Loki Odinson and Claire Dearing: How to Advance Plot Without Compromising Character Growth (Part 1 of 2)

As writers, we often face a challenge when trying to figure out how to usher in big-deal-bad plot elements, but do so in a way that does not also compromise character growth. Typically these game-changing plot elements take place in a larger narrative like a series or franchise where a story has been building up to this climactic point. Both Marvel and Jurassic Park/World are excellent examples of a continuing storyline where the single-story installments fit into a larger picture that is always building upon itself.

In recent years, some big changes needed to happen in both franchises. We’re talking huge, world-changing plot elements.

For the Jurassic series, we needed to get dinosaurs to the mainland and start mixing them with people on a global scale.

Ian Malcolm. “Welcome to Jurassic World…” #fallenkingdom #jeffgoldblumforever

For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we needed a bigger problem and bigger evil than Thanos wiping out half of all life in the universe. A build-up of 10+ years had led to Endgame. We needed something to trump that. Enter…the multiverse!

Coincidence is not a strong plot mover, every good writer knows this. Neither is it good or honest storytelling to only have the villain characters be involved with dramatic and damaging events. We’re all flawed, broken people. Sometimes those with the best of intentions can create terrible scenarios *coughs* Tony Stark. The triumph of these deeply-human stories comes when a character grows and is able to face the new challenges with a fresh perspective that leads to victory.

Two protagonists for recent installments in the Jurassic and Marvel franchises are a perfect example of how to not compromise character growth for the sake of plot advancement.

Claire Dearing is the primary protagonist for Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Claire Dearing is all business, even at the expense of her own humanity. She’s not mean, she’s not visibly evil or a “villain”, but she has a broken perspective on life that blinds her to the dire consequences of her choices.

The protagonist is the character that changes the most throughout a story. While many characters have life-changing revelations throughout the two Jurassic World movies, Claire Dearing is without question the character that undergoes the most change.

The running theme of the entire Jurassic Franchise is this question: how do we value life? We see characters and animals interact with this theme in both positive and negative ways in every movie. Even the short film Battle at Big Rock faithfully follows this theme. One day I will discuss this franchise and its message in depth.

When we first meet Claire Dearing she is the director of the larger-than-life theme park, Jurassic World. Finally! John Hammons’s original dream for Jurassic Park has been realized and it is magnificent!

Claire is a cold and removed person when it comes to human relationships, and she has zero connection to any of the animals under her care. In short, Claire does not have value for life. She fails to see its beauty, purpose, or hope. Her nephews come to visit and she cannot even spend more than five minutes with them. She’s got a disdain for the very human character of Owen Grady and disregards his good advice about understanding her own animals. Without thought, she is a party to the creation of the Indominus Rex, the chief animal antagonist of this story.

Throughout the beginning of the movie, we see Claire make choice after choice that is irresponsible and emotionally removed. The worst decision she makes in conjunction with the park’s owner, Mr. Masrani, is to send a containment team after the Indominus with non-lethal weapons. They ignore the dire warnings of Owen Grady – the character with the most accurate worldview – and send the team in any way. Claire’s hard shell begins to crumble as she watches one person after another get violently killed by the dinosaur.

Throughout the rest of Jurassic World we watch Claire change. Her attention turns from the park’s reputation to just saving lives. She goes running off into the dangerous forest (IN HEELS) with Owen in pursuit of her nephews. She lets herself feel the grief and pain of a dying brachiosaurus that is mauled for sport by the Rex. She does insane things to protect what matters – life! By the end of the movie, Claire is functioning as a fully engaged human being.

Claire throws everything she has into protecting her nephews and Owen from the Indominus Rex. She lets herself be touched by the pain, the beauty, and the wonder of life. Claire is fully awake by the end of Jurassic World.

Has she learned her lesson? Has she grown?

When we see Claire in the next installment, Fallen Kingdom, she is employing the same drive we saw in the first movie, only this time it’s about protecting the dinosaurs that are left. Isla Nublar is about to be destroyed by a volcano, and all of the dinosaurs will die, becoming extinct once more. Claire’s life mission is to try and ensure that doesn’t happen. It’s a noble goal, and it’s a joy to see Claire giving her energy towards preserving life instead of exploiting it (and this time she does it in boots like a sensible human).

But Claire still exhibits some of the same recklessness we saw her use at the beginning of Jurassic World. Her panic to make up for her past mistakes and guilt has caused her to pendulum to another extreme – a very common reaction among humans. She’s overcorrected too far, and this leaves her in a broken relationship with Owen Grady, and vulnerable to being manipulated and used by Eli Mills, the primary human antagonist.

Claire has thrown herself fully into the mission of saving the dinosaurs, but it’s gotten beyond her reach at this point.

Crazy events ensue, and at the end of the movie a large collection of dinosaurs has ended up on the mainland in California. Multiple species have already been sold via an illegal auction and shipped around to world to be used for nefarious purposes. The dinosaurs that remain are trapped in a large facility that is filling up with toxic fumes. It’s a horrifying scene, dinosaurs wailing and trying desperately to get out as they are dying at the expense of greed.

Claire discovers she can free them with the push of a button, but to do so means they are set loose on the general population.

Owen Grady Claire, you press that button there is no going back.

A beat…Claire We can’t let them die.

Her hand hovers over the button…but then she steps away in tears. Finally! Claire Dearing has learned her lesson at a horrific cost. It’s a terrible decision to have to make, but her lack of restraint (along with others) has helped create this mess, pushing that button will only further it. It’s awful, but it’s solid proof – Claire Dearing has grown, her character arc is intact.

The agony of having to say no to pushing the button…

Aha! But for the overall story plot we still need the dinosaurs to get out…so what do we do now?

Loki is the primary protagonist for the show Loki. Obviously.

This character is only beloved because Tom Hiddleston IS SO CRAZY ADORABLE!

To say Loki is a stinker would be putting it mildly. He’s wild, unpredictable, violent, cunning, and constantly keeping you guessing as to whether he will help you, or betray you. Unlike Claire Dearing, Loki definitely fits into the villain category. If Tom Hiddleston wasn’t so everlastingly adorable, Loki would not have been the fan-favorite he is. His character was brought to a tragic and emotional end at the very beginning of Infinity War. It was unsatisfactory and Loki fans were devastated. Then in Endgame, a freshly butt-kicked Loki managed to escape through time right after the first Avengers movie. This Loki is raw, unedited, and still the jerk that killed 80 people in just a few days + invaded New York because he’s Loki.

The running theme for the show Loki is this question: are we trapped by destiny or do we also have free will?

It’s a hard question to answer in a pretend universe that doesn’t have the true, gloriously good God in it. I don’t have time to dive into that topic today.

Loki finds himself quickly taken into custody by the TVA – Time Variance Authority – and taken to a place outside of time. He is shown the story of his whole life beginning to end, told that his entire life purpose is for his worst to bring out others’ best, and as a Loki, he is “destined to fail”. Loki learns that he is just one of the thousands of other Loki’s from thousands of other universes. The TVA is the organization assigned to protect the “Sacred Timeline” and ensure that all events go according to the instructions of the Time Keepers, who somehow know more about everything than everyone else. It’s rather vague and full of bureaucratic red tape.

Also, now that Loki has stepped outside of “Sacred Timeline” by escaping from his story, he has created a timeline branch and as a rogue variant, he could quickly be scheduled for pruning. A nice word for – execution. Loki, doing what he does best, negotiates for a chance to help Agent Mobius track down another Loki variant that’s been kidnapping TVA agents and wreaking havoc.

The best of Britian paired with the best of America on one screen. It was SOOO GOOD!

Loki’s initial desire and character goals are pretty standard for him. He wants to conquer the TVA and rule the timeline/worlds/everything/everyone.

The funny thing is how small Loki appears in the eyes of all he comes across. The only character who shows any interest in Loki as a person is Agent Mobius, the kindest person we run across at the TVA. And even Mobius isn’t overawed or impressed by Loki’s grand statements or drastic threats. A Loki is a Loki, they always lose, right?

Loki crosses paths with the other rogue Loki and discovers she’s actually a woman named Sylvie who, unlike other Loki’s, has zero desire for ruling anything. She wants to kill the Time Keepers and end the TVA once and for all as payback for them kidnapping her as a child. Apparently, she was a variant who didn’t “belong” on the Sacred Timeline and therefore was scheduled for pruning. It’s horrific but shows something true that happens in our real world. More on that another day.

A very sad little girl is now a very angry grown woman.

Loki has not previously been known for quick character growth, but in the course of just 6 episodes, he is confronted with the ugliest, darkest, most vulnerable parts of himself. He’s drunk on his own, selfish ambition. He hurts other people in order to appear powerful. He’s self-obsessed, angry, scared, and doesn’t know how to create healthy relationships. And the worst part is this, according to everyone he comes in contact with besides Sylvie, this is just his destiny. He’s destined to never be happy, to never succeed at anything, to always be this terrible person.

Throughout one of the craziest and most brilliant shows I’ve ever seen, Loki finds himself pushing back against this empty version of himself, which is actually his own antagonist. Loki, as he’s always been, IS Loki’s own worst enemy! What if he can be more? Who says he has to be the villain in everyone else’s story? As the show progresses, Loki begins to care more about the needs and well-being of characters like Mobius and Sylvie even more than he thinks about his own selfish needs.

Watching layer after layer of Loki unfold as he spends more time with Sylvie was a joy. THIS is the Loki we have been hoping for! Not the petty, selfish, angry Loki. No! The Loki who uses his brilliant mind, witty humor, and genuine strength to protect, uplift, and do good. It was always possible, but now we see him fighting for this better version of himself.

Loki and Sylvie reach the End of All Time and discover He Who Remains. In a quiet discussion held in an office, we hear the most frightening story yet revealed in the MCU. This man is from the future. He is a scientist who discovers the multiverse and connects with other variants of himself. Things are great for a while and the multiverse enjoys travel and communication among the universes. Until, of course, a variant of He Who Remains decides he wants to rule all, and multiverse wars ensue. It’s apparently so awful that He Who Remains decided the best way to solve the problem was to create the Sacred Timeline and control everyone’s lives. He created the TVA to protect this timeline and quickly prune and reset any timeline where something gets out of line. He has been doing this for millenniums. But now he’s tired. He gives Loki and Sylvie two options (1) kill him and unleash the timeline and the multiverse (2) take over his job and rule.

Sylvie still wants to kill He Who Remains as he is responsible for her kidnapping and erasing her life. She believes he is lying just to save his own skin. She is about to kill him when Loki stops her. A back and forth of passionately emotional dialogue, magic, and fighting ensues where Silvie is trying to reach He Who Remains, and Loki is trying to intervene.

Sylvie Ah, you want the throne.

Loki No, that’s not it, no. Sylvie, the universe is in the balance, everything we know to be true. Everything. I know that the TVA has hurt us both, but what if by taking him out, we risk unleashing something even worse? I promise you from my heart, this isn’t about a throne.

More fighting.

Loki Sylvie, the cost of getting this wrong is too great.

Sylvie Fine, then kill me and take your throne.

Loki Stop. I’ve been where you are. I’ve felt what you feel. *crying* Don’t ask me how I know. All I know, is I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want a throne. I just…I just want you to be okay.

NO ONE IS SOBBING HERE! NEVERMIND, WE ARE FINE! IT’S TOTALLY OKAY THAT LOKI IS LOOKING AT HER SO SOFTLY WITH SO MUCH COMPASSION AND TENDERNESS! WE ARE FINEEEE!!!

They kiss, it’s gorgeous and no one is sobbing on the floor. We’re fine!!! And then Sylvie shoves him through a portal back to the TVA, removing him from the situation entirely. Determined and dreading what is coming, Loki runs to find Mobius to fill him in on the drastic changes that are about to take place.

Loki He’s terrifying. He planned everything. He’s seen everything. He knows everything. It’s complicated, okay. But someone is coming. Countless different versions of a very dangerous person. And they’re all set on war. We need to prepare.

These two were just the greatest.

Loki went from rampaging around the universe, causing wreck and ruin all because he was burdened with glorious purpose, to suddenly only caring about others’ needs and future. He now only says “I” in reference to his selfless feelings for someone else. He uses the term “we” when speaking of himself and Sylvie, or himself and his allies/friends at the TVA. Loki is no longer alone and no longer seeking a throne. His life actually is burdened with glorious purpose now. He’s free, Loki won over Loki.

The ironclad proof of Loki’s character growth was his attempt to restrain Silvie from destroying He Who Remains. Whether that was the right choice for the future of the universe or not, it was the right choice for Loki’s character arc. He said no to the throne, and yes to what someone else needed. Loki has grown.

I love that turned up collar, it’s so him.

Aha, but we still need the timeline to be unleashed…so what do we do?

The answer is simple, we bring in the “innocents”. We solve our plot problems with the innocents. I’ll explain in Part 2.

Fatherhood Feature: The Mandalorian

Fatherhood is such an important topic in today’s culture.

It always has been. Thousands of children grow up every year without fathers, absent or neglectful fathers, and even abusive ones. Every single one of us has a need for a dad literally built into the way we develop and function.

When someone is faced with a lack of a good father it definitely creates many extra layers of struggle.

There are thousands of incredible single moms out there who are doing both the job of dad and mom, they deserve all the praise and recognition they can get, and I look forward to writing a series celebrating mothers as well.

We are also blessed with some pretty amazing kick-butt dads who remind us those good men do exist and we should be celebrating the guys who are giving it their all to be good dads.

Whenever I see an example of a great dad on screen I sit up straighter and take notice. I want to highlight a few of the best I have seen on the big and small screen.

The Mandalorian

the mando single dad

Disney+’s The Mandalorian was already on track to become a success before the world ever knew that Baby Yoda existed.

Jon Favreau made a brilliant move when he chose to add a baby and an adoptive relationship to this series.

At first glance, it merely looked like a shiny shoot-em-up about a Mandalorian warrior. Cool, but not exactly deep.

What began as really cool became unbelievable overnight!

Baby Yoda has become the heart of the series, and his introduction turned the Mandalorian into a character with a full range of emotions and deeply personal motivations that we can all connect with.

baby yoda

What Makes the Mando a Great Dad?

The biggest thing of all…sacrifice.

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He lost his complete freedom to go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wished.

He lost his career and Guild membership.

He became enemies with multiple dangerous groups of people.

He has committed to an entire life on the run. As was evidenced by Chapter 4, stopping and settling down with a family doesn’t appear to be in the cards for Mando or his new son.

He has no idea what the lifespan of this child is or how long Baby will need him. 50 years old…still a baby who toddles and cannot yet speak. That’s some serious commitment.

He takes on a responsibility to care for someone that could well cost him his life.

Parents sacrifice for their children in countless ways every single day.

To be a parent is to lay your life down daily for someone else who is smaller and more vulnerable, who may not ever be able to repay you.

It’s a selfless, sacrificial kind of love.

It’s a 24/7 job that never lets up, especially if you are a single parent and, oh yeah, people are trying to kill you AND your kid!

The Mando has shown this kind of selfless love for a child who isn’t even his own blood. Not even his own species!

The Mandalorian is giving a beautiful place of honor to adoptive/foster relationships, fatherhood, and single parenting. And it’s stinkin’ awesome.

mando holding baby yoda cool

Mando on his own is really just another warrior with a bag of skills and shiny armor.

Mando as a father putting himself on the line for a tiny little Person?

That’s about as macho and cool as it gets!

Fatherhood is one of the most masculine and awesome things in this world, and I could not be more pleased that Mr. Favreau chose to make the theme of fatherhood the beating heart of a show that is one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen on screen.

For all of the horror, violence, and evil that is created and consumed by millions of people, it’s really nice to enjoy a show that gives honor to that which is truly honorable.

Here’s a shout-out to all of the awesome dads, step-dads, foster dads, adoptive dads, single-dads, grandpas, surrogate dads, teachers, mentors, coaches, pastors, big brothers, uncles, friends, and guys who are stepping up to the plate and raising the precious people that are our future. You guys are MVPs and we love you.

And I’d say you are in good company…

mando and yoda

Disney: Why Disney+ is a Good Thing

There have been mixed reactions since Disney announced their intention to create an exclusively Disney streaming service that will be available in 2019.

As more and more news has come out regarding the service, the conversation has heated up.

I’ve spent months thinking about the pros and cons of this service, how it is going to affect media in general. I have come to one conclusion…

…this Disney streaming service is a good good thing.

Here’s why.

Why Disney’s Streaming Service is Good for the Consumer

During a discussion on this very topic, someone brought up a very real point regarding the multitude of streaming options available. Yeah, I know I’ve felt like I am straddling so many different services it’s becoming obnoxious. The desire to find everything in one location (like shopping at Wal-Mart once rather than 5 different specialty grocery stores) is deeply appealing.

However…streaming services are not like grocery stores, they are more like the fast food of the visual storytelling world. They are fast and immediate.

I could spend fifteen minutes just listing the number of fast food options we have available in this country. Some are nationwide, like McDonalds, and some are more localized. Dear Folks, do give Braums a try if you are ever in the Lower Midwest.

That many options can be overwhelming, wouldn’t it be simpler to just have one?

Maybe. Would it be better? NOPE!

Ask any person in a one-stoplight town that has ONE McDonalds. They will give you a resounding NO.

nope kermit

 

One restaurant means the same food all the time. Occasionally there may be a new menu item added, but that’s rare. No guarantees on the quality of food or service, after all, there is no competition for our One Restaurant to force it to be its best in order to stay in business. Food, service, prices, bathroom cleanliness, our One Restaurant dictates these things because due to the law of scarcity, they can! They know we have nowhere else to go, they are our One Option if we want to eat out.

However, suppose we added five other restaurants to the mix? What happens?

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Now our One Restaurant is one of Many restaurants, we have other options, now they have to step up their game and compete, or go out of business.

Think about the deals we have available right now in fast food. Wendy’s 4 for 4. A McDonald’s $1, $2, and $3 menu. Taco Bell has a pretty dang tasty $1 menu. And on, and on, and on.

So much variety and constant change that is to our (the consumer)’s benefit.

Competition.

You may not have realized it, but I just described capitalism to you. Capitalism gets spread around the media like it’s a dirty word, and socialism is the “cool” thing that makes life better for everyone!

Wrong. Most people don’t actually understand capitalism or socialism. You love getting a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, fresh flowers from the farmer’s market, a toothbrush from Wal-Mart,  and a hand-knit wool hat from Etsy? Cool! Thank Capitalism!

Capitalism is not all about trampling everyone underfoot in a mad scramble for the top spot. Capitalism that is done right can create freedom, opportunity, options, and competing in a way that holds each business accountable. The ultimate judge and jury for said businesses? Us, the consumers.

I don’t know about you, but I really like options. Sure, if I decide to eat at Fazolis, I can’t eat at Taco Bell. We do eventually have to choose one thing or another. But that’s okay, I make the choices I want for my life. And I appreciate the ability to choose.

What does this have to do with Disney’s streaming service? Lemme tell ya…

…Disney just majorly upped the ante…and we as consumers are going to benefit.

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Netflix is gonna have to up their game. I know they are trying. Lost in Spacis a work of beautiful storytelling and art that I applaud from the highest mountain. They just signed a deal to create a Narnia series, another decision that I am incredibly excited about. Netflix has its claims to fame with Stranger Things, but that’s not gonna be enough anymore, and I am interested to see how Netflix decides to combat this new challenge.

Amazon is a fierce competitor. This online giant has more than just a streaming service in its empire, Amazon has a little bit of everything, and they are getting bigger by the day.

*Sidenote, just so that you can become aware, I am starting to suspect that Disney and Amazon are secretly working towards world domination, and one day this battle will come to a head. Choose wisely, Citizens, will you be a Prime Member or belong to the Micky Mouse Clubhouse? Sides must be chosen. Choose wisely.

We all know Disney is giving their streaming service the red-carpet treatment. They are intent upon taking every wish we have made upon a star and making it come true. And while I have a love/hate relationship with Disney, I have to honestly say, they usually deliver.

Yes, some of these streaming services/shows that exist are going to die. We are going to take some hits. Daredevil and it’s fellow Marvel shows are early casualties. I can understand why those shows will no longer be continuing from a business perspective, but I can also understand the grief from fans. I’m sorry you feel disappointed, folks. I know how that feels. *coughs, AGENT CARTER! 

In the end, however, we as consumers will reap the benefits. Every streaming service with its own content is going to have to do their absolute best to compete with Disney, which means better content with higher quality.

Now, onto the really fun part.

a whole new world gif

Why Disney’s Streaming Service Is Good for the Fan

Loki.

Scarlet Witch and The Vision.

The Mandalorian.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

Live Action Lady and the Tramp.

CASSIAN ANDOR!

 

when you wish upon a star.gif

I am looking at a whole new world right now, ladies and gentlemen. A world made possible by streaming services.

I am never going to stop going to the movie theater to enjoy movies on the big screen. I do not go to the theater because it is convenient, no, I go because I value the experience so highly. Millions of other movie fans do as well, therefore I have no fear that we will lose our movie theaters into the black hole of streaming services.

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Putting a movie into the theaters is more complicated than you may realize, however. It costs tons of money, and you have to not just make that money back, you have to make a large profit for that movie to be considered a success. Next, you have Blu-ray and digital sales, and then your film ends up on streaming services.

It’s a tough world, which means that film studios really have to be choosy about what they put their time and money into for the theaters and television. Despite the number of amazing characters and stories that we as fans love and want to see told, we are only given a few at a time because they HAVE to be picky. Which means that large groups of minority fans are left disappointed.

Enter, the Disney Streaming Service.

loki looking bad

Loki Odinson has delighted viewers since 2011. He’s a complex character, one moment the villain, the next, an antihero? He’s fast, his motives blurry, his emotions unpredictable. But what is predictable is the love of his fans for this character. A large minority of Marvel fans have been begging for a Loki film for years, but in the grand scheme of the Marvel storyline and budget, it just hasn’t made sense. Until now…

Loki is getting his own miniseries. Given how complex his character is, a miniseries is a far better format for his story than a film would be. Miniseries have the option of telling a story more slowly and going into greater personal depth than movies do. It’s just the type of storytelling the god of mischief deserves.

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Scarlet Witch and The Vision are all about exploring what it means to be human. They are complex enough characters on their own, and together? Even more so. They have not been given the amount of time required to really dig deeply into the wealth their characters’ have to offer. Not to mention these characters are not big enough mainstream favorites for a full theater release to be profitable. But a miniseries? Perfect!

captain cassian andor

The moment I saw Captian Cassian Andor my brain was on fire (yes, the man is gorgeous). But what truly got me electrified was the story he represents. It’s the untold story of the darker side of the Rebellion. A dark, painful, morally complicated side. A whole realm of questions and potential we have never seen before. We had no time for side trips in Rogue One, it was such a beautiful and focused movie that was precisely what it should have been. But at the end, my heart didn’t just ache for what we had lost, my heart ached over the stories that had been briefly introduced that I felt we had lost. Stories that I was desperate to discover. And now, I can.

the mandalorian

The Mandalorian. I’ve watched 6 Seasons of Clone Wars and 4 Seasons of Star Wars Rebels. Mandalorians are the kinds of characters that take up all the oxygen in a room. They need to be explored. I love how Star Wars films/series have recently started exploring more characters beyond just the high profile heroes and villains. It’s a fascinating world, let us explore it more!

Falcon

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I am constantly saying that Sam Wilson never gets the credit or time he deserves. He’s just the greatest guy ever and I am so thrilled to finally get to see more of him. And we can all agree that there is a big question mark hanging over Bucky Barnes’ life. It’s about time.

white wolf

My other big hope for this streaming service is that we will have resurrected series/films. Star Wars fans fell off of their tauntauns when we discovered that our beloved Clone Wars series (which ended horribly) was being renewed for a proper send off. Dreams really do come true!

swtcw

My personal request is that shows like Agent Carter and Girl Meets World who ended FAR TOO SOON would be next up on the renewal docket. These shows had strong enough fanbases and quality storytelling to make said endeavors worthwhile. But we shall see.

Don’t you all understand? The possibilities available to us? The potential? We may actually get a National Treasure 3 out of this service! It would flop in theaters but on the service?

And the best part yet, the monthly cost for this magical service is supposed to be less than Netflix.

take my money

In conclusion, Disney is moving into the 21st Century with style. And we, the consumers and fans are going to reap the benefits.

disney movies

I can’t wait. How about you?