Disenchantment is Groening’s first new show since Futurama was cancelled by Comedy Central in 2013, and the first 10 episodes will hit Netflix on 17 August. Having been responsible for two of the most iconic animated series of all time (The Simpsons is now the longest-running sitcom in TV history with the 30th series coming later this year), expectations for Disenchantment run high.
Set in a fantasy world, primarily in the Westeros-esque kingdom of Dreamland, Disenchantment focuses on the adventures of teenage princess Bean, her elf companion Elfo, and her personal demon Luci. It looks set to do for the fantasy genre what Futurama did for sci-fi.
Having watched the first few hours of Disenchantment, here’s everything you need to know about animations latest heavyweight contender…
It’s instantly recognisable
Like all Groening’s shows (and his iconic comic strip Life Is Hell), there’s something reassuringly familiar about the world and character design of Disenchantment.
“I developed that style of the large bulgy eyes and ridiculous over-bite when I was 12 years old,” explained Groening in a recent interview, and you’ll not able to watch a frame of the show without comparing Elfo to Bart Simpson, or Bean to Futurama’s Leela.
You’ll hear John DiMaggio, the voice of Bender, as Bean, plus other Groening alumni in supporting roles. Groening has also employed former Simpsons and Futurama creatives to bring his take on Middle Earth to the screen.
It’s not really for kids
The world of adult animation is in rude health with Rick and Morty, Bojack Horseman, and Family Guy all pulling in huge audiences. It’s no surprise then, that without broadcast TV execs calling the shots, Groening is aiming a bit older with his new show.
The show features heavy drinking, drug-taking, sexual references, and all manner of things that make this not suitable for younger audiences. This also allows the show explore deeper themes and motifs previously unseen in Futurama and The Simpsons.
It’s playing the long game
Unlike Simpsons or Futurama, Disenchantment sees Groening tackling long-form, episodic story-telling thanks to the Netflix distribution model. With all 10 episodes launching simultaneously, he’s banking on you binge-watching and so rather than each episode being a standalone story, there’s an ongoing storyline unfolding episode by episode.
Whether it’s Bean trying to find her place in the world, Elfo adjusting to his new human one, or just figuring out how Luci figures in the bigger picture, it’s clear there’s much more going on than first meets the eye. This suggests that, unlike the Simpsons, these characters can grow over time, and hopefully develop in interesting ways.
It’s funny, natch
Groening is clearly a fan of the fantasy world, and makes the most of its medieval setting. With Python-esque plague gags, pun-tastic shop names, and pratfalls that would make Homer Simpson proud, Dreamland is a silly place, and we can’t wait to spend more time there.
It’s not clear yet who’ll be the fan favourite characters (Matt Berry’s Prince Merkimer makes an early claim, but then Matt Berry voicing anything is bound to be hilarious), but the core trio all have their interesting quirks that will surely give them longevity.
Disenchantment will launch on Netflix on Friday, 17 August.