Saturday, May 26, 2007

What a Character! - Goofy Junior

And it’s not Max.

Some four decades before the contemporary Goofy family dynamic was introduced in the television show Goof Troop and the films A Goofy Movie and An Extremely Goofy Movie, Disney’s dimwitted but always good natured star enjoyed a domestic condition rooted in the early days of the post-war baby boom. While the 1990s gave birth to the character of Max and portrayed the Goof as devoted single father, fifty years earlier, the Goofy cartoons featured prominently the character of George G. Geef, a perennial everyman whose immediate family then included the faceless Mrs. Geef and a very different, but still endearing chip off the old block.

Known in most historical resources as Goofy Junior, the little tyke was referred to simply as Junior throughout his five screen appearances, and was once actually identified as George Junior in 1953’s Father’s Day Off.

Born literally in the 1951 cartoon Fathers Are People, Junior would go on to star in four additional Goofy shorts through 1961. A quintessential postwar archetype, Junior was mischievous, charming and temperamental, keeping his father in a state of almost constant exasperation. The same era had given birth to Dennis the Menace, and Junior was not very far removed from Hank Ketcham’s now iconic creation. The highlight of Fathers Are People is the father-son battle of wills over a roomful of messy toys that George Sr. ultimately and unequivocally loses.

Junior’s most prominent role was in 1952’s Father’s Lion where he continually confounds an irritated mountain lion with fearless innocence and a dime-store pop gun. Patient with his father’s Baron Munchausen-esque storytelling, he is much less a foil than in his other appearances. His low key bravado is a comical contrast to his father’s well-meaning boastfulness.

Junior’s roles are reduced somewhat in both Father’s Day Off and Father’s Weekend. In Father’s Day Off, he is but one of a number of elements that contribute to the fiasco that develops when Geef takes over the household chores for the day. In Father’s Weekend, Junior only comes into the forefront later in the cartoon when his father takes him to the beach and its nearby amusement park. In 1961’s Aquamania, Junior is basically there just to drive the boat in a pratfall-filled water ski race.

Perhaps most distinctive about Junior is that he was not designed to be a miniature version of Goofy, a direction that was eventually taken when the character was reinvented as Max for the Goof Troop television show. With his bright red hair and absence of dog ears, he clearly stood apart from his on-screen father.

Upon becoming a parent of sons, I discovered an entirely new appreciation for these cartoons that featured the antics of G. G. Geef and Junior. Numerous moments in the films reflected some of my own personal experiences. While being firmly grounded in 1950s popular culture, they still retain a measure of timelessness that many contemporary viewers can no doubt still relate to.

Images © Walt Disney Company