‘I’m A Princess; I Can’t Do My Own Bidding.’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Disenchantment’
Disenchantment is the show you get when you smash the crew behind The Simpsons with those responsible for bringing Futurama to life. Matt Groening and his co-creator Josh Weinstein really took the best of their writers and voice actors from those iconic animated sitcoms, added some new brains and blood from series like Gravity Falls, and gave us five seasons of a serialized fantasy featuring a rebellious, booze-loving princess named Bean and her journeys through the kingdom of Dreamland to find herself.
With its final season just dropping, there’s no better time to dive into the making of Disenchantment and how its world fits into the Groening-verse...
Bean and Mora’s First Episode Was Heavily Ad-Libbed
Showrunner and co-creator Weinstein explained that when Abbi Jacobson (Bean) and Meredith Hagner (Mora) first met in person, they instantly hit it off — so much so that the creators allowed the two to spill that energy into the episode where their characters initially meet. Since then, it seems they’ve been allowed to do the same improvisation ever so often.
How the Show Fits into the Groening-Verse
While the show may appear to be set in the Middle Ages, many deviations suggest its time period isn’t as simple as that. A fan theory once posited that Disenchantment is set somewhere between the present day of The Simpsons and the future of Futurama. This is thanks to the apocalypse-cycle gag in the pilot episode of Futurama where Fry is cryogenically frozen (watch for the Medieval castles popping up in the background).
The new Futurama episode, “I Know What You Did Next Xmas,” confirmed this theory when Professor Farnsworth states that he’s traveling back to the past and passes Bean, Luci, and Elfo from Disenchantment along the way.
How Groening and Company Came Up with the Concept
Groening told Collider, “Disenchantment is just taking a genre — fantasy — and seeing how far we can go with it. Back when I was doing Futurama, it was a toss-up whether to go science fiction or fantasy, and I thought science fiction would be a little easier. So now we’re going — this many years later — to fantasy, which is a little more difficult but is extremely rewarding because it’s a whole different cast of characters, and we can tell different kinds of jokes. In fact, I’m really proud of Disenchantment because I’ve been doing this for a long time, and we’re telling jokes that we’ve never told before.”
The Show Took a Cue From ‘Gravity Falls’
“The way we plan is similar to how Alex Hirsch planned Gravity Falls; we know certain tentpole character developments and plot developments,” Weinstein explained about their serialized show. “We love that gradual unfolding of mysteries, but also the deepening of them.”
Elfo Was Created Long Before Bart Simpson
“All of the characters basically are inspired by how I drew when I was 12 years old,” Groening told The L.A. Times. “I had a character named Melvin who basically looked like Elfo and wore the little shorts. People are saying, ‘Oh, it’s like Bart,’ but I go, ‘No, like Melvin.’”
Elfo Was Going to Be the Main Character
“The very original conception was that Elfo was going to be the main character,” Weinstein has revealed. “And I thought, first of all, he’s an elf, and he’s just not as interesting or relatable. Like, I come across as Elfo, but I relate to Bean. Also, I’m so sick of all the other different types of portrayals of princesses, whether it’s a Disney princess — or writers often make the other mistake where she’s totally kickass and perfect and an ultimate warrior — and there’s never been like a real 19-year-old woman! Bean’s also just based on friends of mine, both female and male, whom I hung out with in our late teens and early 20s. We drank too much, and we found the world very frustrating.”
A Cross-Generational Writing Staff
“Half the staff are these old Simpsons/Futurama farts; we’re all around 50 or over,” Weinstein explained to The Hollywood Reporter. “I wanted the other half of the staff to be 30 or under. Otherwise, you’re doing the same old thing. I hired a couple of writers who I loved from Gravity Falls and (others) who I’ve never met, but I love their writing. We have a really good mix of old and young on the staff as well. The younger generation of comedy writers, including people like Eric André, had their baseline be shows like The Simpsons and South Park. I grew up on shows like Scooby-Doo, that are not the world’s best shows. They grew up on great comedy, so they’ve evolved past us. I think they’re funnier than I am, so it’s a nice combo.”
Eric André Almost Didn’t Audition
“I sent a voice memo out on, like, the last day,” the actor said during an L.A. Times interview. “It’s the deadline, and I was, like, ‘It’s Matt Groening, I have to do this.’ Even the callback, this is, like, how low my self-esteem is, I was, like, ‘It’s probably just gonna be a casting director’s assistant recording me.’ And I went into the studio, and I got there a little late — it was you guys, your producer, and I was, like (deep voice), ‘Yeah, I’m ready!’”
The World of ‘Disenchantment’ Started as a Comic Book in High School
“Back in high school, I used to draw a comic book called Tales of the Enchanted Forest,” Groening remembers. “It was filled with little talking animals. I always loved that idea of creatures that could speak. I’m very much inspired by the comic strip Pogo by Walt Kelley. However, I was not such a good drawer, so none of my friends could tell what the animals were except for the rabbit. There was a rabbit in the forest, so that’s why I started drawing rabbits. That’s basically the idea. Shooting ahead to 2018, there is an enchanted forest in Disenchantment. That’s where it first began.”
Groening’s Son is One of the Writers on the Show
Abe Groening, son of Matt, has written a bunch of episodes for his dad’s fantasy show. “He is fantastic,” Weinstein said of Abe, adding that he remembers “when he was just a little kid. He started out as a writer’s assistant on our show in the first season, along with the other writer’s assistant, Michael Seiken, and we promoted them both to staff writers for this last season. But yeah, it’s a family affair.”
The Three Leads and What They Represent
“Bean represents the young person who’s bristling under parental control and the patriarchy, obviously,” Weinstein told The A.V. Club. “And so she’s representing that person who’s frustrated and wants to break free. Elfo represents the young guy from, like, Kansas, who’s really sheltered and comes into the big, harsh world. And Luci represents the young guy who’s on his first job. And while he’s outwardly confident, deep down, he’s afraid he’s going to screw it up. So there’s a lot of anxiety that Luci hides that comes into play.”
First Groening Streaming Series
While Groening developed both The Simpsons and Futurama for Fox, Disenchantment is the first production he developed for a streaming service. He’s gone on record saying that Netflix really allowed them to do what they wanted, which gave them a lot of creative freedom but also saw them formulate their own in-house rules.
A Mighty Boosh Reunion
Groening’s Biggest Fantasy Pet Peeve
“I have a personal pet peeve in literary fantasy,” Groening once revealed. “What is up with the apostrophes in names? Forget it! It’s so annoying. You’re making up words anyway, so why add the apostrophe? So: No apostrophes. We stuck to that rule.”
What Works About the Show, According to John DiMaggio
John DiMaggio, the voice of King Zøg, once mused that Groening and the writers of Disenchantment are so good because “they can be really dirty and filthy without being dirty and filthy. And it’s a better way to tell a joke. I, unfortunately, am not that smart. I go to the gutter immediately. They paint a very beautiful picture of the gutter.”