By the looks of the Disney’s first trailer for ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Kelly Marie Tran is representing that South East Asian pride in more ways than one. The film embodies the spirit of “representation matters” as it is the first of the Disney animated films to feature Southeast Asian female lead. Though the film was originally scheduled to debut this year, the ongoing pandemic forced the studio to push the release to March of next year. And now we have a brand-new trailer that should pique our excitement.
Although, some aspects of the trailer seem fairly familiar. Especially to those who saw the footage at the D23 Expo. In it, Ray preparing and suiting up to prepare for some sort of daring mission. That little bell ding was a nice touch. But right when the music started to play, it became clear that his was going to be unlike any other Disney animated film that came before it. She leaps across the roof with stealth like a ninja before walking into a torch-lit corridor. After nearly getting caught in one of its traps, Raya calls upon her Tuk Tuk, her tiny but so very cute armadillo-like trusty steed, to roll under a corridor’s traps.
“Give me some shell” Raya says to him on a job well done. When she is able to safely crawl across the corridor, she then uses the staff to rotate the wall’s security like a safe. As she cautiously walks up the steps, she sees her objective. An bright and shiny – couldn’t help myself with that – Dragon Gem. But there appears to be a temple guard standing right in front of it as if it was his sworn duty to block anyone from taking it. And he slightly nods as to indicate he is up the challenge.
“My whole life, I trained to become a guardian of the dragon gem. But this world has changed,” Raya says. “And people are divided.” During the voice over we get to see some of that intense action between Raya and the temple guardian. Armed only with two bos, Raya strikes fast and hard. But the Guard is able to match her pace. As this wonderful display of action goes on, the clips then switch over to a desolate setting. It’s not clear what happened, but as Raya is crosses the desert with her now larger than before Tuk Tuk, she sees a family seemingly encased in sand.
As the action intensifies, we see four tribes, all flying their respective representative colors, standing before tribes all with different symbols of representation. I couldn’t make out two of them, but one tribe had a herd of elephants standing behind them, and the other had what looked like a lone wolf.
“Now to restore peace, I must find the last dragon.” She proclaims as the action hits its climax before revealing what she has to do in order to unify her people.
“My name is Raya,” she says with pride as the title slowly reveals itself. And it caps it off with some humor that shows how big Tuk Tuk has grown, and that he may be just a bit too big for Raya to roll over.
Raya and the Last Dragon went through some major changes since it was first announced back in 2019. Last month, we learned that Kelly Marie Tran would be replacing Cassie Steele in the titular role. Additionally, Blindspotting helmer Carlos López Estrada will co-direct alongside Don Hall, while Vietnamese playwright Qui Nguyen is joins ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ scribe Adele Lim as a co-writer.
The film will take the same creative cues as Moana, where the creative team go on research trips in multiple in Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, and collaborated with anthropologists, linguists, dancers, and Gamelan musicians from Indonesia to add a cultural depth that is reverent.
Storytelling is essential to any Disney animated film, so it’s important to get the various aspects of those stories as well as draw out those cultural touchstones in a respectful manner. As an Chinese-Indonesian American, I cannot wait to see how Disney brings these stories to light as the world will get to see what the respective artistry and folklore means each nation that is being represented in the film.
Here’s the official plot synopsis for ‘Raya and the Last Dragon:’
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.
‘Raya and The Last Dragon’ opens in theaters on March 21, 2021.