If you’re walking past Lincoln High School and happen to look down, chances are you’ll see someone you know. On a cement slab roughly the dimensions of an oversize skateboard stands one Bart Simpson: his spiky hair halfway to heaven, arms outstretched, mouth open, as if delivering a hearty “Eat my shorts!”
Proof is hard to come by, but this sidewalk sketch is rumored to be the handiwork of Simpsons creator and Lincoln ’72 grad Matt Groening, rendered in tribute to his alma mater.
Many years later, the cartoon mastermind recalls this very site as the origin of Disenchantment, his latest brainchild. Arriving on Netflix this August, it’s a streaming successor to The Simpsons, America’s longest-running sitcom (and recent controversy magnet), and sci-fi cult hit Futurama.
Anchored in the medieval kingdom of Dreamland, the animated Disenchantment follows the wandering mishaps of a motley crew that includes a booze-valiant princess named Bean and her sidekicks Elfo, an elf, and Luci, her personal demon. (Naturally.)
“Fantasy has been on my mind since Lincoln, when my buddies and I spent way too much time slouching in the back of class and snickering over Zap Comix and 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft and the 1969 Harvard Lampoon parody Bored of the Rings,” Groening says. “We also used to draw our own crummy little comics. Mine was called Tales of the Enchanted Forest, inspired by Walt Kelly’s Pogo.” Groening also cites influences ranging from The Wizard of Oz and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and numerous Telegu films from Indian director S. S. Rajamouli.
As the show’s scrappy trinity crisscrosses Dreamland, the plot, according to a press release, becomes a survey of “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.” Groening says elements of his early Lincoln fantasy comic made it into the show.
“It’s always fun to invent a new world and populate it with heroines and villains and elves and freaks and weirdos, not necessarily in that order,” Groening says. “Fantasy is especially inspiring, because you get to bounce back and forth between expectations fulfilled and expectations denied. And of course it’s relevant for right now, because the American mood is medieval at best.”
The show’s voice cast include Groening vet John DiMaggio (most famously Bender from Futurama) and Nat Faxon (who cowrote the 2011 film The Descendants) alongside Broad City cocreator and star Abbi Jacobson.
As any good Portlander knows, many Simpsons characters borrow their monikers from the city’s streets. There’s Mayor Quimby, Milhouse Van Houten, Ned Flanders, Sideshow Bob Terwilliger. So will there be any winks to Groening’s hometown sprinkled throughout Dreamland? Sort of.
Says Groening: “For some reason, in Disenchantment’s completely fictitious medieval fantasy otherworld, Beaverton exists.”