When Disney released the first teaser trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon, I was sold. I’m already a sucker for epic-looking fantasy worlds inspired by Eastern societies, but throw in some kick-ass martial arts choreography and I’m there! But there’s a lot more going on in the upcoming animated feature film. Like baby thieves.
No, not people stealing babies (this is a Disney movie after all), but rather a baby with some sticky fingers. The thieving toddler, known as Little Noi, is just one of the colourful new characters introduced in a brand new trailer released by the House Mouse last night. Assembled by Kelly Marie Tran’s Raya to assist her on her quest to find the last remaining dragon Sisu Awkwafina) in the magical land of Kumandra, Little Noi (Thalia Tran) is part of an eclectic team that also consists of towering warrior Tong (Benedict Wong), mischievous 10-year old Boun (Izaac Wang), and Raya’s “best friend and trusty steed” Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk).
Along with Raya’s crew, this trailer also introduces to main antagonist Namaari (Gemma Chan), Raya’s father Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), Raya’s mother Virana (Sandra Oh), and the three chiefs of the lands that make up the world of Kumandra (Lucille Soong, Patti Harrison, Ross Butler). Check them out and more in the trailer below.
Along with the new trailer, Disney also held a press Q&A session (via /Film) with the film’s production team, including co-directors Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting), as well as co-writers Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians) and Qui Nguyen (Vietgone), and producer Osnat Shurer. And as the crew revealed, a lot of Raya and the Last Dragon’s production was done during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic which meant the massive team of animators, actors, writers, etc all had to work remotely. As Hall and Estrada explained, that had an impact on the film as its story – as much as its production – was about “learning to trust others” in a broken world. “It’s a story about people doing what’s needed to come together, ” Shurer added.
In that first teaser trailer, Raya is shown by herself as she sets off on her quest, but in the trailer above she has a group of people around her that supports her. And that’s how her character’s development plays out in the film as the fiercely independent and pessimistic young warrior is forced to let her walls down when meeting the not-what-she-expected dragon Sisu, who is all hope and optimism despite the broken state her world is in. As Hall explained, Sisu’s unending faith in humanity is key to Raya’s story.
For us, it was important to show the different sides of trust in terms of Sisu trusting in people completely. And utterly. And how in a world that is as broken as Kumandra, when we pick up the story, that trust can be taken advantage of. But she never loses her belief in the power of trust, and in her belief in human beings. And I think it was important for us to push on it, but have Sisu be unwavering in her ability and belief in trust
Looking at the state of things around us right now, it’s hard to not see the real-world parallels when it comes to a story about trusting each other and working together to fix our world. According to Lim, that sense of community is something that is very pervasive in Southeast Asian cultures, which was a major touchstone for Raya and the Last Dragon.
I feel like with a lot of cultures in Southeast Asia, it’s really feeling that someone else’s child is your child. That you are responsible for the people in your community as if they are your own family. When that’s broken, it really breaks you individually as a person. And we really wanted to feel that within the movie.
Nguyen added to that, saying that the timing of this movie couldn’t be better, as a world gripped in the horrors of a pandemic needs a little bit of “magic” right now.
Working for Disney, I think part of what we do is that we deal in magic. I think, right now, the world is very broken. This movie has a lot of magic in it, but I think the biggest piece of magic in it is trust. It is the real secret ingredient that will save our fictional world of Kumandra. And it’s a message I think is really important for the world to have and see.
Fans won’t have to wait too long to see that magic for themselves as Raya and the Last Dragon is scheduled to debut in cinemas as well as on Disney+ for a Premier Access fee on 5 March 2021.
Last Updated: January 27, 2021