Enchanted with “Disenchantment”



After the incredible success that is and was “Futurama” and “The Simpsons”, it seems only fair that Matt Groening has started something new: “Disenchantment”. On Jan. 15, 2016, it was announced that Groening was working with Netflix to develop a new animated series, and after 30 years of “Simpsons” and the grief over our lost “Futurama”, I think Groening fans were really excited to hear about his new project. I know I was. “Disenchantment” also happens to be the first project of his for a streaming service.

The first season, a whopping 10 episodes, was released on Aug. 17, with another whole season already ordered by Netflix. Set in medieval Dreamland, it completes Groening’s trifecta of settings: present, future, and now past (“The Simpsons”, “Futurama”, and now “Disenchantment” respectively.) Groening’s choice of name for the setting here echoes his Springfield from “The Simpsons” in its vague unoriginality, but I don’t fault it for that. While the background may be uninspired by some standards, the rest of the show makes up for it.

Groening’s trademark cartoon animation style is something I always appreciate about his work. It’s a cartoon style widely admired for its simplicity and expressiveness. I don’t think “Disenchantment” would be a true Groening experience without the visual style.

The story starts with a zoom-in on Dreamland’s castle, and the kingdom below. Our presence is requested at the royal wedding, but Princess Bean (Abbi Jacobson) isn’t looking for marriage. Her fiance, Guysbert of Bentwood, is an idiot. She just wants to be in charge of her own destiny. With her affinity for booze that rivals most adult alcoholics’ and her demon and elf pals in tow, Bean tries to run away from her old problems and make a new life for herself. Even if she has to do some questionable stuff for it. Bean’s negotiations with her own conscience and her demon are what truly make this show for me. Luci, her personal demon, sits on her shoulder and eggs her on with his catchphrase, “Do it. Do it. Do it.” Whereas “The Simpsons” plays on the idiocy of Homer versus the varied other intelligences of his family, “Disenchantment” will have to play into the hands of smarter jokes since none of its main players are as brain-dead. Bean is no dummy, and Luci (Eric Andre) isn’t either. Elfo (Nat Faxon) certainly isn’t stupid, just naive.

However, I hope “Disenchantment” doesn’t find the same toxic fan base that “Rick and Morty” had, where the fans started overhyping the intelligence of the show. Original Reddit viewers liked to say that Rick and Morty were “too smart” for the average TV viewer, and following this idiotic logic, fans of the show were almost definitely smarter than the average. Of course, this kind of gatekeeping is ridiculous and uncalled for. “Disenchantment”, like “Rick and Morty”, “The Simpsons”, and “Futurama”, is for an adult audience, but its intent is never to exclude viewers. Adults who enjoy these shows aren’t necessarily more or less intelligent than any other subset of TV watchers, and to claim so is unfounded.

The music is as expected in a fantasy show. The opening theme has an almost klezmer quality to it, with a tuba serving as the baseline to other, more shrill horns. While it doesn’t have the trademark flute flutters of “The Simpsons” theme or the Big Ben-style bells of “Futurama”’s theme, it’s just as catchy. The tinkling/chiming of wind chimes/bells is heard often in this first episode, as a theme. When war breaks out between two rival races, the drums of war sound. Certainly none of this music is groundbreaking, but it does complement the show in a nice way.

So far, “Disenchantment” is mostly a success. It has all the lowbrow humor and easy puns that I expect from Groening’s brainchildren and delivers often. The dialogue flows, and I find the rapid cuts from one character to another don’t disrupt the flow of time or distract from the story.

My one big problem is that I wonder how this will be comedically different from “Futurama” and “The Simpsons”. While they both are excellent in their own rights, I hope that “Disenchantment” gets its own brand of Groening humor with a special twist. So far we’ve seen some hilarious interplay between Bean and her stepmother, as well as King Zog’s complete inability to chastise Bean for her misdeeds.

Fun fact: Unlike “Futurama” and “The Simpsons”, human characters in “Disenchantment” actually have four fingers and a thumb on their hands. Non-human characters have four or fewer fingers.

I can’t wait to see what other adventures Bean gets into, and how she will get rid of this next fiancé. There are a lot of loose ends in this first episode, and I know Groening’s work enough to know there will be some exciting tie-ins. In other words, I’ll be Luci on your shoulder and tell you to watch this show: “Do it. Do it. Do it.”