Disenchantment: Netflix’s next big animated comedy hit?

Netflix’s promotional images for Disenchantment. (Netflix)

Given his phenomenal success with both The Simpsons and Futurama, the release of a new animated show from Matt Groening is understandably cause for considerable excitement. Fans won’t have to wait too much longer to find out if he has another hit on his hands either as it was recently confirmed that the first 10 episodes of Groening’s latest venture Disenchantment will arrive on Netflix on August 17th.

Disenchantment will not only be Groening’s first foray into producing content for a streaming service, but also his first attempt at a show aimed at an adult audience. Given the track record of both his previous work and Netflix’s previous animated output however, the stage is certainly set for Disenchantment to be a considerable success.

Netflix’s Track Record

The incomparable Bojack Horseman.(Netflix)

Netflix has delivered an impressively diverse array of original programming in recent years. However, one of its greatest successes has been in the field of adult-oriented animation.

At the forefront of course is Bojack Horseman, a bona fide masterpiece which has long since transcended from being a mere animated comedy to something far more complex. It’s a comedy, a drama and a haunting character study all combined into one unique package that managed to be incredibly witty and unapologetically silly in equal measure. With Bojack, Netflix showed that not only could it compete with the conventional heavy-hitters of the animated comedy world, but it could also add in deep psychological ponderings and genuine emotional heft to take things to another level.

Netflix’s other animated offerings have also been well worth a watch too. Big Mouth for example is a crude but clever coming-of-age offering from Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg dealing with the awkwardness of adolescence. F is For Family meanwhile is an underrated animated sitcom courtesy of comedian Bill Burr. The show tackles suburban family life in the 1970s and while proudly profane and frequently un-pc, it also has a lot of heart and surprisingly nuanced take on gender equality, masculinity and parenting in general.

Frank and Sue Murphy in F is for Family. (Netflix)

Coupled with these three original series, the service has also championed firm favourites from elsewhere,  such as Archer and Rick and Morty, both of which are hugely successful and innovative shows which continue to garner huge cult followings. In other words, Netflix’s track record with adult-orientated animation is second to none and there’s no reason to doubt that they will once again strike gold with Groening’s new show.

Disenchantment: What to expect?

Another still from Disenchantment. (Netflix)

Disenchantment may not land for a few months yet, but it certainly looks like an intriguing prospect. While obviously some of the finer details are still under-wraps, the key characters and the general premise have now been confirmed.

According to the official synopsis:

“In Disenchantment, viewers will be whisked away to the crumbling medieval kingdom of Dreamland, where they will follow the misadventures of hard-drinking young princess Bean, her feisty elf companion Elfo and her personal demon Luci. Along the way, the oddball trio will encounter ogres, sprites, harpies, imps, trolls, walruses and lots of human fools.”

A boozy princess prowling around with her personal demon certainly sounds like a solid recipe for comedy and the fantastical setting certainly gives plenty of scope for some surreal flights of fancy.

In terms of casting, the presence of the delightful Abbi Jacobson as the voice of Bean is also cause for excitement. The Broad City star heads up a strong voice cast which also includes Academy Award winning screenwriter Nat Faxon voicing Elfo and comic Eric Andre as Luci. Also onboard are Futurama alumni John DiMaggio, Billy West and Maurice LaMarche as well as UK comedy favourites Matt Berry and Noel Fielding.

In terms of the show’s tone and message meanwhile, we have been given a few fairly strong hints. Groening himself confirmed in a statement last year:

“[The show is] about life and death, love and sex, and how to keep laughing in a world full of suffering and idiots, despite what the elders and wizards and other jerks tell you”.

Meanwhile a further clue was given this past weekend at London Comic-Con by star John DiMaggio. The voice actor rather tellingly described the show as follows:

“It’s as if The Simpsons fornicated with Game of Thrones. It’s fantastic. It’s right on time…it’s really, really funny.”

While obviously we’ll have to wait for the show’s release to get a full grasp of its nuances, these quotes certainly point towards the more adult themes the show will address and the outlook our central hero with adopt.

Chances of success

Princess Bean and her pals in Disenchantment. (Netflix)

Initial signs for Disenchantment are certainly promising. The images released thus far confirm the classic Groening style of animation is present and correct and it looks set to be as eye-catching as ever. Meanwhile, the fantasy setting also provides the show with a unique selling point of sorts, giving it’s writers the chance to explore a genre as yet untapped by an animated comedy series.

Coupled with these factors, there is also the fact that Netflix will offer the show and its creators unparalleled freedom to mould the show they want. Groening and his team will be free from the constraints imposed by standard network TV, allowing them full creative control to take the show in whatever direction they please.

While it will take some doing to match the dizzy heights of Bojack Horseman, given the creative team involved and Netflix’s track record, there’s every reason to expect Disenchantment to be another major animated hit.

Disenchantment arrives on Netflix on August 17th.

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