NYICFF Movie Spotlight: Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon Movie Review

Raya and the Last Dragon - Image from Walt Disney Studios


Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon released to Disney+ Premier Access and in theaters on March 5.  It was also the Closing Feature of the New York International Children's Film Festival on March 12  - and for good reason.  Telling the story of a Southeast Asian young woman, Raya is a tale full of adventure, magic, myth, friendship, and family.  


FREE Activity Sheets for Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon


Raya and the Last Dragon - Movie Review

In Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon, we meet Raya as a girl training with her father to be a guardian of the dragon gem.  The movie opens with the myth of the dragons doing battle with the Druun - which was sweeping the world with a plague like presence, turning every living thing it touched to stone.  Raya was raised learning the power the dragon gem held - the spirit of Sisu - to fight the Druun.  Her father also raised Raya with a strong sense of "kumandra," when the divided nations will one day reunite. But after a fight between the nations which shatters the dragon gem and spreads its pieces across the nations, the Druun returns and takes the "life" of Raya's father and many others.  Now Raya takes matters into her own hands and begins a search for Sisu, the dragon gem pieces, and a way to bring her father back.


Raya and the Last Dragon - Image from Walt Disney Studios


Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon boasts beautiful animation - exactly what you would expect from Walt Disney Animation.  The voice cast of Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico from Star Wars) as Raya and Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asias / The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run) as Sisu is spot on with performances that bring the emotions of their characters to life.  I'd also love to shout out the performance of Izaac Wang as Boun who stole my heart as the young "captain" of their voyage - so cute!  The story is compelling and full of adventure as Raya learns what it means to once again trust others and the true spirit of kumandra.


Check out more than 30 of the BEST quotes from Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon!



Raya and the Last Dragon - Image from Walt Disney Studios


As part of the New York International Children's Film Festival, I also had the chance to hear from some of the directors, producers, and Kelly Marie Tran herself about making this film.  Creating an animated film during a pandemic is no small feat and Tran spoke of voice recording the role from a closet in her house.  When asked to elaborate on creating the character of Raya, Tran said of Raya "She is funny and sarcastic and at times she is sad and vulnerable."  The entire team shared a common themes of being excited to make a movie that centers on Southeast Asian culture.  Writer, Qui Nguyen, said "We can tell the story we've always wanted to tell."  Proving once again the power and importance of representation in film, the team behind Raya and the Last Dragon works to celebrate culture as much as they worked to write a movie that is entertaining and beautiful for families to enjoy together.


About Raya and the Last Dragon (From Walt Disney Animation)



Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun for good. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than dragon magic to save the world—it’s going to take trust as well. From directors Don Hall and Carlos L√≥pez Estrada, co-directors Paul Briggs and John Ripa, producers Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho, and featuring the voices of Kelly Marie Tran as Raya and Awkwafina as Sisu. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” will debut simultaneously on Disney+ Premier Access and in theatres on March 5, 2021.