McDonaldland – The Gritty Reboot

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McDONALDLAND (the gritty noirish reboot for 2017)

A clever handyman from a poor neighborhood fights a corrupt mayor and organized crime to save an orphanage – and an orphan.

RONALD is a popular guy in McNugget Heights, a low-class neighborhood in the hard city of McDonaldland. He’s a clever and creative handyman who only works alone, and never works for free. One day, a young ORPHAN GIRL watches him improvise a solution for an old lady neighbor, who rewards him not with money but with a shiny golden key, assuring him it’s extremely valuable. She urges him to keep it secret. That night, the orphan shows up at Ronald’s doorstep. Ronald reluctantly allows her to sleep on his couch, promising to get rid of her somewhere tomorrow. That night, the HAMBURGLAR attempts to rob Ronald’s place; Ronald fights him off, with help from the orphan and a good frying pan.

The next morning, Ronald takes the kid for pancakes before taking her downtown to see BIRDIE, a childhood friend who is now a selfless city attorney. Birdie recommends a city-funded orphanage, but the orphan tells her no — the mayor has closed it down, that’s why she went to Ronald to begin with. Ronald and Birdie both despise bullies, and the mayor is a bully, and Birdie is impressed that Ronald would care so much for the kid…so Ronald agrees to her plan: they will bully the mayor right back and get that orphanage re-opened.

The Hamburglar meets with CAPTAIN CROOK, the pirate leader who runs this town’s organized pirate crime. Crook threatens to kill the Hamburglar if he doesn’t bring him what he wants: that golden key. He gives the Hamburglar another chance to get it, and insists that the Hamburglar take his goons, the FRY GUYS and GRIMACE. Meanwhile, Birdie crashes a press conference for MAYOR McCHEESE, humiliating him on his record of defunding important city services like police, schools, parking meters and (now) the orphanage. The Hamburglar and the Fry Guys tear Ronald’s apartment apart; they don’t find the key, but they do take all of Ronald’s hamburgers. Grimace meets Ronald and the kid outside his apartment as they return; Ronald offers the kid to the criminals if they’ll just leave him alone. No dice, says Grimace, and they have a fight. Ronald is no match for the brute, but he comes up with a clever ruse in an improvised disguise, fooling the giant. With additional help from the kid, he manages to escape. The kid, it seems, is quick on her feet, good in a fight. But his apartment is destroyed and they are not safe.

The Mayor meets with Captain Crook to try & get him to take down Birdie; the pirate laughs at him, saying the Mayor owes him his mayorship. That was their deal – McCheese is mayor, Captain Crook no longer has to worry about pesky cops. He says no to killing Birdie, but has a plan: since she’s pals with the guy who has the key he’s after, he will have the Hamburglar kidnap her. Meanwhile, Ronald and the kid temporarily move in with Birdie & regroup. Birdie tells him of her work outside of work, and Ronald chastises her for working for free. She tells him she doesn’t work for free, but rewards aren’t always money. She produces a weekly video blog because she believes in the goodness of McDonaldland, and wants to make it a good place to live again. Drinks get drunk. Romance brews…until Ronald tries to convince Birdie to look after the kid so he can go his own way. She sees through his selfish charade and tells him NO to watching the kid for him — and NO to romance.

The Hamburglar enters Birdie’s house late at night. He sees the key around Ronald’s neck and uses Birdie as bait to get him to give it up. He does, but the Fry Guys kidnap Birdie anyway. Grimace stays behind to finish what he started. A nasty fight takes them outside, where, once again, Ronald fashions a disguise, and by outwitting a witless giant, appears to gain the upper hand. Before he kills Grimace, however, the orphan asks him not to — she sees that he’s sympathetic; he’s been bullied his whole life. At the kid’s insistence, he offers to help Grimace break free of the pirates if he helps them take down Captain Crook (and the Mayor) and get Birdie back. Ronald now sees what Birdie meant about rewards not always being money.

The Hamburglar delivers the key he stole from Ronald to Captain Crook, who then reveals its true power: it is the Key to the City, and it can open any building door in town. Captain Crook makes copies and gives them to pirate ruffians; he sends them on their first errand: raiding the homes of the remaining police force. The Hamburglar realizes to his horror that he just gave complete power to the pirates.

Meanwhile, Ronald, the kid and Grimace use Birdie’s video equipment to upload videos describing secrets of the pirates, how they have been bullying the populace, and how the Mayor is working for Captain Crook. Ronald delivers a quick speech about rising up together as a community, with power in numbers, as the perfect way to help Birdie. The video goes viral. People are furious, and protests break out; they clash with pirates, quickly turning into riots. The city is in flames.

In an effort to right a wrong that would haunt him, the Hamburglar finds Ronald and tells him where the pirates are holding Birdie. Ronald, the kid, Grimace and the Hamburglar steer a local riot towards the pirates’ ship at the docks. Ronald goes after Birdie while the Hamburglar duels in a suave swordfight with Captain Crook; after some clever wordplay, the Hamburglar wins. Ronald takes care of the Fry Guys and some other pirates, and emerges from the ship with Birdie…

…to find the Mayor waiting for them with some pirates. He tells them to kill them, but Grimace and the kid burst onto the scene – in disguise! – and Grimace gets the pirates to chase after him instead, leaving Ronald and Birdie alone with the mayor. The kid notes that the Mayor has been caught on camera describing his crimes. He’s going down. Day is saved. Happy family time. Milkshakes. And in the ashes of a burned-down McDonaldland, a new mayor, free of corruption and greed, takes the place of the old mayor. A new orphanage is opened to provide a place for homeless children, and a new family — Ronald, Birdie and the kid — settle into a new home in the charming neighborhood of McNugget Heights.

McDonaldland - The Gritty Reboot - Characters Infographic

So Long, 2016

2016 was a year where a lot of bad things happened.

Like, a LOT of bad things. A lot of really, really bad things.

Some of it consumed us. Some of it flew under the radar, avoiding the headlines.

Many things had never happened to us before and we didn’t know how to deal with them. Many things did happen that we should have remembered from history, but somehow we forgot, and we repeated our great mistakes.

It’s hard to find someone who’d disagree that 2016 was, on the whole, a terrible, terrible year.

But many good things happened. Most of them happened at an individual level, and the country or the world would never know, but YOU know, because they happened to YOU.

Robin Williams once said, “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

My hope for next year is not that we forget the bad things.

My hope is that we remember the good things as well — and in remembering the good with the bad, we learn to take a more mature, balanced view of the big round world.

Caitlyn Jenner: a Different Kind of Brave

Caitlyn Jenner Drawing

Immediately after Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover came out, my Facebook feed was filled to the brim with happiness and hope and support and all kinds of wonderful, positive things, among them kudos on the bravery of doing something like that.

Then, shortly after that, I saw half a dozen of those wounded vet memes that throws the word bravery back in our faces. And it disturbed me. So I whipped up a Facebook status update and gave it back to Facebook, and it started a conversation that ended up going in a completely different direction. Continue reading “Caitlyn Jenner: a Different Kind of Brave”