A Princess, an Elf, and a Demon Walk Into a Bar
For Whom the Pig Oinks
The Princess of Darkness
Castle Party Massacre
Faster, Princess! Kill! Kill!
Swamp and Circumstance
Love’s Tender Rampage
The Limits of Immortality
To Thine Own Elf Be True
Matt Groening’s long awaited fantasy series Disenchantment really is a strange kettle of fish. A blend of archetypal characters, recycled jokes that linger a tad too long and a visually pleasing but inconsistent art style combine to form the foundation of this 10 episode animation series. There’s certainly promise here and some of the jokes are genuinely funny but the various elements that make up the show don’t feel harmonious and for much of its run time clash together making Disenchantment a passive and largely unfulfilling watch.
The story begins with what appears to be a continuing storyline through the opening few episodes before switching to episodic stand-alone plots. The basis of the show follows the exploits of Bean (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), a hard-drinking, unconventional princess whose not too thrilled at being wed to a prince of an opposing army to forge an alliance. Juxtaposing Bean’s miserable existence is an elf from a magical, happy land longing for sad, unhappy emotions away from the endless tirade of happiness called Elfo (Nat Faxon). After finding a way to escape from his realm to the princess’, Elfo sets out to join Bean in the castle who has issues of her own when Luci (Eric André), a shadowy demon creature, appears to torment her. Together, this unconventional trio stumble from one fantastical plot to the next while tackling demons, vikings, mad scientists and more.
The ideas are certainly here for a memorable, charming fantasy series but Disenchantment lacks the charisma and flair needed to spin this into a unique IP like The Simpsons and Futurama. The archetypal characters lack original, defining traits and none of them grow or change in any sort of meaningful way through the 10 episodes depicted here. This is made worse by less than enthusiastic voice acting from the majority of the cast for the duration of the show. The art style swings from sloppy and janky to visually stunning and beautiful. Even the humour itself which Groening has always excelled in, awkwardly stumbles from slapstick physical humour to adult, blood-soaked crudeness, with jokes lingering a little too long and others overly simplified and explained on the spot. All of these only further emphasise the lack of identity that Disenchantment has ultimately making it it’s own worst enemy.
Following in the big footsteps of Groening’s previous hits was always going to be difficult but Disenchantment feels like a show that’s ripped the core components from both shows, added a fantasy setting and hoped for the best. The result is a show that regularly jumps between lacklustre, mundane and oftentimes slow moving plots to bursts of genuinely funny jokes and visually stunning settings. It all feels too thinly spread and sporadically presented, making Disenchantment a show that really doesn’t quite know what it wants to be and more importantly, who it wants to appeal to.
There will of course be those who love Disenchantment and there’s no denying that there’s certainly something here that could blossom into a great fantasy series and another big hit for Groening in the future but right now the show feels at odds with itself, torn between genres and audience, full of characters that lack defining traits and well worked arcs to make them anything but caricature cut outs. There are worse animations out there and this is certainly not a train wreck. Disenchantment does have its moments that are enjoyable but those going in expecting something to the same calibre of The Simpsons (even the lacklustre later seasons) will surely leave unsatisfied and disappointed with this. Hopefully Part 2 can improve and we’ll certainly be willing it to do so but in its current state, it’s difficult not to feel disappointed with the squandered potential here.