“Raya & The Last Dragon” was Don Hall & Carlos Lopez Estrada. Hall had previously did 2014’s “Big Hero 6” and co directed 2016’s “Moana” while Estrada did more mature films like 2018’s “Blindspotting” & 2020’s “Summertime”. The film’s voice cast include Kelley Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, Daniel Dae Kim & Izaac Wang. Cassie Steele was originally cast for the film but was later replaced by Tran after conflicts with character & story changes.
In the land of Kumandra, a mysterious entity known as the Druun was wiping out all life both man & dragon alike. In a lasting effort, the remaining dragons used the last of powers to destroy the Druun. All but one dragon was turned to stone as they left behind the only sibling & magical orb. With the dragons gone but the Druun still lurking, the land became divided over a power struggle for control of the orb. The land was divided into 5 different tribes all representing different parts of a dragon, Talon, Fang, Heart, Tail & Spine. Heart was the tribe of peace and harmony and also were the keepers of the magic orb. In an attempt to unify the tribes & land once again, the Chief of Heart Tribe, Benja (Dae Kim) arranges a meeting with the other tribes. His young daughter, Raya befriends Namaari, the daughter of Chief Virana (Oh) of the Fang tribe. Namaari tricks Raya and steals the orb but also unleashes the Druun who begin turning everyone into stone including Benja. The orb is broken in 5 piece & stolen by different tribes. For the next years, Raya (Tran) now an adult, is on a quest to recover the missing pieces & save her tribe & father. After the Druun destroy the Tail Tribe, Raya finds their piece of orb and inadvertently awakens Sisu (Awkwafina), the Last Dragon. Together, Raya & Sisu make a mission to find the remaining orb pieces. However, Namaari (Chan) also adult & in search of the orbs, gets wind of Raya being in Tail. Now, Raya & Sisu must find the rest of the orb before Namaari does & the Druun find them.
Disney once again knocks it out of the park with this film. It was actually pretty good. It felt original even though it did remind me of other films like “Mulan”, “Aladdin”, “Moana” & even “Wonder Woman”. The animation is fantastic which is an understatement. It’s almost as beautiful as “Moana” but rather than a tropical Polynesian feel, “Raya” is more of Ancient Asian look & feel which is where the “Mulan” aspect comes in. It has one of the best final acts in a Disney movie that I’ve seen in a long time & gives it that action movie feel but at the same the heart warming message at the end. Something about this film really gives off the “Mulan” vibe because I feel this should’ve been what the live action version was supposed to be.
Overall, this was great movie, visually & thematically. Great story, very entertaining to watch & has everything a fun family film should have. I’m very curious to see where Disney goes from here cause the future is bright IF they giving us great stories like “Raya” and not disappointing sequels like “Ralph Break the Internet” or “Frozen 2”. Should they make a “Moana 2” is debatable but then again could be another surprise.