It looks like Disney has done it once again. While in 2016, Moana shot off the charts with a powerful Polynesian woman as the leading character, the release of “Raya and the Last Dragon” has followed in its footsteps.
This Southeast Asian princess has joined many of the newer representations of race that we are frequently finding in our new animated shows. Disney broke out with Moana, transferred to Elena and now we have Raya. The movie was released on Disney+ with premiere access for an additional 30 dollars on Mar. 5, 2021.
This Disney movie has all kinds of imagery of traditional Asian culture. This story stems from mythology from several parts of Asia. This was thanks to the original screenplay writers Oui Nguyen and Adele Lim. This allowed many set and character artists to create a vivid world with both magic and truth.
The Disney team even created a Southeast Asia Story Trust, which created a coalition with visual anthropologists, linguists, botany, choreography, architecture and variously skilled members of the team.
Disney is picking up its game in recent years. While there is still an expanding system and animation system, they are getting more realistic in each movie. Being able to maintain the animation while blending in character beliefs is a feat in itself.
Other than Mulan, we haven’t seen too many Disney movies with such engaging action scenes. The fight scenes are a bit more explicit than many other creations they have made in the past. While Raya wields a sword, much like Mulan had, we actually get to see her use it!
Raya travels to find the last dragon in order to save Kumandra from a plague that is starting to take over all while her journey is challenged by choices and her nemesis Namaari.
The highlights I caught in “Raya and the Last Dragon” vary from person to person.
Her most important ones that I noticed were the development of trust, choice and teamwork amongst her small group of companions. While friendship is often important in many movies made by Disney, this one is encouraging and engaging.
The cast was phenomenal with Kelly Marie Tran voicing Raya and Awkwafina voicing Sisu. Gemma Chan voiced Namaari, and multiple other cast members are credited with bringing these characters to life.
The score was beautiful, and it allowed for many variations. The soft soundtracks for tender moments, and the intense scores for any battle or moment to remember. This is James Newton Howard’s fourth time producing music for an animated film from Disney, and he hasn’t failed us yet!
The graphics and art create an incredibly interactive environment. The story is engaging for children and adults alike. I found the movie endearing and rather risqué compared to Disney Animation Studio’s recent films.
The sight of blood was surprising to see, and not many of their animations convey such imagery. Yet, with such a strong story, I think it worked out well. You get to see things how they are, not the shielded cushy story many think Disney produces.
You really get to see Raya challenge herself and challenge members of her group to be better. “Raya and the Last Dragon” may have been one of the most popular Disney animations to rise up in years. I genuinely wonder what Disney will pull out of their sleeve next.