Geekery: ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Celebrates Southeast Asian Culture
The first trailer of Disney’s new animated adventure previews a tale about the importance of unity.
Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in 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. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.
This is the first time Disney has made a southeast Asian focused animation feature. Like Moana, it’s a bit of a mash of cultures and traditions – which has garnered some valid criticism along with excitement. It takes inspiration from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar. Raya seems to be using Arnis – the Philippines’ national martial art and sport – and there are clothing and weapon choices in the trailer that are from Thai, Laos, and Malay traditions.
The movie stars the voices of Kelly Marie Tran as Raya and Awkwafina as the last dragon Sisu. It’s directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6, Moana) and Carlos López Estrada, and co-directed by Paul Briggs and John Ripa with a script by Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians) and Qui Nguyen.