Walt Disney Studios is finally set to return to the big screen this week (and small screen for $29.99 and a Disney+ subscription) for the first time since the release of Frozen II in November of 2019.
The 59th film in Walt Disney Studios’ storied lineup, Raya and the Last Dragon promises adventure, fantasy and hope in a movie landscape seemingly altered forever by the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Raya and the Last Dragon, co-directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, is set in the fictional world of Kumandra and follows the story of Kumandra’s lone warrior Raya as she sets out to find the last dragon left behind after dragons sacrificed themselves 500 years prior to protect humans from Druun monsters.
Along the way, Raya will learn that the dragon is not the only key to defeating the Druun monsters again and saving mankind.
The film is slated for a March 5th release in theaters and on Disney+. Until then, here is a look at what viewers can expect from the film.
A star-studded cast
Raya’s lineup of voice talent is stacked, to say the least.
In her second Disney project since her appearance as Rose Tico in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Kelly Marie Tran is set to lead the film’s star-studded cast as the titular hero. By her side is Sisu the dragon, voiced by powerhouse Awkwafina, who has a lineup of appearances in Disney-owned projects slated for the next few years.
The remaining cast includes Crazy Rich Asians’s Gemma Chan as warrior princess Namaari, Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim as Raya’s father Chief Benja, Grey’s Anatomy and Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh as Namaari’s mother Virana, Doctor Strange’s Benedict Wong as a giant named Tong and Alan Tudyk (who would belong in Disney’s voice acting hall of fame if there was one) as Raya’s sidekick pill bug Tuk Tuk.
With a voice cast possessing the accolades of Raya’s, it’s hard to not expect to be mesmerized by the film.
A story that resonates
Director Don Hall is no stranger to having a hand in Disney films that pull at the heartstrings and resonate with audiences for years to come. The Academy Award-winning director and writer served as director of Winnie the Pooh (2011) and Big Hero 6, as well as co-director of Moana.
Hall has also written for Tarzan and Meet the Robinsons, in addition to Winnie the Pooh and Moana.
On top of his writing and directing credits, Hall has been involved with other big-name Disney films like Brother Bear, The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Wreck-It-Ralph, both Frozen films, and Zootopia.
A newcomer to the film industry, Estrada has served in creative leadership for Frozen II and was tapped by Disney to direct an untitled 2023 Disney Animation film, as well as a live action Robin Hood remake.
Given Hall and Estrada’s involvement with some of Disney’s most prolific movies of all time, viewers can likely expect a story that is so captivating they will get lost in it, with a message and an emotional pull that will stick for years to come. If their track record holds up, Raya could be on its way to solidifying itself as a Disney classic.
An unforgettable soundtrack
What is a Disney movie without an unforgettable score? For Raya and the Last Dragon, that soundtrack will be provided by award-winning composer and music producer James Newton Howard.
While Howard has worked on only a handful of Disney films, including Dinosaur, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet, he’s also had a hand in big-name movies like The Dark Knight, King Kong, Pretty Woman, I Am Legend and the Hunger Games series.
Viewers have already gotten a glimpse of the music expected to appear in Raya and the Last Dragon, with a sneak preview of “Lead the Way” in its latest trailer. The song, written and performed by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Jhené Aiko, is set to be featured at the end of the movie.
The hauntingly beautiful “Lead the Way” sets the tone perfectly for a film full of adventure and emotion – and sets viewers up for what they can expect to likely be a captivating soundtrack.
Strong female heroes
Disney has undoubtedly made a push lately toward more films led by female protagonists, and Raya and the Last Dragon is next in line.
If there’s anything Disney has encouraged over its history, it’s that there is no blueprint for what defines a “strong female hero.” Mulan is strong for her fearlessness in fighting for China, Elsa is strong for letting go of her fears and embracing her identity, Cinderella is strong for acting with kindness toward even those most cruel to her, and many more.
Raya will enter Disney’s lineup of female protagonists as a new role model for young girls everywhere to look up to – and that’s reason to celebrate.
An Academy Award nomination
This one requires no explanation. It’s a Disney Animation film, after all.
Especially after the rave reviews coming out this week, expect Raya to sweep in next years awards season.
Are you looking forward to Raya and the Last Dragon? Will you check it out in theaters or on Disney+? Let us know down below or on Twitter / Facebook.
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