Sunday, December 19, 2021

"Christmas Maximus"

 I guess the rule was that the title just had to have "Max" in it?  Okay.  Impressive work, everyone.  Time for coffee and doughnuts!

Actually, I'm slightly boggled: in looking up information about Max, I learned that Goofy had previously had a son, possibly called Goofy Jr, who appeared in a series of fifties shorts.  And my boggling is because I had NEVER seen any of these and so never encountered this version of Goofy before, presented as a kind of everyman with a completely different voice than normal.  Thanks, I hate it.  I had no idea such things existed, which is kind of interesting, but the result...boy.  I forced myself to watch a few of them to get some idea of what they were about, and they did NOT grow on me, I will tell you that much.  This was apparently Walt's own idea.  Well, they can't all be winners--though it does deal a blow to the Dorfman/Mattelart idea that there's nefarious intent behind all the nieces and nephews.

Well, this early Goofy-offspring is clearly not the same character as Max, in spite of what this claims.  Max was created in 1992 for Goof Troop, a show I have never seen--well, I did see A Goofy Movie in the theater; to the very limited extent to which I remember it, I think I liked it, more or less.  But that's it (I'm sure someone will tell me if the show's any good).  Does he have a mother, or what (Goofy Jr does; we occasionally hear from her or sort of see her, though her face is never revealed)?  And since Goofy apparently has sole custody, can we assume that she was deemed an even less suitable guardian?  The mind reels.  Or, I suppose, she could have tragically died young, leaving him a widower.  There's potential drama here!  Albeit not of the sort that The Walt Disney Company would likely address.

It's hard for me to have a strong opinion about Max, really.  I don't love his mullet-like hair, I'll tell you that much.  We could compare him to Gilbert if we wanted to: both of them habitually embarrassed by their flesh and blood's ineptitude.  The big difference is that, unlike Gilbert, Max is an audience-identification character.  Has anyone ever identified with Gilbert?  If so, I can't decide if I'd like to meet them or run screaming.

I don't know.  Max could be an okay character--better than Gilbert, certainly, and I like him well enough in the present story--but how much I can tolerate him elsewhere will probably depend inversely on how much nineties attitude they have given him.  Maybe we'll see someday!  Or maybe not.  Could go either way.

Of course, the other interesting thing about him is that his age is variable: in Once Upon a Christmas he was a little kid; here, he seems to be college-age--while HDL remain the same age in both.  It's a little spooky when there's contrast like that.

So this is kind of the main conflict, in Max's brain.  In the animated version, this whole thing is presented as a not noticeably Christmas-y song.  As these things go, it isn't terrible (low bar, granted), but it feels really, really strange to have a song wedged into this otherwise non-musical (apart from miscellaneous Christmas songs) film.  WEIRD.

Roooooooxaaaanne!  Who's Roxanne?  Okay okay, I know the answer; she's Max's love interest in A Goofy Movie and I guess has appeared a few times since.  But why mention her here?  Is the idea to appease hardcore Max/Roxanne stans?  Are there such people?  And even if there are, is this going to satisfy them?  The implication here appears to be that she dumped him because she couldn't stand his dad's idiocy.  That's not very satisfying.

Anyway, I suppose we have to at least touch on this "make her mine" stuff, because ol' Max is absolutely obsessed with it.  If I asked you what does it mean, in a vacuum, when you say you want to 'make someone yours,' you'd probably say, "well, it can be a little nebulous, but all things being equal, I'd say it generally means you want the someone to be your boy/girlfriend.  Now how do we get out of this vacuum?  It's dark in here!"  Okay, right, but Mona (who as far as I can tell appears nowhere other than this story) is clearly already his girlfriend.  In that sense she's already 'his.'  

It could be as simple as "I really like her and I don't want to be embarrassed in front of her"--as, indeed, he more or less articulates in the beginning.  Nothing more to it than that.  But all of this "make her mine" stuff--I feel like it's more down to the ineptitude of the scenario writers than anything else that this really, really comes across as "he wants to get laid."  Not that that wouldn't in any case be a subtextual element, but the way the story's written, it's very difficult not to see it as kind of the most important thing.  This is okay, storywise; it's just that I kind of think they weren't considering very closely what they were doing and would have been uncomfortable with it if they had been.  Look at that middle panel with Max looking at the just-married couple: sure, he might be thinking of marriage down the road.  When you're in love with someone it's natural to think about these things, even if you realize rationally that they're a bit premature.  But that element was not present in the cartoon, and it very much looks as though somebody at some level thought "huh.  In retrospect, I'm not one hundred percent happy with what this is suggesting.  Can we somehow include some level of plausible deniability here?" and this is what we get.  Obviously, that didn't work too well!

One of the most interesting things about Max--in theory, at least--is him worrying about turning into his father.  Here we see Mona with Goofy-style teeth, which happens right near the end of the cartoon and is supposed to be a big revelation; here, it is revealed a bit early.

Given how dismissive I was of "A Very Goofy Christmas," would it surprise you to know that this one is actually my favorite of the batch?  The scenario isn't super-developed, and as I noted above I don't think the writers were always in control of the narrative, but the end result is still kind of sweet.  Clearly all of these are going for sweetness, but this is really the only one that made me feel any particular emotion, so we'll chalk it up as a win.

I mean...yeah, okay!  This is fairly credibly-done.  There's a lot here that's not, so I want to give them all the positive reinforcement I can when I can.  Happy holidays.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goof Troop is... OKAY. Definitely nowhere near as bad (or as xtreeemely 90s) as Quack Pack, which is probably its closest equivalent. Probably helps that it knows what it wants to be (a sitcom) a opposed to the weird sitcom/action-adventure hybrid thing that was QP.
Nowhere near as charming as the Goofy Movies though, so don't walk into it with TOO high standards. Tween Max really lacks most of the qualities you asociate with college-age Max.

December 19, 2021 at 6:38 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

There very much *are* Max/Roxanne stans, yes, heh heh. Who've long been very baffled and annoyed at this 'Mona' nonsense that “Twice Upon” decided to pull, especially given that as animated, Mona looks an awful lot like Roxanne in a different haircut, leading to the popular cut that the filmmakers invented Mona as a cold, hard, practical solution to the matter of not being able to get Roxanne's long hair to look right in primitive CGI, rather than as a thought-out narrative decision about how Max's arc ought to go. So I am unsurprised to see this adaption try to smooth it over, even if I agree it isn't very satisfying!

In real-world terms “Goofy Jr.” and Max are different characters, but you could of course say the same about Donald Duck in “The Wise Little Hen” versus Donald Duck in “Quack Pack”… I am happy enough thinking of them as the same person. And I believe there is some "canonical" evidence for that, one of these 50-minute TV specials which repackaged a bunch of the 50s "family man Goofy” shorts as home movies that the “Goof Troop” Goofy and Max are rewatching. Though perhaps I just dreamed that up, it's been a while since I've thought about any of these characters.

December 19, 2021 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

What's interesting about the 50's Goofy cartoons is that there are some surprising adult jokes there. Like in one Goofy's wife has to leave and he taking care of all her duties, and every time someone comes bye (milkman, mailman etc.) he greats Goofy with a large kiss (without opening his eyes) making Goofy's being the father of Goofy Jr. more dubious...

I think Goof Trop has some fun episodes, it's just not a show I feel like revisit like Duck Tales or Gummi Bears. I guess the problem maybe the fact, that while others Disney Afternoon shows tried to deal with fantastic/adventurous elements, “Good troop” was more slice of life, so in theory not as creative or had as much variety (THEN again, there where few episodes where Goofy is showing Max his family album and we get to spend episode with one of Goofy’s ancestors – like one is a cowboy or one is Holmes-look-a-like, and Pete always plays the villains).

I will agree with opinion from Doug Walkers review that the show would be actually much more fun if it was center around Pete's family (he + his wife + son and a daughter) as they had stronger comedic dynamic. It is interesting that Pete actually has a pretty nice wife (both good looking and in the fact she was a nice person) but had some psychotic tendencies. There is even a fan theory that Peg (Pete’s wife) was originally design as wife for Goofy, but realize that her personality will work better as comic foil for Pete

Frankly on the show (or "Goofy movie" or it's sequel) I always assumed that Goofy is ment to be a widower. As for Max himself... in the show he felt like the producers said "Hey, Bart Simpson is still popular with the kids, gave Goofy a Bart-Simponseque son" but then added "but don't make him mischievous or any qualities that make you think he is a bad kids - he has to be very nice" (not realizing that these things made Bart… well, Bart)

December 19, 2021 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

As for Roxanne… Well Geox, you probably noticed a large mob outside of your window (the same that throw that brick). Those are indeed, the crowd of hardcore Max/Roxanne fans who get furious that you even reminded people of this story/segment in the movie (be prepared to find you picture with drawn horns and devils beard on their reddit page). You see, in their hearts this is most evil thing anyone at Disney ever did. Roxanne is such beloved fan-favorite for her amazing… “nice, shy, yet very beautiful girl next door, qualities, that has the nice romance with the nice shy, dorky boy… Even if it’s not that much of a romance, they like share two scenes, where they have an award conversation but it’s so relatable and she sems to like him from the start but… Ooooh…. It’s so romantic perfection”. Yeah. I don’t know! My romantic conquest/preferences where closer to the girl P.J. get’s in “Extremely Goofy movie” as far personality go…
Oh, right! I mentioned the “Extremely Goofy movie”. And now there’s the brick hitting my window… *sight*. You see “Extremely Goofy movie” made the ultimate sin of having story of Max going to collage and IGNORING Roxanne’s existence! Even Goofy and P.J. get love interest in that one and to top things Max even acts flirtatious toward other girls so… AHHH!!! They are no longer together!
And then “Mickey Twice upon Christmas” came along and throw some dirt on grave of Disney’s dignity by giving Max a new girlfriend… which while has a nice design has very little personality and seriously, felt like a middle finger to all Max/Roxanne fans (even if I guess Roxanne wouldn’t work in this story since at the end of “Goofy movie” she is clearly ok with Goofy’s goofyness)
So yeah, bring up Roxanne like this felt odd. I don’t think works as fan-service as if it’s meant to be a “Hey remember how better Roxanne was?” It’s only adds gasoline to the fire, if it’s meant to be “Isn’t she’s better then Roxanne?” then the same, and finally it will remind Roxanne to the fans that didn’t even think about it. And the crow that doesn’t like or care for Roxanne and can roll with this is pretty small… Seriously : She’s what Goldie is to Barks fans or Falbala to Asterix fans – a female-love interest character that only appeared ONCE but left a hell of a impression.

December 19, 2021 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Golly. I had no idea the Roxanne Mafia was so powerful.

Incidentally, without having watched Goof Troop:

in the show he felt like the producers said "Hey, Bart Simpson is still popular with the kids, gave Goofy a Bart-Simponseque son" but then added "but don't make him mischievous or any qualities that make you think he is a bad kids - he has to be very nice" (not realizing that these things made Bart… well, Bart)

This feels like kind of a perfect summation of what I can imagine a production team deciding. Rings very true.

December 19, 2021 at 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Lupan said...

Very much enjoying your holiday reviews, as usual!

Incidentally, if you're still attempting to eventually cover every Barks Christmas story, I think I may have found another that you haven't done yet: "Gladstone's Usual Very Good Year" ( I couldn't find it while searching the blog archives, though I may have simply missed it.

December 19, 2021 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

[sorry for the double deleted there been an error poping in each time]

Speaking of Bart Simpson and Goofy, there is this recent short on Disney Plus where the Simpsons interact with all of the Disney characters at Moe's bar

[Which frankly is not very funny and Lisa gets to sing a bad song, but I honestly don't blame the Simpsons writers as they probably got like 700 notes from Disney PR people and It's really hard to make any satire or commentary if you can't poke any flaws in the brand you are trying to make fun of so even with all of best intentions this would come off as self-congratulatory commercial no matter how hard they would try]

What's interesting is that Goofy gets DRUNK on beer with Homer. When asked about this the producer of the Simpsons explain that according to Disney it's ok for Goofy to drink beer as he isn't a role model and A PARENT(!)

So if there is a reason to the thankful for Max existence is that Goofy can get wasted all he desire! (Also lets be thankful that parents can't be role models… according to Disney…)

December 20, 2021 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Adding to what Pan said concerning the Goofy cartoons…

Most of the best ones (by far) were rarely, if ever, seen - at least in the Pre-Disney-Channel, Pre-Disney-Plus days. (I have no idea what goes on now - as I would not “pay” Disney for access to anything - most of which would not interest me anyway!) Once they got beyond the “Goofy and Wilbur” stage, which would seem to be the image Disney wanted Goofy to be “Frozen” (pardon the pun) in, Goofy was far and away the funniest series to emerge from the classic-era Disney animated shorts factory!

Could you imagine Goofy trying to quit smoking, and going through all sorts of incredible slapstick efforts at combating withdrawal?!

No, neither could I, until I saw this - and many other great “buried” Goofy cartoons for the first time on the Goofy volume of the Disney Treasures DVD! …Limited edition, alas, and quite pricey on the secondary market.

Again, for all I know, they may indeed be available in some form today… But, I’d tend to doubt it!

December 20, 2021 at 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel like the Max/Roxanne stans would actually get annoyed by the implication that she dumped Max because she couldn't handle his dad's goofiness.

It's a semi-common joke that Max actually broke up with Roxanne because she was more into his dad than him.

December 20, 2021 at 12:36 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Wait, Pan, am I misunderstanding you? It sounds to me as though Disney was saying Goofy is not a role model and not a parent, parents have to be role models--hence Goofy can get drunk. Sounds like they are not considering Max or Goofy Jr. to be enduring canon.

December 20, 2021 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

And maybe Goofy can start smoking again, too!

December 20, 2021 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

No, no Elaine. I ment the acording to the Simpsons producers its ok for Disney to depict characters enjoying alkochol if :
- They aren't role models (like the Disney princesess)
- Are parents (hence making them adults for 100%)

Sorry I ment it sound cofusing.

December 20, 2021 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

And yes Joe, the short where Goofy is trying to quit smoking has brilliant writing. I also have the Goofy Disney treasures collection and a lot of them is fantastic (sadly when I finaly got around to buying these collections most where out of print in Europe or have some absurd prices)

December 20, 2021 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I can't find the direct quote from the Simpsons producers but it was pretty much "Goofy is canonicly a father so it was ok for him drink beer"

December 20, 2021 at 2:40 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Ah, OK, I get it! So parents are grown-ups who are allowed to drink alcohol. You'd think Corporate Disney would still want the "& Friends" of "Mickey & Friends" to drink responsibly! :-) Does Donald get to drink alcohol by that rule, I wonder, or does being a custodial uncle/guardian not count?

December 20, 2021 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Adamant said...

You know, it's been forever since I actually watched any Goof Troop, so I decided to give the first 5 episodes (in production order) a watch just to refresh my memory and see what Disney originally wanted with this show.

So quick episode commentaries:
"Midnight Movie Madness" - Max and Pete's son PJ get super paranoid after watching a scary movie, believing the Jason Vorhees-esque killer from the movie is trying to get them. Hilarity ensues as Goofy gets locked out of the house and the kids assume his attempts at getting back in is the killer coming for them. Not a bad setup for a 7-minute short and abolutely the kind of thing you'd think of when you know the concept is "sitcom starring Goofy", but the plot is way too thin for a 20 minute episode and the episode drags on a lot. Probably the best of these though.
"You Camp Take It with You" - Goofy and Pete take their sons camping for some father-son bonding time. While you'd expect the episode to focus on that, it quickly devolves into slapstick featuring Pete, Goofy and an angry bear instead. Mildly funny, but really feels like it was written on the fly without much direction. The lack of focus on the kids is pretty bizarre considering the setup, they just kinda disappear once the bear shows up.

December 20, 2021 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Adamant said...

"All the Goof That's Fit to Print" - Pete is angry about the price he has to pay for a good ad for his used car dealership and decides the obvious solution is to run his own newspaper with Goofy, Max and PJ as his entire staff. Things obviously go badly, eventually culminating in the newspaper running a front page story about Pete being an alien, sending Pete and Goofy rushing all over town to recollect all the papers before anyone reads the article. There's some amusing bits here, but it largely feels like a series of unconnected mini stories, with the finale not really being related to anything that happened more than 5 minutes earlier. The episode could've easily continued on with further "Pete's newspaper" gags after the credits roll.
"In Goof We Trust" - Pete is in serious danger of going to prison after all the blatnat fraud and theft going on at his car dealership gets exposed, so he hires Goofy (who just got an award for being the most honest man in town) as a companion to improve his image. Goofy ends up being a bit too "honest" for Pete's liking, so Pete uses an off-the-shelf brainwashing machine to alter his personality. Though a poor choice of words on his side ends up turning Goofy into a psychotic kleptomaniac instead. The nonsensical idea ofjust being able to buy a brainwashing machine like that aside, this could've theoretically have been funny, but instead turns into an illogical mess where Goofy is running around robbing people under their noses without anyone even considering the idea of blaming him and the episode runs in circles for about 10 minutes until Pete realizes he can fix the problem by just undoing the brainwashing. Really not good at all.
"Inspector Goofy" - Same concept as the last episode really, just turned up to eleven: Pete bribes a city official to get Goofy hired as inspector so he can fine his competitors. The plan backfires when Goofy fines Pete instead and shuts down his car dealership, after which the episode just turns into an annoying heap of nonsense as Goofy keep fining Pete for "breaking" all kinds of laws he mostly makes up on the spot, all while somehow getting promotions for all this nonsense that sort of implies nobody but Pete has a problem getting fines for lack of holes in their swiss cheese. The episode doesn't even try to make sense and was painful to watch.

I remembered the show being better, really. Despite the focus of both the marketing and the theme song being Goofy and Max's relationship, the show is mostly about Goofy and Pete, with Max and PJ being very minor characters in most of these episodes. The slapstick gags usually aren't super funny and the writing really struggles with making Goofy "goofy" as opposed to just plain insane. I remembered Pete's wife Peg as being fairly likeable too, but dear god was that not the case in these episodes, where she's mostly just a collection of Daisy Duck's worst traits and not a whole lot more.

Maybe these just weren't the best episodes to watch, but I felt really disappointed in them.

December 20, 2021 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

To be fair I recall some episodes like "Axed by Addition" where it's Max and PJ center story and Goofy only makes a silent cameo so I guess they try to mix up which characters have the focus.

December 20, 2021 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger Adamant said...

Oh, I'm sure they get their share of episodes as well, it just seems like the core focus of the show is on Goofy and Pete's relationship. "Midnight Movie Madness" barely featured Pete, so it wasn't an absolute constant in these episodes either, but it was the general feel I got.

December 21, 2021 at 3:21 AM  
Blogger Richie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 24, 2021 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Richie said...

Yo GeoX! Albeit there's fan favorites among the George G. Goof pictures (that's what Goofy was called in, really), their director himself, Jack Kinney, would agree with you in that as a whole they're not Goofy's best. In his own words...

"Then later [in Goofy's career], Walt got on this psychological kick for some reason or another, and I had to do pictures I didn’t really want to do, like Fathers Are People (1951) and all that kind of crap. I said, "Jesus, Walt, if you're going to do that, make him a human character, take the dog head off of him." He said, "Yeah, let's try that." Then, about an hour later, he called back, "No, no, the Goof's established, they know him." But those pictures were disasters, because I didn't fight it hard enough.

Afterwards, I thought, this thing is getting to be an awful pain in the ass, to try to do this type of stuff with a character that isn't designed for it. Then I got back to the formula stuff, like For Whom the Bulls Toil (1953), back into the old routines again, but by that time the shorts were on their way out."

This said, Kinney was, for my money, the most accomplished director of Disney shorts back in those days, so even if his heart wasn't in it, there's still some pretty funny pictures with the 'foibles' concept. Some, such as "Motor Mania" or "No Smoking" are always crowd pleasers. They go for a more maniac angle reminiscent of the sports' cartoons.

Been centuries since I commented but I gotta commend you on keeping the blog this active! I'll try and catch up before long.

December 24, 2021 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Hey Richie, good to see you here and thanks for the behind-the-scenes info. I just want to acknowledge having seen this comment, and I hope you'll keep on commenting.

January 6, 2022 at 9:58 PM  

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