Shortly following the release of Disenchantment Part 3 on Netflix, Team Wiretap sat down with co-creator and showrunner Josh Weinstein (The Simpsons, Futurama). During our conversation, he generously gave us a look at Disenchantment‘s origins, shared some fascinating behind-the-scenes facts, discussed some of Part 3’s biggest storylines, and hinted at what’s coming in Part 4 and beyond.
In this first part of our exclusive interview, we cover the series’ origins, how it diverted from their original plan, and the casting process. We also look at how Disenchantment is a story about finding yourself.
When were the seeds of Disenchantment first planted?
The idea for this show existed in Matt Groening’s head for at least 10 years. When he comes up with a big idea, he has this series of notebooks that he’ll write lists in, along with doodles, drawings, and designs. He’ll work on them for years. I think he came up with Disenchantment shortly after Futurama. He wanted to do his version of a fantasy show.
I ran The Simpsons with my on-again/off-again writing partner, Bill Oakley, and we always had a great relationship with Matt. Then I worked on Futurama, and my relationship with Matt got even deeper. We had always said we would do something together. So he brought the idea for Disenchantment to me in its very basic form. I thought it was great and totally up my alley. Because everything in Hollywood takes longer then you’d think, we spent about two years developing it along with producer Deanna MacLennan.
I’ve noticed a shift from an episodic approach in Part 1 to a serialized story. What prompted you to make the show more serialized?
An interesting thing is that initially we thought the show would be 50 percent serialized, arc-driven stories, and the other episodes would be freestanding. The 50-50 approach ended up being wrong. Many people didn’t like the first season because they couldn’t tell what the show was. Or they were expecting it to be Futurama, but fantasy. With those two expectations, I totally understand why the first season got mixed reactions.
After working on and watching the first season, we committed to a serialized story because that’s what fantasy is really about. We decided to tell a deep, ongoing story with some mystery to it. Starting in the second season, we adjusted everything.
We have a big, ongoing arc for all the main characters and the story has to fit into that arc. Also, it’s a finite story. Because we don’t want it to drag on for years, we have an ending in sight. Right now, we’re in the middle of the story. We know where we’re going and have planned all the major plot points. So we’re connecting it as we go along and figuring out the individual episodes.
Despite this being an animated fantasy/comedy, I find Bean to be very relatable. Was that always the plan for that character?
One thing that isn’t said a lot — but is true about the show — is that yes, it’s a crazy fantasy set in a semi-magical world, but it’s really about finding yourself, and being that age when you’re figuring out who you are. The real journey is Bean finding herself. We didn’t want her to be a Disney Princess or a parody of a Disney Princess. And we didn’t want to fall into the kick-ass princess trope. We wanted Bean to be a realistic young woman based on what everyone goes through at that age. When my friends and I were that age, we drank way too much; we didn’t know what we’re going to do. We didn’t really want to work. To me, Disenchantment is as much American Graffiti as it is Lord of the Rings.
Were any of the characters created specifically for the actor who voices them?
We were really lucky because the actors we got ended up being perfect. We created only one role specifically for an actor: Prince Merkimer, voiced by Matt Berry. I was a huge fan of his because of The IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh. Having done an animated pilot with him for FOX that went nowhere, I wanted Matt to have a role because he has such an amazing voice. So we created Merkimer.
All the other roles existed before we had actors attached to them. We also knew we wanted our Futurama friends and figured out the right roles for them. But Bean, Elfo, and Luci existed before actors were cast. Once we saw Abbi Jacobson, she was our number one, and the same for Eric Andre, and Nat Faxon. After they were cast, the actors started to inform the writing of their characters. That’s when the characters got much deeper.
So the casting of the main trio — Bean, Elfo, and Luci — changed those characters?
Abbi, Nat, and Eric aren’t just actors, they’re also writers and directors. They’re always looking at how they can improve a joke, and what joke can build off another. Many of the jokes in this show actually come from the actors. In the process of making Disenchantment, it was delightful to discover that our actors can help write the show and make it even better.
In the second part of our interview with Josh Weinstein, we’ll get into some specific storylines from Disenchantment Part 3, including answers about the Bean/Mora romance! Plus, we’ll get some teasers for Part 4.
Stay tuned for that next week, While you’re waiting, add Wiretap to Chrome so you can watch — or rewatch — Disenchantment with comments and reactions from friends and fans around the world, plus from Josh Weinstein, himself!