Goofy Genetics

One question that I’ve seen raised many times is, if Pluto is a dog, then what is Goofy? I’ve even looked at it myself, but I think it might be time to examine it again. These certainly aren’t the only Disney animal characters to suffer from such an identity crisis. There were early Mickey Mouse cartoons that made him and Minnie the size of ordinary mice.

Horace Horsecollar was originally a plow-horse before being made into a more human character.

These developments are a bit obscure at this point, however, while Goofy and Pluto are still front and center in the Disney pantheon, so it’s no real surprise that they’d be the most susceptible to this question. Mickey and Goofy belong to the category of cartoon characters known at the time of their creation as “funny animals,” which had both human and animal traits. Nowadays we’d call them anthropomorphic, because hard-to-spell words sound more technical and impressive. It’s not always consistent from one cartoon to another whether they’re more like people or animals, but as reported here, renowned Donald Duck comic artist and writer Carl Barks said he thought of Donald and his fellows as people. People who looked like animals and retained some animal features, to be sure, but people nonetheless.

So, in this interpretation, Pluto would be a dog, while Goofy would be a person with canine features. I think that’s probably the simplest way to look at it, although there’s still the issue of genetics. Did Goofy and his ilk evolve from ordinary dogs? If so, does that mean Goofy is more closely related to Pluto or to Mickey? And what about Donald, who isn’t even a mammal? It’s probably best not to think too much about it, which is probably how the writers saw it. And I’m not sure how this applies to cartoon characters from other studios. I mean, Porky Pig used to hunt Daffy Duck, even though they were both anthropomorphic.

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4 Responses to Goofy Genetics

  1. If pluto is a dawg because he’s naked, and walks on all fours, and goofy is a human dawg, because he walks upright and wears cloths, then what does that make Porky Pig, who often walks upright, sometimes naked, sometimes naked only from the waist down. Same for Donald Duck. Are these two perverts, animal animals, or human animals?

  2. nebbie916 says:

    Anthropomorphism Levels (Appearance and Behavior)

    1) Non-Anthropomorphic (Animals with no human traits)
    2) Slightly Anthropomorphic (Animals with very few human traits)
    3) Mildly Anthropomorphic (Animals with a few human traits)
    4) Somewhat Anthropomorphic (Animals with some human traits)
    5) Moderately Anthropomorphic (Animals with many human traits)
    6) Largely Anthropomorphic (Humans in animal suits)
    7) Very Anthropomorphic (Animals heads on human bodies)
    8) Extremely Anthropomorphic (Humans with animal traits)

    Levels 1, 2, and 3 can be portrayed as “normal” animals. Levels 6, 7,and 8 are “humans in animal forms” levels.

    Unlike most other Lonney Tunes animals who are usually “animals with human traits” to varying degrees, Porky Pig kind of has this Donald Duck like portrayal in terms of anthropomorphism level to him. Like Donald Duck, he is pantsless and has a body shape roughly like his no anthropomorphic counterpart. Also like Donald Duck, he is frequently portrayed like a “human in an animal suit.”

    Porky Pig is also the only character cast with Sylvester who can’t talk to (“Kitty Kornered” is the exception to the rule). Sylvester is shown to be able to talk to Daffy Duck, Tweety, Speedy Gonzales, Foghorn Leghorn, and other animals. He is even able to talk to humans like Elmer Fudd and Granny (when disguised as a bellboy in “Canary Row”). Sylvester is also shown to be unable to talk to a non-anthropomorphic orange pig in “Too Hop to Handle,” so he may just be unable to talk to pigs despite being able to talk to other animals, including humans.

    The Animal Talk trope lets animals with the exception of humans talk to and understand each other, but Sylvester is able to talk to humans and unable to talk to hogs. Is there something about swine that makes Sylvester mute toward them?

    Speaking of the “humans in animal suits,” “animals heads on human bodies,” and “humans with animal traits” levels, I understand why Maus is the way it is. The characters in Maus are actually human characters and have very anthropomorphic animal shapes to the viewer. Maus appears to be “animal heads on human bodies,” but the character’s animal shapes are metaphorical.

    The Mickey and Friends verses (like the Mouse comics and the Duck comics) goes the “humans with animal forms” route with its more anthropomorphic (“Animals with Many Human Traits” appearance-wise) animals like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie, Scrooge McDuck, and Ludwig von Drake. However, unlike Maus, the animal forms are literal, they are half dressed (shirtless mice and pantsless ducks), and what kind of human sounds quacky in a typical natural voice. This makes it harder to see them as basically humans who just happen to be done with animal forms.

    It’s easier to see Goofy, Max, the Beagle Boys, Duckworth (he’s not a duck), and their ilk (Dogfaces), as well as Pete and PJ in Goof Troop, A Goofy Movie, and An Extremely Goofy Movie, as being basically “humans with animal forms” because even though their animal forms are still literal, they are more anthropomorphic, either “humans in animal suits,” “animals heads on human bodies,” or “humans with animal traits” (like Roxanne in A Goofy Movie) in appearance. They also dress as fully as any human – shirt, pants, shoes, and all.

    Also, there are some less anthropomorphic animals (Milton the cat, Chip n’ Dale, Humphrey Bear, And Louie the mountain lion) and slightly anthropomorphic animals (Pluto, Dinah the Dachshund, Butch the Bulldog, Fifi the Peke, Chainsaw, Figaro, Mr. Pettibone, and Waffles) who are portrayed either as “normal animals” or “animals with human traits.” This, along with making the “normal animals” pets to the anthropomorphic animals (Mickey has Pluto, Goofy has Mr. Pettibone and Waffles, Pete and Peg have Chainsaw, and Minnie has Fifi and Figaro), only makes these universes rife with Furry Confusion.

  3. Pingback: Disney, My Head Is Spinning | VoVatia

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