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First Look And Details For Disney’s Raya And The Last Dragon, Starring Kelly Marie Tran

Raya and the Last Dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon first details!

In recent years, Disney has been working to diversify its princess lineup. We’ve had leads like Tiana and Moana taking center stage, I thought they were good starts, but of course, they can always do much more. Asians are some of the least represented demographics in Hollywood, and though they put out Mulan, I’ve been excited to see what kind of “Disney Princess” story they’d tell in CG. For quite some time the name Raya and the Last Dragon has been floating around, but now we have first details for the film, including a first image.

The image features Raya along with her trusty companion Tuk Tuk.

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON – As an evil force threatens the kingdom of Kumandra, it is up to warrior Raya, and her trusty steed Tuk Tuk, to leave their Heart Lands home and track down the last dragon to help stop the villainous Druun. © 2020 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The Cast

For starters, Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran is playing Raya herself. She took over the role from Cassie Steele. The reason for this change wasn’t specified. And in regards to her casting, the directors claimed they knew from the beginning that Tran was the one.

“We had this little dramatic moment; it was written as a few lines. And I remember her going, ‘Hey, I have some ideas because this is normally how I would say this or I have some questions. Do you mind if I tried it a little bit differently?’” one of the directors, Carlos López Estrada, recalled. “She went for it, improvised for a minute, and had us all in tears. We changed the scene and reblocked the animation so that it would follow what Kelly did that day because she just clicked on something that was so much bigger than anything we had imagined.”

Voicing Sisu, a dragon in human form, is Awkwafina.

Creative Talent

Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada are directors and Paul Briggs and John Ripa are co-directors. Penning the script are playwright Qui Nguyen and Crazy Rich Asians scribe Adele Lim.

“As filmmakers, Don and Carlos bring a combination of animation know-how and emotional storytelling to Raya and the Last Dragon, bringing our fantasy adventure to surprising, original, and dynamic heights,” Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee told EW in a statement. “They both saw the potential for this film and had a strong vision for the story, especially for our lead character, played by the wonderfully talented Kelly Marie Tran. And no small feat, directors Don and Carlos, writers Qui and Adele, and the entire crew of 400 Disney Animation artists are making this film together, while separated and working from home.”

Yes, you read that right. They are making this film working from home. Production ramped up in March, and that’s basically when the entire world shut down. As such, you can bet at least a large chunk of this film will have been created under COVID-19 conditions, which is a first.

Behind The Scenes

Raya and the Last Dragon is also the first Disney animated film to be based on Southeast Asia, so you can imagine the importance in capturing the essence of that culture and location. 

“When you’re telling a story and you’re just doing it based on research, you end up always having to do it from the high end,” Nguyen said. “To have the artists who represent those cultures in there to be able to give the subtleties of what our families are actually like, what our relationships are actually like, has given a lot of nuances to this great adventure. To be able to have some [heroes] that look like me and my kids, it’s gonna matter to a lot of folks.”

Timeliness Of the Story

Ironically enough, it sounds like Raya and the Last Dragon will be dealing with some timely stuff. I say ironically just because of how many years movies like this take to get made. 

“I don’t know if Disney has ever made a movie that reflects so much what is happening with the world outside,” López Estrada said. “Even though our team has been working on this movie for years and years and years, it’s going to feel like an idea that we had maybe a month ago because it talks so much about the themes and the questions and the hope that’s happening today and also the lack of hope, and this wrestling with all these really, really important emotions that are happening right now.”

This makes me all the more interested to know just what the story is about. The best films from Disney are the ones that shoot for timelessness, and based on those comments, it sounds like that’s what they’ve accomplished. 

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Here is the official synopsis for the film. You can take a look at it and figure out just how it could be twisted to reflect the current times.

“Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun for good. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than dragon magic to save the world—it’s going to take trust as well.”

Reading that, it’s hard not to see the parallels. One would think it would be easy to unite the world against a force, but as we have learned, that isn’t always the case. Of course, that’s just me twisting the film’s story into something I can see as relevant, but I’m curious about what you think.

What do you think of the first look at Raya and the Last Dragon? Sound off in the comment down below!

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SOURCE: EW, Disney

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