With the pandemic and all, you can be excused for not knowing Walt Disney Animation Studios next release. In fact, the teaser trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon, which was shown on TV a few months ago, presented a whole different tone than today’s release, which could add to the confusion. It’s another bold move for Disney presenting something that looks totally new and yet feels strangely familiar. The studio promises to take us all on an exciting, epic journey to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony.
The story centers around a strong female character much like Mulan, Moana and Merida. This time it’s Raya. As a young girl, Raya looked up to her beloved father Benja, Chief of the Heart Lands. He’s the legendary Guardian of the Dragon Gem, is an idealistic and bold visionary who seeks to reunite the fractured kingdom of Kumandra and restore harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity.
Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. When she does, it turns out that this dragon isn’t as fearless as they had hoped. In addition, this dragon can turn into a human. Together Raya, Sisu and their ragtag group realize that it’s going to take trust and teamwork to defeat Raya’s nemesis Namaari.
Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada are directing, with Paul Briggs and John Ripa co-directing. Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho are the producers, and Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim are the writers on the project.
The voice cast for Raya and the Last Dragon is equally impressive. Kelly Marie Tran as the voice of the intrepid warrior Raya; Awkwafina as the legendary dragon, Sisu; 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; 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.
Alan Tudyk is in this too as Tuk Tuk, Raya’s best friend and trusty steed, which is a step up from his last film. In Moana, he played a stupid roaster.
Raya and the Last Dragon will be available on Disney+ with Premier Access in most Disney+ markets, at the same time as it is released in theaters on March 5, 2021. Premier Access for the title will be priced at $29.99.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.