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Western Animation / How to Play Football

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Also known as How to Contract Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

How to Play Football is a 1944 animated short film (seven minutes) from Disney, directed by Jack Kinney.

Goofy stars in a satirical take on the game of football. It's a college game between Taxidermy Tech and Anthropology A&M. The film doesn't have a story as such, but rather is a parody of instructional videos, purporting to explain American football but really serving as a vehicle for a series of sight gags and puns.

This short was part of the "How To" series, in which Goofy was cast as an Everyman in increasingly ridiculous scenarios, often involving sports. Sixty-odd years after the series ended, it received a revival with 2007 Disney short "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater".


  • The Ace: Star Taxidermy Tech running back Swivel-Hips Smith scores the first touchdown on the opening kick-off, and even manages to win the game when concussed out of his mind.
  • Alliterative Name: Taxidermy Tech vs. Anthropology A&M.
  • Batty Lip Burbling: The coach does this after the stress of the last play causes him to crack up.
  • The Benchwarmer: Star player Swivel-Hips Smith is only brought into play when the team needs a winning touchdown. When Smith is incapacitated, the coach desperately tries to revive him while the other players get creamed by the opposing team. When Smith shows meager signs of life, he gets thrown back into the field and, with help from the rest of the team, staggers half-conscious to the end zone for the win.
  • Blinding Camera Flash: One player fumbles a punt when the flashes from the reporters' cameras blind him.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: The coach is seen smoking a whole mouth full of cigars during the final play. Earlier, Smith getting kayo'd caused him to unconsciously eat his cigar.
  • Dangerous Backswing: The Taxidermy Tech cheerleader squad clobbers itself into unconsciousness accidentally with their moves. Although the one in the middle gets the most beating.
  • Dogpile Of Doom: Swivel-Hips Smith gets knocked out when every player on the field ends up crushing him.
    • Earlier a player gets dogpiled by a ton of other players and a more heavyset player jumps on top of them, sinking the dogpile into the ground. The coach penalties the opposing team for unnecessary roughness.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet: Swivel-Hips Smith would have dodged all the opposing players if he hadn’t started celebrating before crossing the goal line.
  • Down to the Last Play: A semi-conscious Swivel-Hips Smith staggers his way down the field for a touchdown on the last play and Taxidermy Tech wins by a score of 13 to 12 1/2.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: A couple of sight gags in the Long List of additional personnel the narrator rattles off are easy to miss unless you slow the film down. When he mentions "sportswriters", most of the sportswriters are carrying pads or cameras, but one has a typewriter on a table. On "doctors", most of the doctors are carrying medical bags and wearing reflector discs on their foreheads, but we also see a group of three surgeons gathered around an operating table on wheels.
  • Hope Spot: Swivel-Hips Smith is effortlessly speeding down the field, dodging all tacklers, and is about to score the winning touchdown... when out of nowhere he's jumped by the entire opposing team, leaving him out of commission.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: The narrator praises the actions of the Taxidermy Tech quarterback saying, "And that quarterback's a smart boy." However, about a minute later, Taxidermy loses a few yards and he says, "What a dumb quarterback!"
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Everyone in the short is basically a clone of Goofy.
  • Institutional Apparel: By the end of the short, the coach goes so out of his mind that he is taken by doctors and put in a straitjacket.
  • Instructional Film: A satire of instructional films showing American football to be a game of absolute madness.
  • Iris Out: The last gag has the closing iris in the shape of a football rather than a circle.
  • Literal Metaphor: Source of much of the humor. The narrator says that the stadium is "filled to overflowing with fans", at which point the stadium literally overflows with fans.
  • Long List: Right off the bat, the Narrator rattles off a list of over a dozen things needed to stage a game of football. About the only actually necessary thing he mentions is the two teams that will play the game.
    Narrator: Football needs special equipment: a college covered with ivy, a stadium filled to overflowing with a hundred thousand fans, great armies of vendors, managers, mascots, photographers, sportswriters, doctors, elaborate brass bands, assorted coaches, old grads, scores of Annie Oakleys and two teams resplendent in brilliant uniforms.
  • Loud Gulp: Exaggerated: the Taxidermy Tech coach accidentally swallows his cigar alongside his saliva once his top star gets knocked out by a dogpile.
  • Manly Tears: When Swivel-Hips Smith is knocked out and has to be carried to the sidelines in a stretcher, every member of his team doffs his helmet and sheds tears.
  • Narrator: There is almostnote  no dialogue, but rather a narrator whimsically describing the game of football. This was a case of Real Life Writes the Plot. After Pinto Colvig, the actor who voiced Goofy, quit the studio in 1938, Disney came up with the "How To" series of instructional video parodies as a way to feature Goofy that didn't require Goofy to talk.
  • Non-Natural Number Gag: The ball lands right between the goalposts, wobbling back and forth as the gun ending the first half fires. The bullet from said gun deflates the ball, leaving it hanging there. After much deliberation, the officials decide to award it half a point.
  • Offhand Backhand: Swivel-Hips Smith stops a long row of tacklers from hitting him by pushing them away as he runs without even looking.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Swivel-Hips Smith establishes himself as The Ace by single-handedly carrying a ball to touchdown and avoiding all contestants, but all the audience sees is him catching the ball and him running into the end zone, with the rest of the camera swivel covered by a long row of bystanders.
  • Plot-Based Voice Cancellation: Near the beginning of the short the narrator tells the audience that he's going to explain the rules of football. The noise of the crowd then increases enough to completely drown the narrator out.note 
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The home team Taxidermy (Red), the opposition team Anthropology (Blue)
  • Scary Symbolic Shapeshifting: The narrator says that a coach can become a "saint" or a "devil" at any given moment, and the coach Goofy morphs into such figures as he does.
  • Squashed Flat: Football players get squashed flat in cartoon style, appropriately for a cartoon about football.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: The Narrator tries to assure the audience that football isn't rough, it just builds character. The whole rest of the short begs to differ: even the cheerleaders get seven bells knocked out of them. At one point, Taxidermy Tech receives a penalty for this.