Editor’s Note: I’ve always been intrigued by the twin pair of Goofy traffic safety films released by Disney in 1965. The question is: “Why”? Why two of them? Why released so close together? I had the press books for each and thought I’d post them, and that led to taking a fresh look at the films again – but the mystery only increased. Were these two parts of a TV special? They are so clearly of a piece… I decided to ask CR contributor Jim Korkis if he had any clues. The following is his response. Below that are the press books and an embed of each film. Further information or theories from our readers are welcome in the comments below. – Jerry Beck
It is definitely a goofy mystery.
After finally canceling the Goofy theatrical cartoons in 1953, nearly a decade later, Walt approved two new Goofy cartoons that were both released to theaters in 1965: Freeway Phobia and Goofy’s Freeway Troubles.
Even more curious was the running time of each cartoon that was roughly double the length of a regular theatrical cartoon. These films were the last theatrical appearance of Goofy for nearly two decades until the release of Mickey’s Christmas Carol in 1983.
(Goofy appeared in another cartoon short in the gap between 1953-1965, Aquamania (1961), but that is another story for another time.)
In 1950, the Disney Company released the Goofy short Motor Mania. This wonderful cartoon directed by Jack Kinney shows Goofy as the gentle “Mr. Walker” when he is a pedestrian but once he gets behind the wheel of an automobile, he transforms into the manic “Mr. Wheeler”.
It was considered to be part of the “How To…” series featuring Goofy. To Walt’s surprise, after is release, he was contacted by the Oakland (California) Police Department who requested a print to show in their traffic violator’s driving school program.
The Disney Company made a 16mm copy of the film and as soon as word got out, other orders from both schools and police departments came pouring in for copies they could use.
This short was awarded the Buyer Trophy for the best film on traffic safety and ended up in the collection of the U.S. Army for training purposes alongside films devoted to hand grendades, helicopters and hurricanes.
Walt had always been interested in starting a division of the company strictly devoted to making educational films. He had been intrigued by the idea after producing many health oriented films for the U.S. government during World War II and, after the war, producing many commercial films for a variety of corporate clients.
He was also looking for other ways to capitalize on his existing product to help generate more revenue for various other projects.
An official 16mm film division (later renamed Walt Disney Educational Media) was established with Carl Nater in charge in 1945. Nater had been the production coordinator on the military training films and the health films during the war.
Originally, the division rented Disney shorts and features to local schools and organizations for fund raising. Nater also looked at ways to configure existing material for education purposes like releasing in 1955 the Rite of Spring segment from Fantasia with new narration and entitling it A World is Born.
The Jiminy Cricket animated educational segments like “I’m No Fool” from the original Mickey Mouse Club were also released in a similar manner.
By the Sixties, the division was making close to a million dollars a year renting and selling films and filmstrips to schools, but to continue to grow, new material needed to be produced.
Motor Mania remained popular but in fifteen years it had become severely dated not only in its depiction of cars and new safety procedures but also ignoring the Interstate Highway System of freeways that began being built in 1956 and transformed the way Americans drive.
The answer was to make an updated version of the cartoon but as with other Disney projects, it continued to expand and expand.
The original production title of Freewayphobia was Freewayphobia No. 1 and that alternate title sometimes appears in listings. Another production, entitled Freewayphobia No. 2 was also put into production but was later renamed Goofy’s Freeway Troubles.
Bill Bosche who had written several Disney educational projects and Disney Legend Les Clark who was primarily directing educational films towards the end of his Disney career were assigned to the project.
The unusual length for each of these cartoons, as I can confirm as a former California public school teacher who had to thread films in to the old Bell and Howell 16mm projectors, is the standard length for an educational film that was offered for rent, although there were a few exceptions.
Teachers realized that if they wanted to fill an entire class period with primarily film, then they had to rent two films with the threading and rewinding time taking up any slack time. Of course, having two roughly fifteen minute long films on the same topic was considered a bonus.
The shorts were released theatrically to help recover some of the cost of production quicker as well as to establish credibility and value that the cartoons were not just educational films but had played in movie theaters.
When the shorts were originally released they were classified as “Goofy” shorts but over the years they have been re-classified as “Educational” which is one of the reasons neither of them appear on the Walt Disney Treasures Complete Goofy DVD.
For decades they have been available to schools and other organizations through Disney’s educational division. Currently, there is a DVD entitled Disney’s Driver Safety that includes both these cartoons plus Motor Mania.
For a hefty thirty dollars plus ten dollars shipping, anyone can order the DVD if you Click Here.
So the mystery is really not a mystery at all once you know the background and these cartoons continue to not only educate but entertain new generations who weren’t even alive when Walt passed away.
FREEWAY PHOBIA (2/13/65) Click thumbnails to enlarge pressbook pages.
GOOFY’S FREEWAY TROUBLES (9/22/65) Click thumbnails to enlarge pressbook pages.