Goofy returns to the “How To” shorts with the first short of 1948, They’re Off. It’s a short that focuses on the age old practice of horse racing, but more specifically on how to pick a winner. We’re back to the same formula of an omniscient narrator talking about the “proper” way to do things while Goofy demonstrates nearly the opposite.
The main difference in this short versus the other How To shorts is that the narrator has changed. John McLeish narrated most of the classic Goofy shorts, but he is not employed here. For someone who has watched those shorts in order, like me, it’s a jarring change, but by itself it’s not a big change. This short manages to be entertaining as a standalone entity and does not rely on the previous parts of the series.
This is another short that involves multiple Goofys portraying different roles, which was so successful in Hockey Homicide and other shorts. What I loved about this is the difference between the Goofs is told through acting, rather than physical differences. That’s a challenge for the animators, but they definitely rose to the occasion, as we see different Goofs acting bold or timid, smart or dull all in the same frame. That’s not easy to get across with the exact same character design.
The other characters that pop up in this short are the horses. Snapshot and Old Moe are the names of the two horses, and again, the animators manage to make them different each time, despite being a similar character design. Getting the horses to have a personality and individuality is really cool. When they start racing, you already know what each horse’s character is.
That’s the spark that was missing in many of the shorts from 1947: character. Disney was a studio that revealed character through animation, and they had gotten away from that in some of the other shorts in the recent past. This Goofy short brings that tradition back in a really good way. The fact that the gags are well told only adds to that. They’re Off is a welcome start to 1948’s series of shorts, and I can only hope that others will continue to share its excellence.