Raya and the Last Dragon


Isabella del Nido

Since Disney was founded in 1923, there has yet to be a film or tv show that featured a southeast-asian character in a leading role. That is until Raya and The Last Dragon was released in early 2021. 

Ava Wong, Reporter

Since Disney was founded in 1923, there has yet to be a film or tv show that featured a southeast-asian character in a leading role. That is until Raya and The Last Dragon was released in early 2021. 

Raya and The Last Dragon tells a story about a young warrior, Raya, as she fights among friends to take down a sinister monster known as the Duran and restore peace to her land, Kumandra. The action packed film was highly anticipated as it has Disney’s very first, and very overdue, Southeast Asian princess that fortunately strays from the traditional Disney princess path. 

Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is technically a princess, her father being Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) in a land called Heart. But she’s much more than just a princess, she’s a warrior and unlike other Disney Princesses, she’s flawed. You’d think this should be normal in characters since they should reflect real human beings, but Disney has a long history of making characters, especially women, societies version of perfect. Thankfully, just like us, Raya isn’t perfect. She struggles with trust, as one reason the Duran got out was because she too easily trusted someone she thought was her friend. Through the movie we see more and more issues that arise due to that mistrust and more scenarios we can in a way relate to. Other Disney princesses like Cinderella and Belle, were very one-dimensional when the only thing about them was that they wanted something more. This detail makes Raya so much more realistic and relatable.

Another element this movie portrays so beautifully is the culture. The movie is based off of many different Southeast Asian cultures. The small cultural details transform the onscreen idea of representation come alive giving us a diverse story with an actual story that as the power to reach the viewers and their experiences. Through Raya is voiced very beautifully by a Southeast Asian actress, the same can not be said for the rest of the cast as most of the, are actually East Asia.This is discouraging to the story and the Southeast Asian audience. Disney really needs to get better at this. Having a true and full representation of culture that isn’t compromised.

The actual plot of the story is very action-pact which is unusual for most Disney Princess movies. After some context, the movie opens on the fictional land of Kumandra that has been overrun by a monster that is dark, curse-like plague known as the Duran that turns people into stone. Raya has been trying to stop the Duran eversense it was released into the world again years back. Along  the way she requires help from Sisu, the last dragon on earth voiced tremendously by Akwafina. The story focuses a lot on the theme of loss also. Especially the loss of loved ones touching on many characters including a young boy and baby girl who both lost their families to the Duran. This is especially important for kids to see represented in movies so they know they’re not alone in their struggles and struggles that may come. The overall ora of the movie is pretty and dark and sad with a small beacon of light at the end. At sometimes a little graphic for a children’s movie but it does fit with Disney’s dramatically sad style of movies. 

Overall, I would rate the movie 4 out of 5 stars. The representation in this movie is a good step in diversifying Disney as a whole but there’s still a whole lot more Disney. I like how this movie is not the standard Disney princess movie and works hard to show a truly deep and powerful story.