Disenchantment (2018) IMDb

Extent

Seen in 2019.

This review refers to the first ten episodes, a half-season released in one batch on streaming services.

Categorization

One of Matt Groening’s animated sitcoms: The medieval-fantasy equivalent of The Simpsons (1989) and Futurama (1999). Thankfully, the plot is more serialized.

Subject

Zøg of House Grunkwitz, once a warrior, rules the kingdom of Dreamland with more practicality than intelligence. Bean, his 19-year-old daughter from a previous marriage to a since-petrified noblewoman, likes to get drunk. Nobody likes the new queen, an amphibious reptile whose marriage to Zøg sustains a fragile peace with the neighbours. Bean gets a personal demon around the same time she friend-zones a little green optimist. Fairies are mostly hookers.

Commentary

The main problem with this series is the laziness of the comedic writing: The actual jokes. Another problem, less serious but equally consistent, is the lack of imagination. The setting is purposefully naïve: The kind of American faux-medieval Europe that has plenty of drawbridges, plague carts, literal churches, Scotsmen in kilts and magical human-like species but very little internal consistency. It’s almost as thoughtless as Shrek (2001), a bad-fantasy joke about bad fantasy, but without the star power or the animation budget. The derivative worldbuilding of Disenchantment is apparently meant to be funny, which brings us back to the main problem.

Compare Tangled (2010), which has visual beauty, a more elegant—albeit equally derivative—setting and better jokes, despite being written for actual children. The basis of Bean as a character seems to be the archetypal Disney princess, like Rapunzel, but with added sex and heavy drinking for Netflix; not a bad move, but you can’t call it clever. Compare also Mahoujin Guru-Guru (1994), a children’s show that proved able to go the distance in very similar territory.

animation fiction moving picture series