How to Train Your Dragon: What Hiccup and Toothless Mean to Me

…I looked at him, and I saw myself.

I know this is what Hiccup felt when he saw Toothless, but it’s an apt description for how I felt as well. I looked at Hiccup, and I saw myself.

15-16 years old, same age as Hiccup, I was at the beginning of a pretty horrible 5-6 years. I was sitting on my bed checking out this movie, How To Train Your Dragon, that everyone seemed so excited about. If I liked it, I’d show my family.

And I saw him. I saw a boy, an adorable boy. A boy who felt out of place in his world that only valued things he was not able to achieve. He didn’t know who to be, how to be. He was lost.

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But I also saw what lay beneath the surface, hidden below the aching loneliness and insecurity. A deep gentleness, his art speaks of that. A thinker, a planner, an inventer. And a friend.

The key to why How to Train Your Dragon is so special is not because there are dragons. Not because of the animation (which is breathtaking). Not because of the voice cast. Not even because of the amazing music. Music that I have listened to over and over again, sometimes during the hardest or emptiest moments of my life because it gave me hope and courage.

No, the key to How To Train Your Dragon is relationship.

That is the sole foundation, the common thread, the stone upon which the story is built.

Fierce Toothless

How to Train Your Dragon is the story of a remarkable friendship that not only shapes two remarkable individuals but also changes the course of the world’s history.

I felt like I was drinking from the fountain of youth during the scene where Hiccup and Toothless first bond. The colors, the movement, the soul! The connection of two characters who find not only belonging with one another but healing as well. It was so beautiful it made my heart thirst.

I was in tears when Toothless and Hiccup flew for the first time. Yes, of course, the music is triumphant, but they are free. So free. Out there in that wild wind and ever-changing and alive sky. That moment captured things in my heart that had been burning for as long as I could remember.

At that time in my life, like Hiccup, I wanted to run away. I felt trapped by my circumstances, by the strife in my family, by my own body as crushing anxiety caused terrifying symptoms to exhibit themselves. School became this heavy burden that I felt inadequate to bear. I wanted to leave, to find purpose and adventure somewhere else!

That was 6 years ago. In the time in between, somewhat like Hiccup, I have lost a parent through a divorce and the climax of decades of pain. I’ve had my world turned on its ear countless times. I’ve had to grow from child to woman under some very difficult circumstances.

And yet…I’ve learned to soar.

Flying Toothless

I always wanted to be free. As a child and teenager, I used to have these dreams where I found a stretch of rolling green hills. I knew that those hills ran on and on and on, into the wide open space of the West, into mountains and big skies. In the dreams, I would take off running into that world, nothing but me and miles of freedom. I could leave my problems behind me.

Running away. It would have been easy for Hiccup to jump onto Toothless’ back and take off into the sunset, never to return. He could have become a dragon-person like his mother, living apart from the human world. It was too hard to bring change, too hard to go against the grain. Too hard.

Hiccup does consider running away, but he is halted by the future love of his life, Astrid (a love story that deserves more attention on another day). Astrid has a way of calling the man out of Hiccup when no one else can. Not just the Man, the Chief.

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For that is who Hiccup is meant to be, he is meant to be a chief. A king, a leader, a pillar of strength for his people. This is who he is destined to be. Who people need him to be. 

Valka (Hiccup’s mother) had a very similar heart to her son, but she lacked his courage and determination. She lacked his hope. Valka never chose to return to her family and village, thus robbing them of the life and change she could have brought.

I had/have people who needed me to. I too have a destiny. And that destiny does not come in the solitude of those rolling green hills of my dreams. Hiccup finds freedom right where he is at, and because he stays and steps into the responsibility of who he was made to be…

he changes the world forever.

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I did too. I stayed. It felt like death sometimes, but I stayed. No, I hadn’t actually been planning on hopping on a plane to run away, but I was toying with the idea of running away in my heart. Checking out. Leaving it all behind to set off on a “grand adventure”.

Oh, what I would have missed. I might have missed changing the world forever. 

I’m free now. I have found the freedom I was looking for in the Heart of My King, My Abba Father. This thirst for the wild, alive skies? The rolling green hills? The adventures? He put those things inside of me, and now I know I do not have to run away to find them, I just have to run to Him.

I also found myself, in Him, in His freedom, in my relationship with Jesus and the relationships I built, I found me.

I’m a lot like Hiccup. I’m a peacemaker, a strategist, a warrior, an artist, a thinker, a friend…and a leader who thrives on connection.

Hiccup is the kind of leader that I aspire to be. He does not lead out of a desire for control, he leads to make a difference. People are drawn to Hiccup because he lifts them up, he brings fresh ideas and purpose to the table, and he draws the best out of everyone around him. Hiccup is a redeemer, he gives second chances and forgiveness willingly.

hiccup a warrior

We get to observe this type of leadership more so in Dragons: Race to the Edge the series on Netflix that takes place between HTTYD 1 and HTTYD 2. If you have not watched this series, I highly recommend it. It’s in this series that we watch Hiccup go from being a boy to becoming a man. A king!

You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon.

His mother is right. Hiccup is a noble leader with a fierce and gentle heart. It’s a long and often painful road that leads him to become who he was meant to be. I can relate to that. If I had known what my life held for me I don’t know if I would have gotten in line. 😉

But I’m here now. I’m me. And I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it hadn’t been for the relationships and connections that upheld me to this point…just like Hiccup and Toothless.

Hiccup and Toothless were two broken people who needed each other to fly. The strength of their friendship as they walked through those hard years together is what enables both of them to walk their own respective paths when the time comes.

God is everything to me. He’s the air I breathe, the dreams I have, the plans I make, the colors I love, the gifts I carry, the bright future I walk into. My mom and siblings have stuck by me through thick and thin, and we have held each other up in the dark of night and the light of day. I have a wonderful group of friends who I have laughed and cried with over the years. My circle is ever expanding, my ability to influence for truth and love is ever-growing.

I love my life. I love my story, even the ugly parts. Because the person I was destined to be is beautiful and I am going to change this world.

Taming Toothless

Hiccup and Toothless began their story together as youths, but they part ways as kings.

I feel as if I have grown up with Hiccup. I have been inspired and encouraged by this oh-so-human character and his oh-so-human best friend and the story of them facing life together. Like Hiccup and Toothless, I began this story as a youth, I am parting from this story as a queen.

However, unlike Hiccup and Toothless, my story is just beginning.

My relationship and connection with this story, with these characters has changed me. I am so sad to be saying goodbye, but I am so grateful for the journey. How To Train Your Dragon was and still is a powerful influence for good in my life.

One last battle. One last journey. A friendship to last a lifetime. See you at the movies.

hiccup and toothless, kings

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.

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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!

 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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I can’t wait. How about you?

 

Lost In Space: Storytelling Done Right

Is anyone else kind of obsessed with Netflix’ remake of the old 1960’s sci-fi show Lost in Space? *warning, slight spoilers ahead*

I didn’t know much about the show until I saw a preview at the movie theater. It looked shockingly interesting. As soon as I saw the first episode I was hooked. Lost in Space is one of the best TV shows I have come across in a long time, and I’ll tell you why.

Lost in Space is visually gorgeous, both the sets and the CGI are amazing. It nails the science/fiction part every single time. It has intrigue. A shadowy timeline. A colorful world. There is so much material for new plot threads that I am confident this show has a long and prosperous future ahead of it.

But none of the reasons I listed above are the core of why Lost in Space is such a phenomenal show. There’s another, more encompassing reason.

Lost in Space is storytelling done RIGHT!

The opening sequence of the pilot episode drops us into action almost immediately. We see the Robinson family seated around their “table” playing a game of Go-Fish. Sounds normal, right?

lost in space

Actually, no. The normalcy of a casual family game night is starkly contrasted by the fact that the family is wearing space suits and strapped to their seats in a ship that appears to be plummeting out of orbit onto some unknown planet’s surface.

How did they get there? Why is their ship crashing? Are they the only people in this corner of the galaxy? Is this just normal and terrifying landing procedure?

These immediate questions are grounded with a few layers of underlying tension that we are immediately shown between the characters. John Robinson is at odds with his children, especially his strong eldest daughter Judy. His wife Maureen is calm and collected, but there is a coolness in her manner towards him. Clearly, there is something going on in this family, but what is it?

We don’t have time for answers, because our ship is crashing, straight into an iceberg and cold, icy waters! The family makes it out into an ice cave, but their equipment is still inside their submerged ship and they are going to need extra help to survive the cold night.

lost in space ice cave

More family tension. The youngest Will (I adore this child) is the only one small enough to fit into the jammed hatch at the top of the ship. But he’s afraid, never fear! Brave big sister Judy is here! Judy plunges into the waters against her father John’s commands (again, what happened to this family) and attempts to retrieve equipment herself. Problem is, she is unable to get out of the icy water before it freezes over, trapping her in the thick ice just inches from the surface.

*cue panic attack* Claustrophobes know what I mean right here.

Maureen has a severely damaged leg, but her brilliant mind is still trying to work on behalf of her family. Still, her usefulness is compromised. Judy is trapped in the ice with several hours of air left in her suit, no amount of spunk or gumption is going to get her out of this mess. John is trying to keep himself to together while he attempts to free Judy, but he feels like he’s failing yet again. Will feels guilty that his beloved older sister is trapped because of his “weakness”, something you get the inkling he believes about himself a lot. Penny exhibits much of the lost behavior that is often attributed to middle children, she’s falling through the cracks yet again and doesn’t know how to contribute.

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This is a brilliant setup. Want to know why?

The best stories in any genre are always character driven. 

In just a few short moments, we already know important details about the Robinson family, the people who are the heart and soul of this show. We are given hints of their strengths, but we are more clearly shown their weaknesses in this beginning. We see how these weaknesses are not only affecting them as individuals but especially as a unit. We are put right there in their shoes, we feel their panic, their anger, their confusion. We feel the weight of every problem facing them right now, and at the same time, we have so many questions.

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This is how you tell a story without using the infamous “info dump” that so many storytellers make the mistake of using. An audience doesn’t need every detail to fall in love with a character and their story, they just need the right details and they are hooked. We were shown the heart of Lost in Space immediately as we are introduced to the Robinsons’ humanity and immediately given a chance to root for their success.

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I am pleased to say Lost in Space follows this pattern for the entire series. We are never given an information dump, we have to fight for the reveal of every piece of info we ever get, but we still don’t feel cheated in the waiting for those reveals.

Lost in Space strikes the perfect balance between the past and the present. We spend most of our time in the present, our immediate problems. Unknown robots. Fuel-eating eels. Mysterious characters who hide their true colors. Strange beasts. And above all, a need to get back on track.

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Much like real life, the Robinsons and all other characters have to stay in the moment, even as pieces of the past are revealed, and old wounds are dealt with.

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We already know that we are rooting for these Robinsons. We can’t help it. Not only are they our heroes, but we understand them on a human level. John aches over the time he missed with his family but really feels at a loss for how to repair that damage. Maureen is a red-headed Wonder Woman, is there anything she cannot do? But she’s lacking, there is something missing. Judy doesn’t know how to let herself fall apart, but she also knows she’s not fine. Penny is taking it one day at a time, but she still feels lost. Will wonders if he will ever be more than a failure and a weakling.

Other characters throw in unique problems and questions. Dr. Smith still blows my mind, I never know what to expect next. I have never seen a character quite like her, and she scares me more than 85% of the villains on screen.

 

 

 

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Don West’s I-couldn’t-care-less facade is quickly derailed by his adorable acts of compassion. He grows more endearing by the episode, and I am a huge fan of his precious chicken Debbie.

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Among all of these questions, theories, hidden histories, and secrets, one thing is starkly clear to us. This family needs to fix the fault lines within their circle. They need each other to survive. We can see who they are, how much they love each other, and how powerful they are as a unit, therefore we root for unity to be restored.

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Season 1 ended perfectly. We saw the Robinsons overcome, and reunite, and we saw the power of that newfound strength and unity.

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Maureen is smart and powerful, but she is even better when she has other strong people like her husband John at her side. John has failed to be there for his family in the past, but he’s here now and he’s never leaving again. Judy learns that it is not a weakness to be human, to not be okay sometimes, and her experiences simply feed into her already fierce compassion. Penny is not falling through the cracks, she’s a glue that holds her family together. She has a place and a purpose. And Will, sweet, kind Will learns what we have seen since the very beginning, Will is incredibly brave.

As this family repairs itself, they make a difference not just for themselves, but for those around them. Every other character is delivered because the Robinsons are together again. We started this story seeing the Robinsons’ greatest weaknesses and broken places, and we end Season 1 seeing them thriving with their combined strengths.

Robinsons stick together.

Season 1 was tough for this family. They barely hung on, but in the end, they stuck together and it changed the story for everyone. Considering that cliffhanger we were left on, this united front is going to be vital for the family’s survival going into Season 2. They are up against some terrifying unknowns, but so long as they stick together, they are going to be okay.

The writers of Lost in Space made sure that no matter where this story takes us, we would have one solid thread, the Robinson family. They are our core, our heartbeat, our purpose. We are rooting for them all the way, and no matter what colorful, frightening, or bizarre events they face in future seasons, we know we can always count on one thing….

….Robinsons stick together.

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That’s storytelling done right, my friends. Now, who else is ready for a Season 2?

Lost in Space Season 1 is Currently Streaming on NetflixIf you want a cleaner version for your family, Lost in Space is also available for filtered streaming on Vid-Angel