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Definition

What is a cultural reference? At it's most basic:

1. (noun) ideas that relate to a specific culture; things that only someone who understands a specific culture could understand[1]
Hansel and Gretel

"Ideas that relate to a specific culture" can include anything - and fall under the broader term of meme (not in the sense of internet meme, which is a subset of the original term as coined by Richard Dawkins). Cultural artifacts such as films, tv shows, cartoons, comics, literature, computer games, music, art are all forms of non-genetic information which we use to express ourselves. A cartoon which references other aspects of culture is a fun way of sharing and revelling in the culture from which it emerges and will ultimately feed back into, inform and alter (depending on how influential it becomes). A good example of this is the way in which The Simpsons referenced influential cultural phenomena and then, 30 years later, became an influential cultural phenomenon.[2] On that note, here is are all of the cultural references found (so far) in Disenchantment listed in one place.

Noice!

Season 1: Part 1

Ep 1: A Princess, an Elf, and a Demon Walk Into a Bar

  • Hellraiser (1987): When Luci says "Open the gates of...I mean the ribbon" this is parody of Lemarchand's Box in the classic horror movie by Clive Barker.
    • He stops himself from saying "open the gates of hell," something which the box in Hellraiser is famous for doing.
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928): Elfo fitting exactly in the hole of the fallen ogre's chest is a reference to this classic piece of cinema.[3]
  • The Princess Bride (1987): whilst the trope of a princess being forced to marry a prince she doesn't love is the stuff of legend, the scene where the trio take an exaggerated tumble while being chased by the Knights is directly lifted from this classic movie.[4] 
  • Siddharta Guatama (c. 563/480 – c. 483/400 BCE): Elfo's story of renouncing a walled kingdom in pursuit of experiencing the real world is borrowed from the story of the Buddha.
  • Slayer and Metallica: these two giants of heavy metal get a fun name drop. ("Slayer of Metallica").
  • The Hobbit (1937): Leaving relative comfort in search of adventure is also what Bilbo Baggins does.
  • The Lord Of The Rings (1954): The eagle which grabs Elfo and escorts him to the site of the battle field is likely a reference to this classic fantasy tale.
  • James Stewart (1908-1997): The voice of Elfo's father is based on that of the famous actor.
  • Game of Thrones (2011-2019): Bean's hair, the throne of Dreamland, Prince Guysbert.[5]

The SimpsonsFuturama

  • The maid's line "Remember, whores rouge, ladies leech." is a callback to an almost identical Simpsons line spoken to Marge by her mother in season 2's "The Way We Was". The line there was "Ladies pinch. Whores use rouge."
  • The design of the castle's tower is very similar to the tower of Planet Express in Futurama.
  • The melody of the elf song is eerily similar to the "everyone else loves Ned Flanders" ditty from Simpsons season 4 episode, "The Front".
  • Elfo's clothing is a contemporary version of that worn by Bart Simpson.
  • "The Spotted Liver" pub may well be a reference to Monty Burns' famous liver spots.

Ep 2: For Whom the Pig Oinks

  • Cluedo/Clue: when Luci says "Sooo, how are we going to kill your fiancé? Candlestick in the conservatory? Candlestick in the face?" this is a reference to the famous board game.
  • The Dark Crystal (1982): The draining of Elfo's blood to acquire it's life rejuvenating properties is uncannily similar to the draining of the essence of Podlings by Skeksis to regain their life force in this classic Jim Henson fantasy film.
  • Lady and the Tramp (1955): when the two pigs suck up the intestines and unite in a kiss, this is reminiscent of the famous spaghetti scene in this classic Disney cartoon.
  • Little Caesars: the US pizza chain is referenced by "Little Seizures Poison Shop", even the logos are similar.
  • Belladonna: otherwise known as Deadly Nightshade, this is a classic poison and herb associated with witchcraft.
  • Alchemy: the precursor to science. Sorcerio is quite clearly an alchemist.
  • Mephisto: Mephismo may be a reference to one of the chief demons of German literary tradition.
  • Ouroboros: a snake eating it's own tail is seen in a jar in Sorcerio's lab. It is an alchemical symbol from ancient Egypt associated with infinity, eternity and immortality (such as King Zog is interested in).

Ep 3: The Princess of Darkness

The Simpsons / Futurama

  • In S07E02 of Futurama, "In A Gadda Da Leela", in the scene following the credits featuring Zapp Brannigan, Kif and Richard Nixon's head, Nixon refers to Kif as Reptilicus when he says "Reptilicus, press the thingy." / King Zog refers to Oona as Reptilicus.
    • In the same episode, the painted portrait Fry offers to give to Leela before she sets of with Zapp is in the same style as the portraits within the Dreamland castle. (see gallery)

Ep 4: Castle Party Massacre

  • The Village People: the band composed of Knights Pendergast , Turbish and Mertz is called The Pillage People.
  • Coachella: Bean hopes the band get to play at Cornchella.
  • Corn exchange: (English) is a building where merchants traded corns. Such trade was common in towns and cities across England until the 19th century. 
  • Rodeos: King Zog mentions them but he doesn't know what they are.
  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999): the secret society sex party (held by the Seekers) is a thinly veiled reference to this film.

Ep 5: Faster, Princess! Kill! Kill!

Ep 6: Swamp and Circumstance

Ep 7: Love's Tender Rampage

  • Dogs Playing Poker: During the scene where Bean, Elfo and Luci are on their way to the Den of Wonders they pass a group of dogs playing poker, in an homage to this famous series of paintings.
  • Jack and the Beanstalk (1734): an English fairy tale that appeared as "The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean". King Zog yells for Tess to  be sent back up "whatever beanstalk she rode in on".
  • Red Light District: part of an an urban area with a concentration of prostitution of sex (or drug) -oriented businesses. The equivalent area in Dreamland is know as the "Black Light District".
  • Blacklight: (or often black light), also referred to as a UV-A light, Wood's lamp, or simply ultraviolet light, is a lamp that emits long-wave (UV-A)ultraviolet light and not much visible light.
  • Lava lamp: the entrance to the Den of Wonders has two large lava lamps either side of it.

Ep 8: The Limits of Immortality

  • James Bond / Miss Moneypenny: As secretary to Odval, Miss Moonpence is an affectionate parody of Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond franchise. She appears in:
    • Goldfinger (1964): when Big Jo says "No Mr. Elfo, I expect you to fry," this is a reference to the line "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."[6]
  • Hitchhiker's Guide the Galaxy: The Gift Shoppe at the Edge of the World is likely a reference to the "Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe."
  • Discworld: the edge of the world drop-off is reminiscent of that of Discworld.
  • Morris Men: the dancing in the entertainment scene is Morris dancing, a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music which is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers. usually wearing bell pads on their shins.
  • Letter To His Father (1919): Malfus' book which is "more a letter to my father" is likely a reference to the letter Franz Kafka wrote to his father Hermann, indicting him for his emotionally abusive and hypocritical behaviour towards him.

Ep 9: To Thine Own Elf Be True

Ep 10: Dreamland Falls

The Simpsons / Futurama

Season 1: Part 2

tba in 2019

References

  1. Definition of 'cultural reference' englishbaby.com
  2. It is a truism to state that cultural references which appear in this (or any other) show do so by virtue of the fact that they have influenced their creators.
  3. Falling Wall youtube.com
  4. Creator Matt Groening is on record as listing this film amongst his inspirations. imdb.com
  5. As there are more than one reference to this influential tv show (and series of books), a separate page has been created to deal with them, called Dragon Eggs.
  6. Do you expect me to talk? youtube.com
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