Matt Groening — creator of Futurama, The Simpsons, and Life in Hell — has revealed some details of his first new show in more than 20 years, Disenchantment. The show is a fantasy send-up, and it’s coming to Netflix on August 17. That gives us plenty of time to acquaint, or reacquaint, ourselves with some of the fantasy genre stalwarts — not only to get hyped for the best of the genre but to find it all the funnier when Disenchantment takes the piss out of it.
Another Fine Myth by Robert Asprin
The story of a hapless apprentice wizard, Skeeve, and the egotistical, currently powerless wizard (and demon), Aahz, who he turns to when his former master kicks the bucket. We’re recommending this one because it’s pretty funny in its own right, as well as being the first in a long-running fantasy series with some fun adventure and a lot of heart alongside the mirth (and the puns, my lord, the puns). We’re hoping Disenchantment has a healthy dose of heart as well — if the Simpsons and, in particular, Futurama are any indication, we’re guessing it will, and the “Myth” series by Asprin is a perfect primer. (There are some sweet comic adaptations by Phil Foglio as well).
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
If you want a tonal shift when you go from your fantasy brush-up into Disenchantment, this book, this series (The First Law), and this author are where you turn. Magic is all too rare, the world is all too grim and unforgiving, and the action is all too gripping. We’re unapologetically boosters of this amazing world (which has one proper trilogy, and several standalone novels that take place in the same world), and you better bet this is what we’re re-reading before we turn to Disenchantment to release all that tension.
The Dragon’s Path, by Daniel Abraham
This first entry into the Dagger & Coin series introduces us to a world with many of the tropes of high fantasy — multiple humanoid races, evidence of dragons, some weird magic — but also one in which the banking system — yes, the banking system — may just be the only thing standing between freedom and tyranny.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Disenchantment has that awesomely cute little demon dude (voiced by Eric Andre), and if ever a fantasy delved into the relationship between humans and some sort of familiar, it’s Pullman’s most excellent His Dark Materials series — and this is one you can (and should) share with the kids.
Perhaps it’s a good time to brush up on this classic since there’s talk of a sequel. Or just because swordsman Madmartigan is Val Kilmer’s best role ever (fight me!). But Willow has it all: an interesting cast, a prophecy, fairies, magic… one of the better big-screen fantasy movies from the ’80s, and it hits so many of the right notes — the very ones we expect Disenchantment to skewer.
The Princess Bride
Immensely funny and heartwarming, perhaps The Princess Bride will prove to be Disenchantment’s spiritual predecessor. Nothing will leave you wanting more funny fantasy than Wesley’s trials against the likes of Inigo Montoya, Fezzik, and Vizzini — and the subsequent friendship that he strikes up with the former two as they storm a castle to rescue Princess Buttercup.
The Lord of the Rings
Yeah, it’s kind of stuffy and stilted, but if you want to explore the property that essentially created the fantasy genre’s tropes — and you don’t want to read a book chronicling every damn footstep Frodo and Samwise take as they trek up a mountain — the first movie of Peter Jackson’s trilogy is a great place to turn, and the next two are even better than the first.
Clash of the Titans (1981)
The Greek myths are rife with what’s compelling about fantasy stories, and this movie was a fun, innovative ’80s adaptation of them, featuring Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion effects. Sure, it took some liberties with the source materials, but the best fantasy builds on what’s come before and tweaks it to fit the creator’s, and perhaps audiences’, sensibilities.
Game of Thrones
We’d, of course, recommend the George R.R. Martin books too, but those are soooo looonnng, and all-consuming — which is glorious, but we don’t want priming for Disenchantment to be a marathon or a chore. But you can dig into the first season of the excellent HBO adaptation without having it take over your life. Besides, we’re guessing the genesis of Disenchantment was a near-direct response to this show’s cultural influence and success.
Okay, this is basically an anime superhero fight show with some fantasy trappings — the main characters are wizards in a guild — but it’s stylish, often funny, and leans heavily on themes of ostracization vs. finding one’s family. We’re not suggesting you consume all of the approximate 300 episodes, but watching, say, the first couple story arcs should wet your whistle for more animated fantasy
tails tales. Plus: a flying, talking blue cat. It’s available on many streaming services (some episodes on Netflix; many more on Crunchyroll and other anime-centric avenues)
Of course, you may already be extremely hyped for Disenchantment, just based on the fact that it’s another seemingly Simpsons-esque production — but we still submit it’ll be all the more enjoyable if you are on a fantasy bender when it premieres in about three short months. Plenty of time to indulge in all of the above, or a favorite fantasy of your own!
Images: The ULULU Company/Netflix, Studio Foglio, Gollancz (UK), Lucasfilm,
20th Century Fox, Charles H. Schneer Productions, HBO, Funimation