A Goofy Movie oral history

This month marked the 25th anniversary of A Goofy Movie, a film which has earned one of the most passionate cult followings of any in the Disney library. One of the biggest reasons for its lasting success is its timeless music, best showcased in the climactic scene in which the main characters, Goofy and his teenage son Max, sneak into a concert and manage to get on stage with the world’s biggest pop star, Powerline. The show-stopping song playing during the scene is called “I2I,” and the whole thing culminates with Goofy, Max, and Powerline doing “The Perfect Cast,” an unorthodox fishing technique which, as the characters quickly learn, doubles as an amazing dance move.

Over the past few weeks, /Film has spoken with the people responsible for creating “I2I” and bringing this memorable scene to life. Here is the oral history of how the film’s Powerline concert scene came together.

A Goofy Movie Oral History: Powerline Concert

Kevin Lima (Director): The sequence existed in a form in Jym Magon’s very first script of the film. All animation really evolves over time, because you get to see the movie before you actually make the movie. We script the movie, then we storyboard the movie, and then we adjust as we go. The sequence got much bigger. It got much more involved. We added a chase sequence in the middle of it. It became more emotionally grounded. As we discovered the rest of the movie, it allowed that sequence to gain more importance in the storytelling. In the first drafts of the script, it was really just an event along the way. As we fractured Max and Goofy’s relationship and brought them back together again, the sequence took on a much deeper meaning.

Bambi Moé (Music Associate Producer): The thing that was really at the heart of it was, how do you go about creating a song or songs that would come across as timeless and yet be hip and cool for the time? We had a lot of conversations about it.

Patrick DeRemer (Writer, Music, “I2I”): I had worked with Bambi Moé on a few Disney projects over the years prior to being approached for A Goofy Movie. They initially contacted me because of our relationship, and I immediately knew Roy was the guy to bring in on it, because we had written some really good songs prior to that, too. I remember going into a meeting with Bambi Moé and Kevin Lima, the director, and them describing the movie to us. They had the title, “I2I.” Kind of like a Prince deal – “I Would Die 4 U.”

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Kevin Lima: Powerline was always a pop superstar. We were looking at folks like Prince, Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown. There’s been a rumor for a long time that he’s based on Bobby Brown and that Bobby Brown actually recorded some of the tracks for the film. It’s not true at all. He never recorded anything as far as I know.

Bambi Moé: Bobby Brown was certainly somebody that we talked about [as an influence]…I’m really thinking back. There might have been an initial inquiry, like would he at all be interested, and that might have been something where we didn’t hear back from his people. But it never went anywhere. That’s why I don’t even remember it, except that he would have certainly been somebody that we would have looked at and listened to, and some of the animation of Powerline dancing and performing – you could see Bobby Brown, you could see Prince, you could see Michael Jackson.

Roy Freeland (Writer, Lyrics, “I2I”): I remember they gave us a synopsis of what the scene would be about, what the conflict was, and what the characters were, so we could think about it thematically. So we had an idea that it was a father-son thing, and we wanted it to broaden out to be a romantic relationship thing, too – the way people find each other.

Kevin Lima: I always like to try to figure out how the songs emotionally fit into the story. And with that comes throwing out a title. Not a title that they have to use, but something that inspires the content of the piece. I gave them a title and said, “This is what I need it to accomplish. This is what the song is about emotionally in the story.” Then I let them run with it. Honestly, they came back with a winner. Well, two winners, really, in both Powerline songs.

Bambi Moé: If you really go through the lyric to “I2I,” those are beautiful, beautiful lyrics. There’s so much heart in those lyrics.

Roy Freeland: It’s a natural expression of joy and connection. It’s not overthought, for a change. I’ve spent the last twenty years trying to be profound and tragic as a novelist, so it’s ironic to have this natural expression of joyfulness happen the way it happened.

Patrick DeRemer: The way we usually worked was that I would deliver a rough demo of the music with a gibberish-type lyric so I could communicate the melody to [Roy], and then he would do his wizardry and write an amazing lyric. This is back in the days when sequencers were the industry standard in regards to making music. Typically, I’d program the instruments for the entire track into one of these contraptions, except the vocals, and I used an Akai MPC60, as I recall.

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Bambi Moé: It was like, “OK, now we have to make these songs sound amazing.”…I was at Capitol Records at a session for another project, and I heard this singer singing in another studio. The singer was Tevin Campbell. I said, “Oh my God.” Nobody really knew who Tevin Campbell was – some people, but he certainly wasn’t as popular as he became. I loved the voice…he was Prince’s protege and he was discovered by Quincy Jones. So I knew that in order to get Tevin Campbell to say yes to sing the songs, the tracks themselves had to be at that level. So who’s in the Prince camp? Maybe if I can get ahold of Prince’s producer, that would do the trick…sure enough, that was David Z.

David Z. (Producer, Recorder, and Mixer of “I2I”): I worked with Prince from the beginning. I did Purple Rain, I did “Kiss,” I did a lot of his biggest things. I think [the filmmakers] trusted me, and they wanted me to give it a treatment, and that’s what we did.

Patrick DeRemer: When David was hired as the producer, I sent him the MPC files on – get this – a floppy disk. You’ll have to do some research into what one of those are. If you listen closely, I can still hear some of those tracks on the final recording, so that’s kind of fun.

David Z.: They sent the demos to me, and myself and Paul Peterson, who is a talented guy, we [performed and recorded] the tracks, just the two of us, up in Minneapolis at Paisley Park.

Bambi Moé: When [David] said yes, I literally thought I was going to faint. Because he suggested immediately that we record the tracks at Paisley Park. So for me, as a music person, that’s like – getting to work at Paisley Park? Where Prince creates? That’s unbelievable!

David Z.: I was really excited about it because it was such a different animal for me.

Bambi Moé: [Bambi reads aloud an excerpt from her forthcoming book Part of the Magic – A Collection of Disney-Inspired Brushes With Greatness] The drive to the studio seemed to take us through the middle of nowhere, and then suddenly, a white, modern industrial complex appears. We drove to the back side of the building and up to the giant metal garage door. The experience was straight out of a Bond film as layers of doors opened. There I was inside the inner music sanctum of the Great Purple One’s studio…I had heard that the building had many secret exits and entrances, and I was especially interested in seeing Prince’s legendary hidden boudoir. After a couple of days of recording, I got up the nerve to ask if I could get a tour of the complex and I was not disappointed. Prince’s hidden room was a highlight. It had a circular bed with the requisite number of mirrors on the walls and ceiling. It looked frilly with lots of satin material, but the thing that struck me was the number of framed pictures all over the room. I noticed that every picture was a picture of Prince, and he was the only one in the picture.

David Z.: [After I received the demos], we created the songs in our own grooves. It was just Paul Peterson and myself. I programmed the drums, played guitar, he did the keyboards, and we piecemealed it together. We started with the drums. I had to make up a beat that would work. I’m used to doing that, because we did that a lot with Prince. Drums first, and then bass next, and then we start filling it in. It took several days. We did two songs [“Stand Out” and “I2I”], and I don’t know exactly how long it took us – probably a week, because we did different things on different days, and had to reassess it.

Patrick DeRemer: I think overall, David’s expertise, the director’s expertise visually, and the artists’, of course, they took it to another level. I happened to be at the recording session when Tevin Campbell was there, because I was then working for Disney on the other side of the desk in music production.

David Z.: We flew out to L.A. and did the vocal [with Tevin Campbell]. And we did the background vocals – there’s a group called the Waters, who were gospel singers, that’s who’s singing in the background. Also a girl named Rosie Gaines, who was in Prince’s group, has a solo. She’s the high voice. We did the vocals at Sunset Sound and by that time, we did all the tracks and made sure we were in the right key for Tevin. He followed the demo, but he sure put his own slant on it. He did a great job.

Bambi Moé: Tevin was just at the beginning of his career. “Round and Round” was a track that was out, or just coming out. He was charming, delightful, he was funny. He worked really hard.

Patrick DeRemer: Tevin was amazing. Did it in a couple takes, as I recall. Very humble, sweet guy. Then, gosh, he was still a kid. Very pleasant. Took direction well, and was just happy to be involved. It was a fun day.

David Z.: There’s all kinds of tricks in there, if you listen carefully. There’s gated guitars, flanging, all kinds of tricks we used in the ‘80s in that production.

Patrick DeRemer: It’s called a modulation when you change keys in the middle of a song. By nature, once you bring that key up another notch, it elevates the music and lyric to another level. Just because that’s what your ear hears: something new, yet familiar. We wanted it to go to another level towards the end of the song.

David Z.: I’m not a big fan of modulations, but this one worked. Usually, they pick up the song’s energy. A lot of people do modulations. That added to it. But I think the beat of the song is really what picked up, because there was nothing like those two songs in the movie at all. It was a total production. It was a modern R&B production.

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Kevin Lima: We storyboarded the entire sequence first, so we had a very intricate sense of what we wanted from it.

Gregory Perler (Editor): Brian Pimental, who was in charge of storyboards, he and his team boarded it. The way they used to do it in those days was pin every single storyboard up, play the song, and then run with a little pointer and point out the beats. The one unique thing about that song, though, was that there was live-action reference done for it.

Kevin Lima: It was actually one of the very last sequences to be finished in the film. We found that we were up against a huge deadline with the movie. I actually asked a good friend of mine, who was a storyboard artist on the movie, Steve Moore, to go to Australia and the entire sequence was animated in Australia.

Steve Moore (Storyboard Artist and Sequence Director, Sydney): [Kevin] called and said they were behind schedule, and said the concert sequence at the end had a ton of effects and it was more than they could do to hit their deadline. So he said Disney had a studio in Australia that does a lot of their TV stuff, one of their top outsourced studios down there, and would I want to go down there and supervise this sequence? I was like, “Yeah, sure. Go to Australia for six months? What’s the problem?” (laughs) They were in such a hurry that they were like, “Tomorrow, can you meet with the choreographer?”

Kevin Lima: We choreographed the whole [scene] based on the storyboards.

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Steve Moore: We met, looked at the storyboard reel, and talked for a bit, and then two or three days after that, we were in a little soundstage in Burbank. We’d hired a guy to video record [the choreographer] and his dancers, and they did the “I2I” dance. From the boards, he came up with the “I2I” dance, and that’s why you can actually do the dance – because it wasn’t left to animators to come up with, it had actual moves to it.

Kevin Lima: I wanted to create a dynamic that separated Powerline being more grounded in the choreography that he does, as opposed to Max and Goofy, who can slide across a 50-foot stage, fall from the rafters, blow up, and who can do The Perfect Cast. Which, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, but it is quite difficult.

Gregory Perler: In the old Disney films, they filmed the actors moving in live action and then the artists literally traced over them. If you look at Snow White, for example, who is human, she moves exactly like her live-action reference. But with Max and Goofy and Powerline, they’re not the same proportions. So you can’t do that.

Kevin Lima: We knew that we wanted The Perfect Cast to be the center of the whole thing…we used that, as a lot of animation does, to be an influence for the animators. They didn’t copy it, exactly, but they certainly used it to get a real sense of continuity and an overall sense that there was a beginning, middle, and end to the piece.

Gregory Perler: Kevin thumbnailed every single shot from the live-action reference that he wanted to include in the song, and he spaced it out in the middle of the storyboard sequence that Brian had done. We incorporated that into the shoot.

Steve Moore: I had this one animator, he kept pulling out Paula Abdul videos. I said, “We have reference.” He goes, “Yeah, but she does this really good – ” [And I was like] “The reference!” He just wouldn’t do it. I finally had to boot him off the crew because I couldn’t get any work out of him. He was so obsessed with Paula Abdul. (laughs) He was a good animator, too! But I was like, “Look, if you can’t do this, I have to move on.” I warned him, and he just wouldn’t listen to me. He thought, “Ah, what’s he going to do?” Well, I put him back on the series stuff [like Goof Troop], because the studio was doing series work for Disney at the same time. They were not so happy with me because I was getting all their best people. Once I let that guy go, they were very happy. They said, “Thanks for doing that! We got a lot of footage out of him last week because he’s so mad!”

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