It’s a question that’s been posed by multiple generations of kids, both real and fictional: Is Goofy a dog? On the one hand... uh, obviously: Walt Disney’s hilariously accident-prone goofball was introduced in 1932 under the name, “Dippy Dawg,” appearing alongside species-specific characters like Mickey Mouse and Clarabelle Cow. Over the decades, though, he’s evolved into a character who doesn’t display many canine traits.
To settle the debate once and for all, Yahoo Entertainment took the query straight to the source: actor Bill Farmer, the Disney Legend who has been the voice of Goofy since 1987 and also stars in the new Disney+ reality series, It’s a Dog’s Life.
“He is not a dog,” Farmer tells us, with absolute authority. “Pluto is a dog, but Goofy seems to be in the canine family in the same way that a wolf is not a dog, but they also are in the canine family. I think Canis Goofus is the technical Latin term for what Goofy is. He’s just Goofy.” (Watch our video interview above.)
Farmer was born 20 years after Goofy’s first appearance in the Disney animated short, “Mickey’s Revue.” As a child, he remembers watching his future alter ego — who was originally voiced by Pinto Colvig — on TV shows like Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Colour.
“He was my favourite Disney character,” Farmer says, crediting those cartoons with shaping his career ambitions. “I grew up doing voices, and I loved cartoons. I always practiced the voices and became a stand-up comic impressionist for about five years before moving to L.A.”
Once in Hollywood, Farmer auditioned for Disney, which was seeking new vocal performers for its classic cast of characters. “I thought I did a pretty good Mickey Mouse,” he says, proceeding to demonstrate his Mickey voice for us.
“I can’t do Donald Duck very well. But Goofy was right in the wheelhouse. They liked that one, and since 1987 I’ve been the official voice.” (Besides Goofy, Farmer is also the regular voice of Mickey’s canine pal Pluto, and has also lent his voice to such non-Disney films as Space Jam, The Iron Giant and Horton Hears a Who!.)
Farmer made his debut as Goofy in the TV special, Doggone Valentine, but the show that truly shaped his tenure was Goof Troop. That 1992 syndicated series re-introduced the character as the well-meaning, but decidedly awkward single father of a son named Max. “We don’t know who [Max’s] mother was,” Farmer jokes. “I have my own theories: I think Goofy was married to Jessica Rabbit before Roger.”
Three years later, Goof Troop arrived on the big screen with A Goofy Movie, the 1995 animated musical that’s still a fan favourite 25 years after its release. (The movie is currently streaming on Disney+.) Farmer remembers recording two of the film’s big songs, “On the Open Road” and “Nobody Else But You” on his first day in the voiceover booth and realising how they would set the tone for the rest of the movie.
“I got the sense that this is a little more heart, a little bit more of an intimate portrayal of what Goofy is like inside than we’d ever done before.”
To this day, Farmer says that he’s approached by fans who talk about their personal connection to Goofy and Max’s relationship. “So many people have told me that they didn’t get along with my dad, but could understand their dad because of the way Max understood Goofy. They don’t have to see eye to eye all the time, but they still love each other. I’m really grateful that people have kept it as one of their favourites and it still is after all this time.”
Farmer says that he drew on his own life for the film as well by picturing his own son, Austin, whenever he spoke to Max in the recording booth. “My son at the time was around 5 years old, so I was substituting in my mind my son so I could have that father/son relationship and it became real.”
Speaking of real, the real Goofy chimed in at the end of our interview with Farmer to share details on how he’s passing his time during the COVID-19 quarantine. “I put on about 15 pounds since this thing started, ‘cause I like hot dogs,” Goofy tells us.
“So eating’s a lot of fun, and there’s a lot of good stuff on TV, too. And then going out in the yard is a lot of fun.” And like the great dad he is, he passed along some words of encouragement for our post-pandemic future. “The bad times never last, but the good times are just around the corner. So keep that in your mind and before long it’ll all be back to normal and we’ll all have fun.”
It’s a Dog’s Life, A Goofy Movie and Goof Troop are currently streaming on Disney+.
— Video produced by Jon San