Disenchantment is a medieval fantasy show... or is it? Gradually, evidence is emerging about Matt Groening's Netflix animation that suggests it may be closer to Futurama's world and setting than it first seems.
Ostensibly doing for the fantasy genre what Futurama did for sci-fi, Disenchantment riffs on a bunch of nerd favorites to tell a decidedly new story. It follows Princess Bean, her demon Luci and friend/love interest Elfo on a series of alcohol-fuelled misadventures. As the series went on, however, a bigger narrative emerged: Bean is at the center of a centuries-long battle between the forces of good and evil, influenced by far-off sorcerers and her presumed dead mother.
Disenchantment season 1 ended with a cliffhanger for every major character: Bean was taken away to confront her destiny, Luci was captured, the population of Dreamland was petrified, and in a post-credits scene Elfo's corpse was taken by mermaids. But none of the resulting questions about Elfo's parentage or Dankmire's real goals are what we should have been asking. Fans should have taken this opportunity to zoom out of the crudely drawn map and ask: just when and where is Disenchantment set anyway?
- This Page: Disenchantment Isn't Set When You Think It Is
- Page 2: Is Disenchantment Futurama's Medieval 2300s Society?
Disenchantment Is In The Futurama Universe
The world of Dreamland was gradually expanded across the first season of Disenchantment, with other cultures and a deeper mythology teased ahead of season 2. However, the most important piece of world-building is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Easter egg that places the series in the same universe as Futurama.
In the season finale, Luci shows King Zog some magic holograms of past events using the omni-purpose crystal ball. In one of these quick flashes is Fry, Bender and the Professor in the time machine from Futurama's season 6 episode "The Late Philip J. Fry". The story of that episode saw the trio travel forward through time billions of years into the future, past the end of the universe and through the creation of another, identical universe (and then again, because they slightly overshoot the first time). It's one of Futurama's classic meldings of high concept sci-fi and emotional character storytelling, but could prove to be even more important than that.
The appearance of the time machine in a Disenchantment hologram would seem to confirm that the Netflix show takes place in the same continuity as Futurama. There's room for debate on which iteration of the universe it was, although given they're for all intents and purposes identical, that doesn't really matter. The obvious conclusion is that Disenchantment is in the past of Futurama, some time in the Dark Ages. But that may not be the case...
Disenchantment May Not Actually Be Set In The Past
Disenchantment is ostensibly a high fantasy that pulls from a variety of literary and mythical inspirations, with a wide range of magical creatures and locales, but is ultimately set in a world riffing on the Dark Ages. Except things don't quite fit.
In the very first episode, as Bean, Elfo and Luci run into the Enchanted Forest, for a brief moment a steampunk blimp can be seen in the background passing over a mountain. Although it's very small in the distance, it's most certainly out of line with the rest of the series. Throughout Disenchantment, the characters only ever fly with the help of a griffin; most long-distance travel being by period-accurate horse or ship. This hidden blimp, an easy to miss Easter egg, shows that there is some greater technology - importantly, this isn't really anything fantastical - at least a few centuries ahead of the assumed setting. Evidently, Disenchantment isn't set quite as far back as we expected.
Considering Matt Groening's propensity to hide clues to later twists in early episodes - Nibbler's shadow appears in Futurama's pilot, foreshadowing the season 4 reveal of his involvement in sending Fry to the future - this can't be discounted, and is surely a wink to one of Disenchantment's biggest secrets.