Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"GOOFY TROOPERS" PART 1 by Mike Peraza

Just a few of the Goof Troop early "miss-fires"
"Goof Troop" had been in development for quite a while before I came in to the mix. In case you've ever wondered why the name seems to be about a troop when the actual series isn't, I'll tell you. The creative executive assigned to oversee its development originally concieved it as Goofy with the rank of Head Scoutmaster in charge of a bunch of young scouts. Not bad but limiting if we were to use that as a basis for every episode. We would watch their uproarious adventures as they pitched tents, learned secret oaths, cooked s'mores and tied knots. Well maybe there was just a little more to it than that, but not much.

Being the good soldier I was, and being that I was being paid to do it, I cranked out a bunch of situations with the character designs that had been drawn up to that point. I don't know how many of you reading this have ever wondered exactly what Goofy was. I mean was he a human, a large rodent, a dog? Well if you picked door number three, you are correct! Sorry, no trip to Disneyland for the winners this time though. What you do win is the opportunity  to hear how "Goof Troop" became the series it is know as today. When embarking on a series involving a famous character from Walt Disney's original stable of stars can be daunting. One has only to view some of Jack Kinney's incredible Goofy shorts or marvel at Art Babbit's or Woolie Reitherman's animation to appreciate the rich pantomime and hilarious antics that the "Goof" has brought to audiences around the world for many years. I hoped that whatever we were going to create at Walt Disney Television Animation did justice to that rich heritage.

In search of a series...
I had just finished up a batch of other show concepts when I was asked to help out with some pitch art on a new show entitled, "Goof Troop" that was becoming bogged down in the early stages of developement. As I started working on the pitch concepts I quickly realized that there was no clear direction for the show as yet. I was growing concerned working on the endless ill-conceived setups thought up by the new Creative Executive that had just been hired. The Creative exec wasn't a bad person by any means, in fact far from it. He was actually a very fun guy to talk to, but this was his first job in the world of film making and he just didn't quite have a clue what to do with this Goofy character and I was getting worried about the approaching deadline. To his creative credit, every week he seemed to have found a brand new approach to the show. Although while I was doodling versions of the show that were destined to never see the light of the TV screen,  the pitch date remained etched in stone and kept creeping closer. Various versions would find their way to the surface only to sink again into the wasteland known as the roundfile (trashcan). One moment Goofy was the Captain of the Fire Department, the next day a detective out of the Maltese Falcon mold, or a swash buckling hero fighting The Flying Dutchman.

I don't blame Goofy for being upset
The supporting cast he came up with really wasn't very supportive when you consider they sometimes included alien dragon babies with wings along with a large gorilla. Somebody at Walt Disney Television Animation must have really had a thing for giant gorillas around this time as they were plugged into almost every concept we  assembled.  It wasn't unusual to do a series of setups in the morning using one cast of characters only to redo the same scenes again in the afternoon with a different cast of characters. Check the subway setups above and the only character to make it from the morning cast to the afternoon cast was Goofy. Imagine combining angular sketchy characters with the style of Disney's Robin Hood with the more rounded ones from DUMBO, they just weren't meant to be in the same show. The consistency of style for the pitch was being ignored. As we kept dumping each previous set of ideas for the latest flavor, the idea of doing a show with a Disney star like Goofy was fading fast. I was called down to the Creative exec's office for yet another round of NEW ideas for the show.

With Goofy as Fire Captain, things were bound to heat up
The latest  idea this fellow had was to put Goofy into Toontown. Within the same meeting Goofy went from being the driver of Benny the talking Cab to driving a talking SUV (they were just becoming popular at the time) named Woody.  Roger Rabbit had been recently screened at the studio and had given birth to this latest burst of inspiration. I tried to explain to him why I wasn't sure it would work, after all I had worked on with Bob Zemekis doing concept art on "Roger Rabbit" so I thought I just might understand its conception just a bit better perhaps. I explained that in Toontown, everything is alive from the trees to the cars and even the buildings and the sky.

What made it special was the crossover from live action into this zany world. And speaking of zany, if Goofy is in a goofy world, is he still really Goofy? Not to mention we were probably not going to get the internationaly licensed animation cast of the movie version of Toontown like Woody Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny, etc... He listened to me politely, ... then ignored everything I had just said and told me to start doing Toontown setups with Goofy and leave the visionary part to him. It was definitely a one-way street as far as any creative input was concerned on this project and we were headed for a bump in the road.

At this point I really have to add that while Goofy was definitely not exactly this young exec's "cup of tea", he would eventually distinguish himself by developing what would become a highly successful and wildly popular series down the road in more of an animation action genre. As he gained experience over the years he has proved himself a hard working exec who has helped shepard a couple of very solid and popular shows. Some series concepts just gravitate towards more real world action themes while others are much more at home with employing a looser "toony" feel for their world. Goofy was definitely in the "toony" realm and it just wasn't jelling in his otherwise capable hands. 

Goofy doing some soggy but sharp shooting at his boss
I went back to my room. The junior exec's ideas were indeed giving me ideas, hmmm... throw the junior exec off the roof, slip him a mickey(not the mouse), wire his chair? As these sordid thoughts wafted through my head, I cranked out a couple of  attempts at a Goofy Toontown and the SUV character. My phone rang. It was from Gary Krisel, President of Walt Disney Television Animation, who wanted to check on the progress of my development for the Goofy show. Coincidence? I doubt it. Hey maybe I was getting fired? Well at least then I wouldn't be blamed for helping to bring down a Disney star.

As I walked down the hall I could almost hear a distant memory from schooldays, "Michael Peraza, please report to the Principle's office..." I went over to his room, we closed the doors. Gary and I had a great relationship and he was very interested in my honest opinion of the Goofy show.  As always, I was very straight with him. I told him I didn't think we had any show to present. He didn't seem surprised at my statement and so I went into length about all the different scenarios that had been started and stopped ending with the latest Toontown suggestion. When I again described my reasons why I didn't think it would work, he agreed completely. Thank goodness!  Just as no two artists are completely alike, neither are the executives. He then leaned over and asked me the question, one that I had already mulled over in my mind, "OK, what would YOU do?" I have to admit, I had been secretly hoping for such a chance. I'm such a bbbaaaaddd boy sometimes.


  1. He listened to me politely, ... then ignored everything I had just said and told me to start doing Toontown setups with Goofy and leave the visionary part to him. Wow this sounds like a great working environment. Bring on the lawsuits!!!! Great stuff Mike keep em' coming.

  2. Steve, I believe you are taking far too much pleasure in my painful memories, lol. Hope you are doing well.

  3. Soggy Goofy positively dripping. Wonderful stuff.