Disney’s first Southeast Asian princess in Raya and the Last Dragon

One of Disney’s newest films, Raya and the Last Dragon, is filled with diversity, complex emotions, family values, charismatic characters, and an adorable sidekick!

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Photo courtesy of rottentomatoes.com

Raya and the Last Dragon released movie poster with its characters.

*Slight spoilers ahead — watching the movie is still a remarkable experience*

The film begins with a beautifully animated backstory on how the current wasteland came to be from the flourishing kingdoms of Kumandra. The backstory introduces Raya as a young girl and her cute sidekick, Tuk Tuk, in the kingdom of Heart.

Tension quickly arises between the 5 Kumandra kingdoms when the dragon stone, the only thing keeping them safe from Druun, is broken. The Druun consume everything in their path and turn people and dragons into stone. The kingdoms Tail, Talon, Spine, Fang, and Heart all remain with one piece of the dragon stone.

Raya must leave behind her kingdom, her family, and everything she’s ever known to get the dragon stone back together and restore the safety of the Kumandra kingdoms.

Throughout the story, recurring themes of family and trust appear. Raya’s whole motive is her family, and in her journey, she finds family in the other kingdoms. Many turning points and the climax of the story occur due to trust, or the lack thereof.

Other themes include food!!!!  I especially liked the representation of Southeast Asian cuisine along with the charming character of Boun, a young chef who helps Raya in her journey.

In general, Disney movies are always long-anticipated and celebrated movies but Raya and the Last Dragon has already been critiqued by sources like seen on npr.org.

While the movie was intended to show Southeast Asian culture, the voice actors did not reflect this diversity. Disney is not uncommon to reusing the same Hollywood actors. Disney also isn’t indifferent to reusing plots and origin stories. Abigail Mirambel, a Hylton sophomore, voiced her observations, “In the first few minutes of watching, I was afraid Raya was going to have a journey too similar to Moana’s. They were both protagonists who were on a mission to seek a god-like figure who saved their land once before to save it from the same evil once more. On the contrary, that was where the similarities ended. Raya and The Last Dragon proved to be an amazing movie on its own. I really enjoyed every bit of the movie and was elated to see Southeast Asian faces and cultures, like my own, represented.”

With dragons, a magical stone, four unique and carefully crafted kingdoms, and the evil Druun, Raya and the Last Dragon graciously represent Southeast Asian culture and a rollercoaster of emotions.

Although Raya and the Last Dragon is a youth-targeted movie, children and adults alike will enjoy the suspense, trust lessons, and the beautiful meaning of family unity.

 

Raya and the Last Dragon has a rating of 96% on the tomato meter on rottentomatoes.com with overwhelmingly positive critics and audience reviews.

Raya and the Last Dragon released March 5 on Disney+ with premier access. Regular Disney+ subscribers will be able to watch Raya and the Last Dragon on June 4, 2021.

Raya and the Last Dragon is rated PG for some violence, action, and thematic elements including flashing light sequences.