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Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon,” Pays Tribute to Southeast Asian Culture

In need of a break from all of Disney Plus’s Star Wars and Marvel fare? Check out the exciting new movie, “Raya and the Last Dragon.” The movie will premiere on Disney Plus Premier Access and in theaters on March 5th.

What is Raya and the Last Dragon about?

According to the official Disney synopsis, the movie is about how:

“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,” the synopsis continues, “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.”

Here’s the official trailer.

Raya and the Last Dragon is diverse from script to screen. The film was written by two Asian-American screenwriters, Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim. Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American playwright who has also written for Marvel Studios, Netflix, PBS, SyFy and more. Lim is a Malaysian born American screenwriter and film and television producer who also cowrote the 2018 hit film, Crazy Rich Asians.

The writing duo have been posting about their excitement for the movie on Twitter.

Disney also sent the production team for the film to Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, the Philippines, and more in order to create the Southeast Asian inspired world of Kumandra respectfully. The production team for Raya and the Last Dragon has also been working in tandem with the Southeast Asia Story trust in order to ensure that the film depicts aspects of Southeast Asian culture accurately.

Kelley Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) will be voicing the titular Raya. Many Star Wars fans were outraged that Tran only got one minute and sixteen seconds of screen-time in The Rise of Skywalker, after her character Rose Tico had introduced as a major character in the prior Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, which made Tran the first woman of color to play a leading character in a Star Wars film. Representation does matter in media, and it’s great that Tran will be voicing the main character in Raya and the Last Dragon.

Actress and comedian Awkwafina will voice Sisu, the last dragon. Awkwafina won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy, or Musical for her performance in The Farewell. This made Awkwafina the first Asian-American to win that award. Awkwafina had a supporting role in Crazy Rich Asians, the film co-written by Adele Lim.

Will more movie theaters reopen by the time March rolls around for the slated Raya and the Last Dragon premiere date? 2020 was rife with movie delays, movie theater shutdowns, and production interruptions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s great that Disney is offering subscribers the change to access the film on Disney Plus, but it looks like it’s following its earlier Mulan model and charging for early premiere access.

Raya and the Last Dragon premieres March 5th.

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