Disney moved forward with the human voice for Goofy despite Bill Farmer’s objections. As he recalled during a panel for the movie’s 20th anniversary, he was using the normal human voice for Goofy for about a week of recording. As he dejectedly told the film’s director Kevin Lima, “nobody wants to hear ‘gawrsh’ or ‘howdy’ in my voice … They want to hear Goofy, don’t they?”
At some point after that week, Disney changed course, ultimately choosing to follow through on Farmer’s request to play Goofy with the traditional voice. That was lucky for the movie, because it already humanized Goofy as much as it possibly could. Keeping him cartoony in one aspect lets the movie’s flights of fancy coexist beautifully with its sensitive, emotional story.
And Farmer is great in the film, getting the perfect mix of Goofy the cartoon character and Goofy the single father who’s lost touch with his kid. That particular mix had to be difficult to find, on the part of the filmmakers and Farmer. As he mentioned during the panel, “generally you do three or four days principal recording and a few days of pickup on a movie.” Even discounting the lost week of Farmer using a human voice for Goofy, Farmer claims he was recording for 43 days. In the process, he found the mix.
As would be expected given its tighter budget, the movie was more or less dumped by Disney on release. Over time, it became something of a cult classic, a low-key antidote to the splashy musicals for which Disney had become known at the time. And without Farmer’s performance, it’s easy to imagine it being forgotten.