“Raya and the Last Dragon” represents everything that is good about Disney’s animation studio.
This beautifully drawn feature film has strong storytelling and delightful characters that are as detailed as the exquisite animation. It’s a film that will play well to children and adults alike.
“Raya” takes place in a fantasy world named Kumandra, where humans and dragons once lived in harmony. Unfortunately, those days have long passed – after the dragons sacrificed themselves to protect the humans from sinister monsters known as Druun.
A stone that represents the power of the dragons resides in the home of a young female warrior named Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran). But when the stone is stolen by nearby kingdoms and broken into several pieces by nearby clans, it opens up the area to the dangerous Druun again.
Raya sets out on a quest to collect the pieces and put the stone back together and find the mythical last dragon named Sisu (voiced by Awkwafina), who can perhaps be the key to uniting Kumandra once again and finally vanquishing the threat of the Drunn.
From the opening moments, “Raya” draws in its audience with a story full of action and adventure. This is the type of rousing, edge-of-your-seat fare that Disney does quite well.
Like “Moana,” this film is firmly entrenched in its diverse predominantly Asian cast – creating a world of diversity that is somewhat historic. Tran brings Raya to life quite well, while Awkwafina gets to follow in the footsteps of Eddie Murphy’s Donkey and Robin Williams’ Genie to create one of the funniest animated sidekicks seen on screen.
The cast is given a universal story of heroic deeds, with a screenplay (credited to 10 people) that has plenty of surprises up its sleeve.
Perhaps the best thing about “Raya” is that it doesn’t try to play down to its younger audience. It understands that storytelling can resonate regardless of age – resulting in a family film that is smart, funny and full of life.
In a market that has been starving for quality family fare, “Raya and the Last Dragon” arrives at the perfect time. It’s the chance for families to return to theaters and experience Disney at its very best.