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Raya and the Last Dragon

Writer: Banyu Bening

Editor: Pat Sevikul

Graphic Designer: Nasya Nethania

  • What is the movie about?

Raya and the Last Dragon is the newest animated adventure film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Set long ago in a fantasy world, Raya, a young lone warrior, embarks on a quest to seek out the last ancient, fabled dragon in order to protect humanity from an evil force known as the Druun. This movie will be released on March 4th, 2021, and is set to be a breakthrough in the history of Disney films, being the first to be majorly composed of and inspired by Southeast Asian culture.

“We’re making a movie that is inspired by the cultures of Southeast Asia, and we want to make sure that when people from the region see this, although Kumandra is a made-up place, they can feel the love and respect the team had for the incredible real places that inspired us. We worked hard to make sure that this world we created feels dynamic, that the inspirations affecting the story really come through and that nothing is lost. We want to pay tribute to these cultures that inspired the story and the world of Kumandra.”
says Director Carlos López Estrada.

  • What do people think about it?

Southeast Asian mythology has greatly influenced the making of this film. The Disney creative team was sent out to conduct deep research into the cultures, traditions, and norms of Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore to be able to fully understand and appreciate the beauty and richness of Southeast Asian culture. Disney also involved contributions from Southeast Asian anthropologists, architects, dancers, linguists, and musicians to confide the story-making process with their expert opinions, advice, and suggestions in order to see to it that the diverse Southeast Asian culture was respectfully depicted throughout the plot.

Walt Disney Animation Studios/ Raya and the Last Dragon

However, controversy emerged from fans of varied Southeast Asian backgrounds. Raya and the Last Dragon, instead of narrating the plot based on a single Southeast Asian country’s culture, the film seemed to try to incorporate and blend them all together. User @.monwinvo wrote on Twitter: “I don’t understand why they couldn’t have picked one (1) SEA culture to get inspired by for this film & keep the same premise. Instead, it’s a strange mix that won’t truly represent... anyone...? Are all SEA cultures interchangeable or...?”. Furthermore, recent news regarding the movie’s casting is said to fall into the same problems Hollywood has with Asians. Actors and actresses of East Asian ancestry, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, and Lucille Soong, plus Alan Tudyk were announced in the latest cast update, leaving fans conflicted. Although the cast does feature a number of Southeast Asian actors and writers, Southeast Asian fans, myself included, hoping for a greater representation of Southeast Asian heritage, were let down. With Raya and the Last Dragon celebrating Southeast Asian culture, wouldn’t it be more fitting to have more Southeast Asian actors and actresses play their own traditions?

However, past all this, fans still greatly anticipate the release of this movie seeing as it is the first film to be majorly composed of and inspired by Southeast Asian culture. Southeast Asian children will be able to see characters who resemble them for the first time, a joy I’ve long looked forward to since I was a kid as well. The movie will debut on Disney Plus starting March 5 with Premier Access and in theaters on March 5th, 2021.




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