Raya and the Last Dragon: Everything You Need to Know
1/26/2021 • 4 min read
Walt Disney Animation will soon take us to a magical new kingdom where dragons once soared through the skies. RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON takes place in a world not unlike the distant past of our own Earth. Even in this fantasy realm, however, dragons have vanished, and one young warrior embarks upon a quest to find the last remaining dragon.
Here's everything we know about Disney's new animated movie RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON.
The Raya and the Last Dragon Release Date
RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON comes to theatres on March 5, 2021.
Watch the Two Raya and the Last Dragon Trailers!
If you've wondered how to pronounced "Raya," the teaser trailer will clue you in. It's a good introduction to the character and her story. The first RAYA trailer also gives some hint of the style and scope of Raya's world — it's a short but tantalizing look at the movie. There's a little bit of INDIANA JONES and a lot of Disney fantasy.
The new RAYA trailer has a lot more info about the story, and it also has a con artist baby! Oh, and we get to meet the dragon Sisu for the first time.
What Is Raya and the Last Dragon About?
We know that the movie takes place in a land called Kumandra, which was described at the D23 conference as "a reimagined earth inhabited by an ancient civilization" in which five clans make up the population of the major land. There, humans and dragons once lived together in harmony, until the dragons sacrificed themselves to preserve human life.
The title character, Raya, is a warrior trained to protect a relic of that sacrifice, but she faces a huge problem: The peace between clans is fractured, and now the evil thought to have been destroyed by the dragons has returned.
Now Raya has to find the last dragon in her world. That's Sisu, said to be "a water dragon who is the last of her kind and can transform into a human." (The new trailer suggests that she didn't even know she could transform until it happens.) There is also at least one more major character who is yet to be revealed.
Meanwhile, Raya has help from her friend and steed, Tuk Tuk, which director Don Hall has described as something like a bear with elements reminiscent of “an insect version of an armadillo.”
The Cast of Raya and the Last Dragon
The lead voice actors in the RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON cast are Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina. Tran (of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI) plays Raya, "a fearless and passionate warrior with a winning charm who is searching for the last dragon." The character was originally set to be voiced by Cassie Steele, but Tran took over as production shifted in 2020. And then Nora Lum, aka Awkwafina (THE FAREWELL, CRAZY RICH ASIANS), voices the water dragon Sisu.
The cast also includes Gemma Chan as Raya’s nemesis, Namaari; Daniel Dae Kim as Raya’s visionary father, Benja; Sandra Oh as Namaari’s powerful mother, Virana; Benedict Wong as Tong, a formidable giant; Izaac Wang as Boun, a 10-year-old entrepreneur; Thalia Tran as the mischievous toddler Little Noi; Alan Tudyk as Tuk Tuk, Raya’s best friend and trusty steed; Lucille Soong as Dang Hu, the leader of the land of Talon; Patti Harrison as the chief of the Tail land; and Ross Butler as chief of the Spine land.
The Filmmakers Behind Raya and the Last Dragon
While RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON has been in development for a while, the real production was just getting started as the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. As a result, this is the first Disney Animation movie to be created by a team working remotely, with many animators contributing from home. The creative team shifted around a bit as well. Now Don Hall (BIG HERO 6 director, MOANA writer) and Carlos López Estrada (BLINDSPOTTING) are directors, with Paul Briggs (head of story on BIG HERO 6) and John Ripa (head of story on MOANA) as co-directors.
The fantasy movie is written by Adele Lim (CRAZY RICH ASIANS, "Lethal Weapon," "Life on Mars"), who said at D23 that RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON will be informed by Southeast Asian themes. In 2020, playwright Qui Nguyen signed on as co-writer.
An Unusual Production
One of the most notable aspects of the movie is that Carlos López Estrada is new to animation. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee told Entertainment Weekly, "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. 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.”
And just as MOANA benefited from extensive research into Polynesian cultures, RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON is heavily informed by the cultures of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. A Southeast Asia Story Trust was established to ensure a faithful representation of characters and culture, with the input of a wide array of anthropologists, musicians, artists, and dancers.
We'll have more info about RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON soon!
All images courtesy of Walt Disney Animation.