When Bill Farmer’s wife introduces him to people as “goofy,” he doesn’t take it personally. He just laughs, “Ah-hyuck,” and confused looks turn to smiles of recognition. Bill’s voice is familiar to cartoon fans around the world as the voice of Goofy and Pluto, two of Disney’s most enduring and endearing characters.
Bill was born in Pratt, Kansas, on November 14, 1952. It was a lonely place where, he once said, “there wasn’t an awful lot to do.” Bill therefore gravitated to the movies—especially cartoons. As a boy, he discovered he had a knack for imitating the voices he heard on screen, and the outsized vocal talent he discovered as a kid stood him in good stead though high school and college and throughout his career. The current voice of Goofy and Pluto once admitted, “Of all the cartoon characters, Goofy was always my favorite, so [voicing the character] really is a dream come true.”
His youth sounds like something straight out of Norman Rockwell, an evocation of the halcyon days of the Midwest in the 1950s and 1960s. “I’d been doing impressions since I was 15,” Bill once recalled. “It was great for teenage pranks—we’d pull up to the fast food drive-through speaker, and I’d order the burgers as Walter Brennan.”
Throughout his college years at the University of Kansas, where he earned a degree in broadcast journalism, Bill constantly burnished his repertoire, which grew to include more than 100 jaw-droppingly authentic celebrity impressions. “I kicked around in radio for a few years, got into standup comedy for about five years as an impressionist before finally coming out to Hollywood in 1986 and striking the big time with the Goof,” he once said.
In winning the coveted voice role, Bill walks in the long and celebrated shadow of 1993 Disney Legend Pinto Colvig, a storyman at the Disney Studios in the 1930s and the original voice of Goofy. Bill, whose rugged good looks, full head of sandy-blond hair and perpetual smile seem to radiate Midwestern optimism and individuality, once said, “The hardest thing to learn was ‘ya-ha-hooooooiieewe!’”—the Goofy calling card that accompanies every delicious tumble or pratfall.
Bill’s vocal talents starred in our lovable Goof’s first animated feature film, A Goofy Movie, and the television series Goof Troop and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. He has performed in more than 40 other films and shows, including Disney’s DTV Doggone Valentine television special in 1987—the first time he voiced Goofy and barked for Pluto in the same project. He also lent his vocal talents to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast and Ed Wood and to such Pixar films as a bug’s life, Monsters, Inc., Toy Story and Toy Story 2. But of all the characters he has brought spectacularly to life, it is Goofy that he cherishes most.
“Doing the voice of Goofy has become second nature to me,” Bill says. “In the beginning, I had to stop and think what his motivation was, but now he lives inside me.”