‘Disenchantment’ – Echoes of ‘Simpsons’ and ‘Futurama’
This week, Matt Groening comes forth with his first new animated production in almost 20 years, and fans of “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” will certainly recognize his fingerprints all over it.
Dropping Friday, Aug. 17, on Netflix, the irreverent 10-episode “Disenchantment” takes place in the crumbling medieval kingdom of Dreamland, where hard-drinking Princess Bean (voice of Abbi Jacobson, “Broad City”) is about to enter into an arranged marriage with a prince she doesn’t love.
Fleeing the nuptials, much to the consternation of King Zog (voice of John DiMaggio, “Futurama”) and Queen Una (voice of Tress MacNeille, “The Simpsons”), she goes on the run with disgraced elf Elfo (voice of Nat Faxon, “The Way, Way Back”) and personal demon Luci (voice of Eric Andre, “Man Seeking Woman”). Together, the trio head off on a series of adventures and misadventures in which they encounter ogres, sprites, harpies, imps, walruses, trolls, sirens and lots of human fools.
“Princess Bean is my favorite,” Groening says, “because she’s the first female leading character that stars in a show that I’m part of. And in part because Abbi Jacobson … is such a great actor and so funny and so able to think on her feet and improvise.
“In fact,” he continues, “I would say that for our three main characters – Luci, played by the wild Eric Andre; and Nat Faxon, who does the voice of Elfo – what all three of them have in common is they’re also in addition to being actors, they’re also writers and directors. And they have taken some of our best scenes and ad-libbed lines that will be the lines that people will remember, just came off the tops of their heads. They’re fantastic.”
Like Groening’s previous two series, there are plenty of inside jokes and sight gags in this fairy tale-like yarn, such as the Russian-accented Una, a nod to Natasha from “Rocky & Bullwinkle”; the Walter Brennan-like character Pops; and even Bean, who in an early scene takes a big gulp of beer at the end of a poker game and lets out a face-distorting belch that is reminiscent of barfly Barney from “The Simpsons.”
“There are a few nods to the past from the very beginning,” Groening acknowledges, “with the look of the characters. With eyes that big, there’s not that much room for brains. So they’re definitely in the ‘Simpsons’/‘Futurama’ universe of misguided thinking.
“Buster Keaton once said, ‘The audience loves the slow thinker,’ ” he continues. “And I’ve always taken that to heart.”