Animated series tickles with medieval irony

By Reggie Santini, Staff Writer

“Disenchantment” is an enchanting Netflix series that brings sword-and-sorcery drama into a comedic cartoon fantasy world full of lovable well-written characters.

The series’ first 10 episodes premiered on Aug. 17 on Netflix and has a 75 percent user approval rating on the movie ranking site “Rotten Tomatoes.”

The show’s fantastic sense of humor comes from series creator Matt Groening who created both “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.”  Having brought us to both present time and the far future, Groening’s depiction of medieval times is fantastic.

Each 30-minute episode of “Disenchantment” focuses on Bean, the hard-drinking princess of the kingdom of Dreamland. Bean is accompanied by her goofy elf friend Elfo, and her own personal demon Luci.

Unlike Groening’s other shows, “Disenchantment” has a compelling story arc that propels the program throughout its first season. As the continuity of each episode picks up where the last one left off, there is a great sense of character development. The best example of this comes from the three main characters.

At the start of his journey, Elfo is essentially a wide-eyed Keebler Elf who looks like Bart Simpson. But as the season proceeds, viewers see him go from a candy-making elf into a drug-using murderer with a crush on Princess Bean.

As Elfo’s evolution develops he realizes his love for Bean blossoms and he attempts to win her affection. As Luci plays the literal role of Bean’s personal demon, Elfo tries to be her angel.

Good decisions he would normally make are often overruled by his desire to please Bean.

As the conflicted lead of the show, Bean spends most of her time rebelling against her father, King Zog. Much of the show deals with his various punishments as he tries to stop Bean from defaming the kingdom.

Fans of “Game of Thrones” heroine Princess Daenerys Targaryen’s silver hair will immediately see where Groening picked up his inspiration for her looks. Add in the strong will of a princess and some matching blue outfits and the similarities grow even stronger.

Bean is constantly torn between her responsibility as a princess and her desire to get drunk and party at the local tavern. As her misadventures unfold and key story details surface, Bean is forced to choose between her two paths.

Luci is perhaps the most bizarre of the trio. Being little and the spawn of Satan, he passes for Bean’s talking cat. As the only truly evil character of the three, and being drawn as a 2D shadow, Luci’s character is unique. His positive commentary whenever horrible things are happening and his sadness when others are causing chaos and he is not involved, are some of the best quips and one-liners of the show.

The show features a variety of stereotypical medieval characters. Much like “Futurama’s” Captain Zapp Brannigan (a spoof of “Star Trek’s” Captain James T. Kirk), Groening leans into the character tropes. Some of the standout characters among the show are the court wizard (who happens to be awful at magic), the king’s counselor (leads a secret sex society) and a fairy prostitute that seems to appear everywhere.

The show’s music and voice-casting are top notch.

Nat Faxon’s Elfo and Eric Andre’s Luci voices seem to fit the characters look and temperament perfectly. John DiMaggio’s King Zog is hysterical. His New York accent makes the king’s absurd demands even funnier.

Mark Mothersbaugh composed the music for the show using a mixture of current upbeat and medieval melodies.

Much like any other High Fantasy medium, there are lots of little things to pick apart in this show. Eagle-eyed fans will catch references to other Groening shows and medieval fantasy movies and books. The lore and world building done by Groening is fantastic, however, the names of civilizations and races can seem overwhelming at the show’s onset.

As the plot progresses, the audience will begin to understand the people and rules of the world without feeling like it’s being shoved down your throat.

The pilot episode falls into the typical formula of introducing all the main characters and establishing its world. But despite the predictable start of the pilot episode, “Disenchantment” shines on all parts.

The great music and acting helps these lovable characters come together and give us a world full of opportunity and great stories to come.