sounds, there’s plenty of laughs to be had as Donald remains oblivious to Goofy’s attempts at terror, as well as several funny subversions of classic haunted house tropes. The animation is surprisingly fluid too, thanks to being one of the few Mouse Works shorts created at Disney’s animation studio formerly in Orlando.

12. Foul Hunting

Goofy goes duck hunting and must contend with some tricky mallards as well as his own incompetence. Like most of the cartoons on this list, it’s fun to see how many gags they can milk from such a simple premise. And don’t worry, no ducks are harmed in this short (well, living ones anyway…)

11. TIE: African Diary/Tiger Trouble

While I don’t condone big game hunting and some of the African stereotypes, there’s something about these shorts that get me nostalgic (watching them on home video might have something to do with it). Seeing Goofy in an exotic setting among wild animals is exciting. The animators and story artists really knew how to get some big laughs from his fish out of water status out in the wild. Also, we probably wouldn’t have Louie the Mountain Lion if it wasn’t for the latter short; he’s just a reskinned version of the titular tiger.

10. How To Be Smart

Is it safe to call this short Billy Madison but with Goofy? After Ludwig Von Drake beats him on a quiz show, Goofy climbs his way through elementary to high school in order to expand his intelligence. Returning to school is always a daunting task when you’re an adult, but Goofy stumbles through with his usual aplomb (or lack thereof). For all the times he’s trolled by a miniature Von Drake and animated chalk equations, he still manages to win a diploma and the last laugh.

9. How To Dance

Goofy attempts to fix his two left feet and learn how to dance. Anyone who has social anxiety around dancing with others can relate. Goofy pulls through with some unconventional tutoring that matches his lanky, limber style. I do feel bad for what he goes through at the end, but at least he’s more confident about himself. The animation is up to Goofy’s acrobatic standards, and as a Disney aficionado I appreciate the cameo by Firehouse Five Plus Two.

8. How To Be Groovy, Cool, and Fly

Goofy explores several decades of fashion and trends in an effort to be more cool. Seeing the evolution of pop culture skewed through a humorous lens is always a treat, and this short is no exception. Goofy’s eagerness and tendency to take things literally makes it even more entertaining. Also, be sure to watch out for the Star Wars homage a good decade or so before Disney bought it.

7. How To Hook Up Your Home Theater

The How To shorts enter the twenty-first century proper as Goofy rushes to update his entertainment system before the big football game. Tech aficionados will get a kick out of how setting up all the complicated components are depicted, with many clever nods to classic Disney besides. This also marks the very first time Disney’s traditional animators went “paperless”, an important step in the studio’s history. The over-the-top animation and dedication to replicating the look and feel of the older shorts makes it a great homage to Goofy’s past misadventures.

6. How To Play Football

The dulcet tones of John McLeish are traded out for a sports announcer commentating on the hotly anticipated game between Taxidermy Tech and Anthropology AM. You might not come away from it with a better understanding of football, but it’s impossible to not enjoy such hard-hitting antics. While not the first sports-centric Goofy short, this is arguably the one that set the template for all future ones: there’s puns and literal depictions aplenty, an underdog hero, tons of slapstick, a chaotic climax, and one lone coach trying to keep his sanity throughout. Make it a must-watch during your next Super Bowl party.

5. The Art of Skiing

I’m running out of ways to say the action is crisp and hilarious, so I’ll just say this is the short that gave us the iconic Goofy Holler, hence its noteworthy place on this list.

4. The Olympic Champ

This one gets a touch higher spot than some of the other sports shorts because we get to witness Goofy attempt multiple sports in one go. And speaking of more than one ways to goof around with physical prowess…

3. Goofy Gymnastics

Goofy tries to exercise with help from a record and a home gym. Things go about as well as you’d expect. This short is an excellent example of why Goofy is such phenomenal physical comedian. No one takes a wallop like him, as Roger Rabbit once observed.

2. Hockey Homicide

Yeah, yeah, as a hockey fan I’m bit biased towards this one. But even before I came to like the sport, I had plenty of nostalgia towards this feature thanks in no small part to the DTV music video for The Dovells’ “You Can’t Sit Down”. To this day I can’t hear the song without thinking of the insane action on the rink and in the stands – and I do mean insane. Everything builds to a feverish climax where clips from previous Goofy cartoons are rapidly inserted to underline the mania of the game. And Monstro the Whale also appears for some reason. Huh. Never took him to be a hockey fan.

“I have interests outside of eating people who cross my territory, you know. Speaking of, I’m still upset the Rangers traded Zuccarello! First chance I get I’m swallowing Jim Nill so he can feel the wrath of my intestines!”

The short ends on an unexpected but brilliant note. The spectators rush the ice and the players are now the ones casually watching the violence from the stands. It’s shockingly good commentary on the spectacle and obsession with brutality surrounding sports and zealous fans. The fact that every character in this and all the other sports shorts take place in a world populated by Goofys sells that this is more than just a silly cartoon. It’s a reflection of our own goofy world.

And my Number One favorite Goofy short is…

1. A Knight for a Day

This short takes the frenzy of the sports shorts and the narrator juxtaposition of the How To shorts and transplants them to a medieval fantasy setting. It’s David and Goliath in suits of armor when plucky squire Cedric must fill in for his master, the knight Sir Loinsteak, against the treacherous Sir Cumfrence (you gotta love these names). A Knight’s Tale but with Goofy, what’s not to love? I wonder if the people behind The Court Jester took notes because there are more than a few similarities to this in that film’s jousting scene. The princess whose hand they’re fighting for is a hoot, too. She’s not so much a damsel in distress as she is a passionate sports fan. There’s a perfect combo of laughs and action with that touch of golden age Disney magic, and that’s why it’s my favorite Goofy short.

This may have been my most difficult list to form to date because so many of Goofy’s shorts are fantastic. Watch any of them in slow-motion to truly appreciate the timing, exaggerated expressions, and amazing details you might miss when enjoying such incredible slapstick. Disney is often associated with soft, family-friendly animation, but Goofy’s cartoons are right up there with Tex Avery and the Looney Tunes in terms of humor, and that’s no small feat. Happy Birthday Goofy!

Thanks for reading! What are your favorite Goofy shorts? Share them in the comments and be sure to follow and check out my Patreon if you want to read more! Patrons got to read this whole post one day early and get other great perks including sneak peeks of reviews and more! Special thanks to my patrons Amelia Jones, Sam Flemming and Tyler Green! See you on June 6th when I review the next Faerie Tale Theatre episode!