TV Review: Atlanta, 4×8, “The Goof Who Sat By the Door”

After a series of episodes that served as a return to form for Atlanta, revolving around the main characters and using the city as a surreal backdrop for their adventures, “The Goof Who Sat By the Door” goes an entirely different direction. The idea that 1995’s A Goofy Movie actually doubles as “the blackest movie of all time” is not a new concept, but director Donald Glover when out of his way to create a detailed and often very funny fictional retrospective on the time Disney accidentally promoted a young black animator to CEO, and this film was the result. Is it here to add to anything going on with the primary storylines in Atlanta? I highly doubt it. However, as a return to the world of B.A.N. (the Black American Network), I welcome this form of foolishness.

To be clear, the entire cast sits this week’s episode out. This very much aligns with the semi-anthology nature of season three’s European Tour run. However, it does hold onto elements entirely in line with the series. B.A.N. presenting this episode-length documentary is a clear aspect, with the network not being this heavily referenced since season one. The CEO in question, Thomas Washington, being from Atlanta is another. Plus, relying on alternate history as a way to delve into how diversity played a role in a major movie studio is precisely the kind of thing Atlanta would want to play into.

The details given to cover Washington’s rise and fall are excellently handled. Given the nature of these stories, I was already assuming Washington was somehow going to meet his end by the conclusion of this episode (although the dark joke involving the lack of a body and what was left behind certainly puzzled me as much as I was laughing). Still, building up to how this young man somehow became a CEO and was responsible for A Goofy Movie opened up so many avenues for comedy and a visual take on what many have explored in the years since the cult favorite animated Disney film debuted.

With any mockumentary like this, it’s all about how it can raise the stakes to grow sillier as it goes. The humble beginnings track as something full of authenticity. Even referencing Washington’s early days at Disney, where he worked on DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp is the sort of deep cut that makes plenty of sense to the point of having one ask if there’s any legitimacy to what’s going on here. The promotion and ensuing actions on Washington’s part really up this into ridiculous territory.

The idea that Thomas, not Thompson Washington, was voted CEO by mistake is exactly the sort of nonsense that makes sense for a show like this. Yet, it feels just absurd enough to make some kind of sense. The various talking heads involving family and other Disney employees/animators do a lot to add context and subtle jokes to ensure this whole thing is continually played with a straight face.

However, the small bits of inserted footage and the way Washington’s personality is said to have changed really capitalize on how to have fun with this premise. In his desire to make Disney’s blackest film, a shot of Washington dancing in front of the animators and yelling, “Draw this!” is among the funnier things I’ve seen this season. Having Brian McKnight talk about how Washington had him recommend Tevin Campbell to voice Powerline is a perfect little reference point.

Of course, Washington having to prove his blackness is a crucial part of all of this. It’s already brought up in the early days when he was made fun of for not being like other kids. Once the CEO of Disney, it all seems to break down as a study of a man who reached the top and spent his tenure proving to those now below him that he’s always been black. This comes through in the ideas he wanted for A Goofy Movie and how he conducted himself in the offices.

There are a lot of fun jabs at how A Goofy Movie was supposed to play out before execs changed it. Multiple examples include Goofy and his son, Max, being stopped or accosted by police. While all the work was going on to make this film, in this version of those events, Washington was constantly stressed by the pressure and even became paranoid to the point of hiring members of the Nation of Islam as security. Yes, things got out of control for Washington.

This all boils down to being another example of the black experience and what that entails for people given certain opportunities. Yes, it’s taken to extremes, but the comedy is as sharp as it needs to be, and the commitment by the cast involved to portray these fictional people works out great. With only two episodes remaining, I can see some feeling antsy to get back to our characters, but if this is a send-off for the more experimental episodes of Atlanta, it’s a pretty wild way to go out.

Bonus Tracks:

  • Thomas Washington loved Astro Boy
  • “You need to riot with that pen and paper,” – Washington’s mom on how he should handle the LA riots.
  • Apparently, the map in A Goofy Movie was inspired by the green book.
  • People Washington had hanging out at Disney: Robert Townsend, Janet Jackson, Sinbad, Adina Arnold, Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Kadeem Hardison, and Harrison Ford.
  • I would have really liked to hear Washington’s chilling Goofy laugh.
  • “I heard Goofy was supposed to get shot at the concert.”
  • The Bigfoot scene was added to the film, replacing a moment where Goofy and Max find Huey Newton’s throne in a thrift store.
  • One of the posts I’ve read on A Goofy Movie being the blackest film of all time.

Atlanta is now airing on FX and streaming on Hulu.

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks,, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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