The latest creation of beloved cartoonist Matt Groening hit Netflix this past Friday, and oh how we binged. But it wasn’t quite the binge experience I expected. It was kind of the “when is anything going to happen or be funny? I’m bored, maybe I’ll put something else on” kind of experience, I’m sad to say. When THE SIMPSONS lost its flavor, Groening swooped in and gave us FUTURAMA which was a taste of something fresh and great! I recall getting pumped for the new show with TV spots on FOX where he introduced Professor Farnsworth and Bender by making a quick sketch of them.
We heard the announcement about DISENCHANTMENT just last year, and had our first look at some art back in June. Then when the teasers and full trailers followed the hype was built. It’s something new by someone we’ve become familiar with, and a lot of expectation was placed on it.
Next, let’s talk about the main characters: Tiabeanie “Bean” the princess of Dreamland, Elfo an elf, and Luci the demon. Respectively, they are very much the next version of Leela, Fry, and Bender. The difference? Bean is Leela but immature, Elfo is Fry but also a sociopath, and Luci and Bender have pretty much the same personality, perhaps minus some of Bender’s egocentric mentality. Now, I’m just fine with the repeat of the dynamic of the FUTURAMA trio, but the newbies are all relatively unlikeable. Personally, I found Elfo the least likeable of the bunch. Fry was just dumb, but sweet. Elfo has this strange dumb, but innocent, but also an asshole kind of persona. As there was a romance between Fry and Leela which is probably one of the best cartoon couples, there is a strange relationship between Elfo and Bean that just felt forced and uncomfortable.
Probably the best supporting characters is the amphibian-like queen and the science wizard that could be Professor Farnsworth’s less senile cousin.
There is somewhat of a story, but fails to go very far in any direction and sometimes gets repetitive. With an average of a 28 minute runtime, things feel pretty slow and drawn out. It even feels like there are filler scenes occasionally. Bean is a princess living under the rule of the king, her father. She is to be wed off to a prince to unite the kingdoms, but of course like any human with free will she wants to marry someone she actually cares about and to have her freedom. Bean struggles to find anything that makes her feel useful and blah blah blah, we’ve seen it all before. Elfo leaves his keebler-elf community wanting to know what it’s like to feel not happy all the time. Luci is a demon that was somehow planted in Bean’s wedding gifts. Elfo and Luci start off behaving as a good-bad shoulder consciences for Bean, but over time Elfo becomes more of a sociopath and that diminishes any interest in that aspect.
In a medieval type setting, you would expect that Bean and her crew would be off on some kind of quest, especially since this show is supposed to be story-oriented, but at the end of the day she keeps going back to her comfy castle. I really want her to leave the fucking castle, none of the supporting characters that also reside there are really interesting enough to warrant keeping the attention there.
The design and animation seemed just fine, although at times...lazy. One particular example was a montage of Bean speaking to the camera as she was silently rejected over and over by at a party by men who feared her status. Not only was it pretty off putting to have the character speak to the camera, but it was also kind of confusing of what exactly they were trying to portray happening. It seemed like it was building up for a visual gag of some sort. You realize not only that isn’t going anywhere, but was just a lazy/cheap way of having a main character talk to a lot of other characters without having to draw or animate them. You don’t even hear anything any of the people she talks to says. We got some evidence that she was talking to someone at the party and not to us through the camera with the last one. A moving shadow cast over Bean moves off screen supposedly snubbing her and walking away.
When it comes to the humor, rarely any joke hits. I found myself snickering here or there, but unfortunately had zero laugh out loud moments. The jokes still feel along the lines of that type of Matt Groening humor, but feels like ones that were fished out of the trash and polished up a bit.
What was good about it? Not much, really. DISENCHANTMENT isn’t bad, just an incredible degree of mediocre. There was a good foundation that was failed to be utilized, and that’s a damn shame. The last two episodes were perhaps the best in the ten part season because for a show that teased an ongoing story, it didn’t seem to get going until then. The first season leaves things on a cliffhanger, setting up for season 2. I believe that the show has potential and could be great still if they can work out the kinks of the first with a second go around. The first few episodes of FUTURAMA were rather awkward, and it still eventually became a whole cult movement of its own! Give DISENCHANTMENT a watch and enjoy some of it, but your attention may wander after a time until the end of the season.