D23 Expo 2019: ‘Raya and The Last Dragon’ Mixes Hong Kong-Style Action With Disney Magic
Sunday, August 25th, 2019 at 12:15 am
When we first reported that Moana producer Osnat Shurer would be teaming up with Crazy Rich Asians writer Adele Lim for an animated feature that would have Asian elements running through it and a female protagonist, I was very excited. And now I am even more pumped for it after learning more about this upcoming Walt Disney Animation Studios feature on Saturday at the D23 Expo. See more below for our on-site coverage from D23.
The animated film, now titled Raya and The Last Dragon, will be directed by Paul Briggs (Frozen) and Dean Wellins (Zootopia), who talked about the upcoming feature that will draw inspiration from Southeast Asian folklore from countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, and Bali in Indonesia. Needless to say, I was pretty much in tears to know about this since I am half Indonesian. Not only that, it will keep its promise on having a lead female protagonist. That is because it has cast Cassie Steele to voice the lead character, Raya, who is on a quest to find the last dragon that could save fantasy kingdom of Kumandra. This last dragon, Sisu, is voiced by none other than Crazy Rich Asians scene-stealer Awkwafina.
Lim said this film meant a lot to her as she grew up in Southeast Asia, and that she was proud to bring that into a film and show it to her family. But the one thing that got everyone excited was that she wanted to bring those Hong Kong-style action films to Raya. Something that was clearly seen in the footage that was presented to attendees.
In a narration, we learn that Sisu is the last of the dragons and the only one that can save Kumandra from certain destruction. So Raya (Steele) takes it upon herself to find this legendary dragon. She lights a torch as she enters a cave and the narration reveals that the dragon is a powerful but dangerous gift. One that could save a dying kingdom or bring it to an end. The narrator then asks if they will find hope or destruction, he then corrects himself and uses devastation, but then decides that the word revelation might be better suited for the film. He then closes out by saying yeah, no more flute.
This annoys Raya, who has let the boy tag alone. She says that the whole thing was fun for a minute, but that he should get serious and put the flute away. But as she looks towards the front, a dragon (Awkwafina) blows out the torch.
We learn that Sisu has two forms, one of an old woman and the other of a dragon, the water spirit of Southeast Asian. However, she is stuck in her human form and needs Raya’s help to bring her back to being a dragon.
Sisu looks like a joyful dragon with a white body and white hair. She has a blue horn and blue tail with pink fins. In one of the last clips from the film, we overhear that the gem that Raya is looking for is also essential to the story, and that, in the right hands, could change the world. It all ended with the tagline, “Keep The Light Alive.”
Raya and The Last Dragon opens in U.S. theaters on November 25, 2020.