Disenchantment

Creators of Disenchantment Enchant SDCC 2018

Interviewer:
Can you remember when you had this idea for the first time? And why deal with the past after dealing with future and present time?

Matt Groening:
Back in high school, I used to draw a comic book called “Tales of the Enchanted Forest” full of little talking animals. I’ve always loved that idea of talking animals. I was very much inspired by the comic strip “Pogo” by Walt Kelly, which I loved when I was growing up. 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, and that’s why I started drawing rabbits. That’s basically the idea and then shooting ahead to 2018, there is an enchanted forest in Disenchantment and that’s where it first began.

Interviewer:
And why deal with the past?

Matt Groening:
Well, is it the past?

Josh Weinstein:
There’s a lot of secrets hidden within this show. That’s one thing we’re especially excited about, because it’s a serialized show, which we’ve never gotten to do before and it’s kind of a newer thing in animation. Because you get 10 episodes at once, we get to tell these really deep, reaching arcs, not just over 10 episodes, but then over 20 and we have a plan. We know where the series will end as well. There’s lots of secrets from the very first episode that, if you can put together, it will explain things. Or more likely, in hindsight you’ll go, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that that was there from the beginning!”

Disenchantment - poster

Disenchantment – poster by Netflix copyright 2018

Matt Groening:
I’m going to say something enigmatic. There is a secret hidden in the very first animation that you see that reveals a lot.

Interviewer:
The first frame?

Matt Groening:
That’s the enigma. Hang onto that idea and we’ll talk about it as soon as somebody figures it out. If ever.

Interviewer:
By secrets do you mean within the world of Disenchantment, or are there also Easter eggs from other properties that you’ve done?

Matt Groening:
I wouldn’t say that, but yes, there are both. Yes.

Josh Weinstein:
There are secrets and there’s a lot of symbols that have to do with deep running arcs, but there are also sly little references to other things.

Matt Groening:
You’ve got to. I mean if you have a cartoon show you have to have hide stuff. In every good fantasy, things are not what they seem to be. Certainly, that’s the case with Disenchantment as well. Now, if you’re just a casual viewer, the show is fine. We think it’s very funny and entertaining, but if you’re the kind of obsessive who comes to Comi-con, you’ll find little things to look for.

Interviewer:
Piggybacking on that, do expect to be able to commingle in the Groening-verse with other properties?

Matt Groening:
Perhaps. Yes. Perhaps. Maybe.

Josh Weinstein:
Perhaps, maybe. No. Yes.

Matt Groening:
I wouldn’t count on a lot of that. I did give my permission to steal from myself.

Disenchantment - Big three

Disenchantment – image by Netflix copyright 2018

Josh Weinstein:
There’s a huge amount of fondness of the people who worked on Futurama.

Matt Groening:
For those of you who know, this is Josh Weinstein, who used to be a show runner on The Simpsons. Josh and I had been working on The Simpsons back… When did you start on The Simpsons?

Josh Weinstein:
We started season three. Phillip and I went from season three to season nine. I didn’t help so much on season nine, but forget it.

Matt Groening:
Then we also worked together on Futurama. Disenchantment is a shared vision of his as much as mine.

Interviewer:                      
Because it’s Netflix, does that explain the different tone? Can you get away with murder?

Matt Groening:
Netflix has been supportive from the very beginning, letting us do whatever we wanted. Nobody ever said you can’t say that or do that or show that. I would say the sensibility of the show is the sensibility people have come to know and expect from Simpsons and Futurama, just pushed a little further. There is some nudity. However, it’s mostly people you don’t want to see naked.

Josh Weinstein:
That was our rule! That was our real rule! If there’s going to be nudity, you’re going to see King Zog’s butt, stuff like that.

Interviewer:                      
Does it mean to make it social commentaries on what’s going on in the US?

Matt Groening:
We had no overt intention of doing that, but it turns out we did it anyway, I think.

Josh Weinstein:
If you’re telling good stories that are relatable, it’s always going to reflect the world and your life. A really important thing about Bean and Elfo and Luci is this is also a coming of age story as much as it’s like fantasy. It’s like the backdrop. It’s about these young characters going out into the world for the first time.

Matt Groening:
I did these visual aids at breakfast this morning. So, this is Princess Bean, played by Abbi Jacobson, who is fantastic. We tried to write the best that we could and then we get actors to come along, and they inform the character. The second Abbi auditioned for the character, we had clarity on who, who Princess Bean was. One of the great things about Abby and Elfo played by Nat Faxon and Luci played by Eric Andre, is that the three of them are writers and actors and directors themselves. In addition to our, what we hope is very clever writing, just them standing in front of the microphone, they were able to improvise and ad lib and come up with amazing stuff that was so much better than we had realized. They really pushed the series.

Josh Weinstein:
You can see their brains going when we give them a line, like, “Can I improve this?” A lot of times they do. After we do a take, we’ll always let all the actors go and just say what’s in their mind. Just go for it. There’s a lot of really funny ad libs that we could have never come up.

Matt Groening:
Yeah.

Disenchantment - Luci

Disenchantment – Luci – image by Netflix copyright 2018

Interviewer:                      
Do you have Matt Berry’s character in there?

Matt Groening:
Yes. Who can we give it away? Oh yes. Okay. Yeah, yeah. Okay. This is King Zog, played by John Dimaggio, the voice of Bender on Futurama and Jake the Dog on Adventure Time. Queen Una, Princess Bean’s stepmother who is a part reptile or amphibian. We’re not sure exactly. Sometimes she has amphibian characteristics and sometimes reptile. She’s from, from the Kingdom of Dankmeyer that’s played by Tress Macneille. Tress is one of our favorite actors. She’s been in all three of the shows that I’ve worked on. Simpsons, Futurama, and now Disenchantment. She’s fantastic. She also plays the voice of Derek…

Josh Weinstein:
Who is Oona’s son, so it’s appropriate.

Matt Groening:
You can’t tell here, but they have blue skin. He’s the heir to the throne. This is Sorcerio, played by Billy West. Billy West, the voice of Fry and countless other characters on Futurama. Just brilliant. This is Odval the sort of semi evil prime minister played by Maurice LaMarche. Uh, these are very obscure characters.

Josh Weinstein:
They’re our favorite characters.

Matt Groening:
Yeah. They’re our favorite. This is Vip and Vap. They carry the king’s cape.

Josh Weinstein:
At least for the first run, they don’t say anything. They’re just doing this.

Matt Groening:
But they’re very important. Two fewer actors we need to hire. This is Bunty, Bean’s handmaiden.

Josh Weinstein:
She’s played by Lucy Montgomery. Because one thing that we love is like we’ve got Abbi, Nat, and Eric who are just brilliant comedians and writers. Then we’ve got the Futurama the gang. And then we also have this British gang of all these great British comedians like Lucy Montgomery. And this is Matt Berry.

Matt Groening:
This is Matt Berry, who’s a who gets turned into a pig.

Josh Weinstein:
He has a human form as well, and in fact, when he gets turned into a pig, it’s where there’s now there’s a naked Prince Merkimer human running around in the enchanted forest ever after. But after he’s turned to a pig, he’s kind of stuck in the castle hoping to be turned back.

Matt Groening:
For some reason was crowned and disappeared. We’re very proud of this crown because it’s modeled after a Jughead’s whoopee hat.

Josh Weinstein:
Yes, it’s the technical term.

Matt Groening:
You remember Jughead from Archie and Jughead? Well, whoopee hats started in 1930s and 40s. What teenagers did was, they took a fedoras and cut them and then put buttons and stuff on them.

Josh Weinstein:
So, he’s basically the Jughead at the show.

Matt Groening:
This is very important for your articles. And of course Matt Berry plays Steven Toast on Toast of London also on Netflix, which is an absolutely brilliant show. Really, really funny. He and another one of our actors-writers Rich Fulcher did a show called a Snuffbox, which is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. I don’t know where that is, if that’s on anywhere.

Josh Weinstein:
You can find it. But that’s how we hooked into Matt Berry.

Matt Groening:
Which guy’s this?

Josh Weinstein:
That’s Mertz.

Matt Groening:
This is Billy, right?

Josh Weinstein:
Yes.

Matt Groening:
Billy West plays Mertz, one of the knights…

Disenchantment - Bean and Elfo

Disenchantment – Bean and Elfo Image by Netflix copyright 2018

Josh Weinstein:
There’s Turbush and Mertz. There’s also just a really, really handsome, obnoxious knight who’s played by Eric Andre called Pendergast and he’s like the head knight and these are his sort of like two goofy sidekicks, Turbush and Mertz. And Turbush is played by Rich Fulcher.

Matt Groening:
Of course, every fantasy has to have a witch. This witch is played by Tress Macneille. These are fairly unimportant side characters, but they’re very vivid. This is… does he have a name?

Josh Weinstein:
No. He’s just a party barge captain.

Matt Groening:
Party barge Captain, played by David Herman. Fantastic. This is one of my favorite characters. This is Old Man Touchy. Those sockets are where his eyes used to be.

Josh Weinstein:
He’s kept in a dungeon. He has the ability to tell things from touch.

Matt Groening:
They pull them out of the dungeon in order for him to feel people.

Interviewer:                      
How was the challenge to make something different?

Matt Groening:
It’s the same problem with Futurama. Fantasy and science fiction are genres that it’s really hard to be funny within because the temptation is to just kid the genre. We didn’t just want to do fantasy jokes, so we agreed that we would plot this show like it’s a drama and then add jokes. That turned out to be much better for us as writers.

Josh Weinstein:
There have been a million parodies of Game of Thrones and yes, we do have a throne with swords on it.

Matt Groening:
I never made the connection. Oh, no!

Josh Weinstein:
People want to feel real stories and be involved. You can see a great parody of fantasies elsewhere. We wanted to tell our own stories and then find the jokes that come from that.

Interviewer:                      
This is your first year series that has a female lead character. Is that something that you specifically set out to do or it just happened to be that way?

Matt Groening:
When we first began scheming, Elfo was the main character and then we realized, no, no, no, we gotta make it Bean, because it was more challenging to do. It was different and in the same way that Futurama was different from The Simpsons, we wanted to make Disenchantment different from both The Simpsons and Futurama.

Josh Weinstein:
Bean’s got so much more going on and it’s like, Elfo is great and he but he’s an elf, and she’s like a human and she’s 19, 20. Tthere’s so much to say about being that age and being a female in a patriarchal kingdom. It just felt like there’s so much more drive focusing on Bean.

Matt Groening:
She’s also the first human character in a series that has five fingers.

Josh Weinstein:
People on the Internet are freaking out over that.

Matt Groening:
I know. As a cartoonist who’s been drawing four fingered a characters for 35 years, five fingers is hard to draw. It feels like that’s too many.

Josh Weinstein:
By the way, there’s even a secret in the number of digits certain characters have.

Matt Groening:
Oh, that’s true. Way to give it away.

Interviewer:  
You guys did an episode of The Simpsons last year that was all medieval or fantasy themed. That had a lot of Easter eggs as far as properties in it. So what are your favorite fantasy properties that is in your DNA and might’ve influenced Disenchantment?

Matt Groening:
For me, it’s not so much movies or TV shows, although I do like a good, like Fractured Fairytales on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. I love fantasy that I read when I was growing up. Specifically a guy named Jack Vance who did a series of novels grouped together called Tales of the Dying Earth. Fantastic books. Really, really, really funny. I can’t say that it specifically influenced the show, but it was, inspiring. I love the books by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and of course JRR Tolkien and all that stuff, but more of the books rather than the movies or the other things. Michael Moorcock, although wading into that universe… It’s very deep. Another guy who I love is a guy named Gene Wolfe, who has an early book collection of short stories called the Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories, which I think is brilliant.

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