Netflix’s Disenchantment is Matt Groening’s latest project, which shows the cartoonist having fun with a fantasy medieval world.
A vast majority of people will be aware of Matt Groening’s work based on The Simpsons and Futurama alone, which is fine because that’s where most of his outstanding contributions to comedy stem from. The multi-talented cartoonist has reaped the rewards by doing what he is good at and he has not looked back since, apart from other one-off projects like video games and theme park rides. I was a little surprised that Netflix had not only acquired Groening’s services, but they managed to outright buy his latest creation, Disenchantment.
Admittedly, I haven’t seen a single episode of The Simpsons for a few years. However, it is easy to remember the ingredients. Netflix’s Disenchantment immediately brought back the memories of what I used to enjoy from Groening’s previous work. Disenchantment is not based on the present American family or the futuristic Futurama. Matt Groening has dipped his toes in an animation that bases itself on medieval times in the crumbling kingdom of Dreamland, following a princess, an elf and a demon.
Disenchantment does not waste time spending an entire episode introducing the trio of leading characters. Rather the Netflix show just dives into this new world. Young princess Bean feels reluctant to put her hand in an arranged marriage clumsily organised by her father (the King), who is eager to form ties with another family. Meanwhile, a happy elf named Elfo decides he does not want to be happy all the time and somehow becomes the companion of Bean by escaping this ludicrous, happy land. And as for her personal demon Luci, he just appears, with claims of wreaking havoc on her life.
Whilst Disenchantment provides witty references that add a relation to our lives, the Netflix series does not feel like it is a parody of a story that we have seen before. Matt Groening has created a world that introduces us to ogres, sprites, harpies, imps, trolls, walruses, and bumbling humans; Disenchantment sits in its own unusual place, putting different crazy fantasies together. The opening episode title is, “A Princess, an Elf and a Demon walk into a bar”, confirming that this is Groening having fun, imagining what it would be like in a fantasy medieval time, but with everyone acting out of character.
Disenchantment works wonderfully – when the princess resists on her wedding day or when her father ponders the idea of marriage for his daughter, you realise that the joke is the absurdity of those times, and how ridiculous it would have been if the modern day experienced the medieval way now. None of the characters behaves like they are ruled under a king, and most of the jokes are self-aware, almost like the characters understand their traditional behaviour.
Disenchantment is a cracking addition to Matt Groening’s work, with Netflix making another fine move to expand their vast archives.