So apparently, Goofy is a father now. I was putting away the groceries the other day and I saw on the back of the Kellogg's Cornflakes box a big picture of Goofy and a smaller dog-boy person who bore more than a passing resemblance.
The back of the box read, "Today, Goofy has his own television series, GOOF TROOP, in which he stars as a suburban father raising his son Max."
How did Goofy get to be a father? The kid bears too strong a resemblance to have been mistakenly delivered by a stork. Besides, if that were the case, he'd probably get a baby gorilla or something, not a child of the same species. Did the mother die in some terrible cartoon accident, the sort of thing you just don't walk away from shaped like an accordion? Was there a messy divorce, some gut-wrenching case of irreconcilable goofiness? Or was it a more sordid affair, was little Max the result of a one-night stand? What sort of woman would have Goofy? Or more generally, what sort of animal would have Goofy?
It has never seemed fair to be that Pluto, obviously a much smarter dog than Goofy, always had to wear a collar and be at the beck and call of Mickey, when Goofy was always left on his own recognizance. And now look. It was never quite clear whether Mickey had Pluto neutered or not, but if one of the cartoon canines had to procreate, if nothing else but to liven up Disney's afternoon schedule, Pluto should have been the one. At least Pluto has nurturing instincts, well demonstrated when he took care of a litter of kittens he could just as soon have eaten.
And what has Dan Quayle had to say about this? Could this be the real reason Quayle dropped out of the race? One could imagine his handlers, making ready for another go with their challenging pile of prospective president putty -- trying their darndest to keep him away from TV sitcoms and other potentially hard issues. They even cut out possibly harmful articles from the Weekly Reader before handing it over to him. Some tired campaign assistant, weary from the previous night's purgation of bedtime stories, sets him down before his morning breakfast and leaves him something to read -- a cereal box. No harm in that, the handler thinks.
Too bad. Quayle reads it. He even understands it. He is outraged. He is angry. He has found a campaign issue.
The handlers try to tell him it's just a bad dream, but he'll have none of it. Finally, they hide his piggy bank and tell him there'll be no advance on his allowance. Campaign over, due to insufficient funds.
Who would we rather have in the role of a single parent -- a strong, confident anchorwoman or someone who hasn't yet gotten the hang of gravity?
Walt Disney was known to have had extremely strained relations with his parents. The only relative he had contact with was his brother. The majority of the Disney films made when he was alive, and many after he died, depict truncated families with often unexplained relationships between characters.
That's not too surprising with Disney versions of fairy tales; most of the stories had pretty strained parent-child relationships to begin with. Evil stepmothers are part of the usual formula, and fathers are more or less absent.
Pinocchio had no mother, his "father" carved him from wood, and most of his supervision came from an insect. Is it any wonder he was a pathological liar?
Mowgli was raised by a panther and a bear. Most of us get better, but perhaps we don't deserve it. It's hard for jungle predators to accumulate much of a college fund.
The Little Mermaid had an absent mother and a stern and controlling father. Most of her guidance came from an arthropod as well.
Belle in Beauty and the Beast had no mother, and a father incapable of responsibility. Even Chip the teacup had no father.
Aladdin was a street urchin in the film version. His mother was written out of the script partway through the production. Jasmine's had a more or less useless father and no mother.
Dumbo, again, had no father, and most of his mentoring came from a mouse. Apparently, only those at the extreme ends of the food chain are able to dispense guidance to the young.
Bambi, whose role in the food chain was made only too obvious, was close to his mother, but his father was a distant figure. Most of his male bonding came from a little fellow named Thumper. For most parents, that would be an item of concern.
Donald Duck has three nephews, but there's no explanation of who their parents were. You'd think it might be an occasional sad spot -- Donald's brother or sister died young and left him with Huey, Dewey, and Louie -- but if that's the case, then Donald is certainly overcompensating well, unlike the way he takes just about everything else in life. He does not handle stress well. Donald certainly has more wits than Goofy; he's just not in control of them. Whereas Goofy is a few bricks short of a load, Donald frequently loses grip of the wheelbarrow.
Donald might conceivably settle down with Daisy and provide a slightly more stable upbringing for the three young ducks, if only he could control his temper. In the meantime, the ducklings are spending too much time at the bidding of Uncle Scrooge McDuck, who sends them off every week in search of yet more wealth to add to his horde.
Mickey has three nephews, too, but they're names don't roll readily off the tongue, so nobody remembers them. Minnie has three nieces, too. If there is some holy trinity reference here, it certainly has escaped most pop theologians. If only Professor Ludwig von Drake would study more Freud.
About the only intact set of parents in a Disney film are the husband and wife in 101 Dalmatians, and they're mother and father to a horde of dogs. If they can run a kennel out of their flat, then maybe Goofy will do all right.
According to the back of the cereal box, "Like most kids, Max is easily embarrassed by his Dad's bumbling." As would anyone whose father walks off cliffs.
"But even Max has a bit of Goofy in him. The more he tries to fight off his goofiness, the more he takes after his father, which makes Goofy all the more proud of his boy."
Wonderful. The kid has a touch of incompetence, which Goofy sees as a good thing. Hand me a handkerchief.
© 1995 Randel Shard