Between The Simpsons and Futurama, Matt Groening has a fairly stellar track record when it comes to creating iconic, entertaining, and genre-defining cartoons. As such, his newest series Disenchantment has been eagerly anticipated since it was first announced. Unfortunately, this anticipation has also created impossibly high expectations.
The story takes place in the fictional medieval Kingdom of Dreamland and satirises fantasy tropes and series’ like Game of Thrones. The humour of the show, in typical Groening fashion, relies on a combination of grounded observational humour and more bizarre irreverent jokes. The more absurd comedy in Disenchantment is, for the most part, very funny and each episode has multiple sight gags and unexpected moments of hilarity.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the observational humour. Fantasy parodies have been done to death at this point (Futurama even had a movie parodying Lord Of The Rings) and practically every modern cartoon, including The Simpsons, has also featured a Game of Thrones style episode. As such, jokes about lazy kings and downtrodden peasants are no longer fresh, original, or particularly funny, and sadly, much of Disenchantment’s humour relies on these tired old tropes.
Disenchantment is Groening’s first serialised series as opposed to the more episodic nature of his previous two shows and, as such, there is a cohesive storyline running through all of the episodes. For the most part, this serialisation works well. The last few episodes particularly are all the more enjoyable for the story thread which built up throughout the episodes. Additionally, because there is no need for the world to ‘reset’ at the end of each episode, as is the case in most cartoons, the characters are given far more potential for growth and development than normal. None of the protagonists have changed much yet, but it is still early days for the show.
Ultimately, it is hard not to compare Disenchantment to Futurama, especially since the two series’ were animated by the same studio. Furthermore, the show boasts an already large cast of supporting characters voiced by actors such as Billy West, John DiMaggio, and Tress MacNeille who all worked previously on Futurama. This natural comparison is unfortunate because while Disenchantment does have a number of great moments, it is definitely not as consistently funny as its predecessor.
However, while Disenchantment does pale slightly in comparison to Futurama, it is worth noting that Futurama had multiple seasons to fine-tune its humour whereas only ten episodes of Disenchantment have aired so far. Despite certain shortcomings, it is a very promising premier season.
Disenchantment is far from perfect but it is funny, entertaining, and certainly worth a watch, especially if you are already a fan of Groening’s previous work.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons