Movie Review: ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ is an action-packed new Disney classic
A headstrong girl who loves her home, her village, and her family. A mysterious dragon that’s the last of her kind, and the key to saving the world. “Raya and the Last Dragon” is an adventurous tale that can show us all just how vital it is to learn to trust again in the face of trials and tribulations.
In Walt Disney Animation Studios’ newest film, the titular Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) sets out to track down the legendary last dragon, Sisu (voiced by Awkwafina) to help restore her fractured land of Kumandra and bring its divided people together. However, she’ll learn along the way that it’ll take trust and teamwork to reunite her people.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” features an immensely talented cast alongside Tran and Awkwafina, including Gemma Chan as Namaari; Benedict Wong as Tong; Izaac Wang as Boun; Daniel Dae Kim as Chief Benja; Sandra Oh as Virana; Thalia Tran as Little Noi; and Alan Tuduk as Tuk Tuk.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” starts off as a beautiful, “Avatar: The Last Airbender”-esque tale of the mythical land of Kumandra and its five regions: Heart, Fang, Spine, Talon, and Tail – all named for the parts of a dragon. I was immediately drawn into the story and cared right away for the heroine, especially after seeing her interactions with her father.
The visuals of the film are, to me, quite a step up from “Frozen 2,” with moments in “Raya” making me question if it was truly animation or some future-form of motion capture. This is even further demonstrated in the fight choreography between Raya and Namaari, which is intense, realistic, and quite grown-up in a way we haven’t seen since Disney’s “Mulan.”
Tran is a true star as Raya, and imbues her with all of the heart, headstrong stubbornness and maturity of a princess hardened by a traumatic event that affected not only her and her family, but her entire community.
The score, composed by Emmy- and Grammy-winner James Newton Howard, is catchy and infectious, providing the perfect backdrop for this winding adventure through a blend of many Southeast Asian cultures and lands.
At its heart, “Raya and the Last Dragon” is a timely-yet-timeless story about trust, how we need it in order to help one another survive, and how prejudice and hate are not born traits and can be unlearned. This film is a perfect spiritual companion to the likes of “Moana,” and will no doubt inspired young children and adults alike to examine their lives a bit more during these challenging times and maybe even learn to trust one another again.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” will release simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ as a Premier Access release on March 5, priced at $29.99. Once you have unlocked Premier Access, you’ll be able to watch it as long as you have a subscription to Disney+.
For those who aren’t yet ready to return to theaters and don’t want to pay the extra fee, you’ll have to wait until June 4, 2021, when the film will be released for all Disney+ subscribers.
In the Parks
You can find “Raya and the Last Dragon”-inspired offerings in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort, including a chance to draw Raya’s companion Tuk Tuk at The Animation Experience at Conservation Station.
Over at the Discovery Island Stage near the front of the park, guests can also see a 40-ton sand sculpture celebrating the new film, featuring Raya, Tuk Tuk, Sisu the last dragon, and the Ongi. This sculpture will be on display through the end of March.
Also found at the park are plenty of specialty snacks and merchandise inspired by the new animated film.
Check out the latest trailer for the film below, and catch it in theaters or on Disney+ starting March 5.
What if there’s a roller coaster based on “Raya and the Last Dragon” but manufactured by Bolliger and Mabillard coming to Walt Disney World and other Disney Parks? Disney must work with B&M for this upcoming Disney attraction and for the first time ever.