RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON Is Now Streaming; Here Are Five Big Reasons Why It's Absolutely Worth Premier Access
With Disney's critically-acclaimed Raya and the Last Dragon now out on Disney+ Premier Access, we have five big reasons why it's absolutely worth paying the extra money to watch this magical film.
Following a strong batch of reviews, Raya and the Last Dragon is now streaming on Disney+ with Premier Access, and ahead of its release, we were recently able to attend to global press conference for the film and learn a whole lot more about what fans should expect from Disney's latest instant classic.
The attendees included Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, Izaac Wang, and Thalia Tran along with directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, producer Osnat Shurer, and screenwriters Adele Lim and Qui Nguyen.
Here are our five biggest takeaways from the press conference that make today's release absolutely worth the Premier Access price tag (mild spoilers may follow):
1. Awkwafina's Performance Is Reminiscent Of Robin Williams As The Genie
- The late great Robin Williams gave the performance of a lifetime when he brought life to the magical Genie in the 1992 animated classic Aladdin, and while his voice-work will never be topped, Awkwafina does come pretty darn close to matching his energy with her absolutely show-stopping portrayal of Sisu. While she's already broken out with big roles in Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, her role here should take her to even greater heights, and the timing couldn't be any better, either, as her next release is the Marvel Studios blockbuster Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
- When asked about how she found Sisu's voice, she's flattered by the Genie comparison and explains, "Wow, thank you for that comparison. I mean it's very flattering, obviously. I was obsessed with Genie. He's one of my favorite characters from my childhood, and I think therefore there maybe was this subconscious thing. But, I think the real beauty here is that when I was approached to play Sisu and heard what her vibe was, I was given a chance to add my own voice to it and just simultaneously build her up with the directors who were always just more than willing to explore and play. And so I think she was really born out of that process. But they're both definitely big and blue. That's definitely a thing. But those are really big shoes to fill. The really cool thing about Sisu is that she was part my voice too."
2. It's Unbelievably Timely
- While the film was in the works long before the pandemic, much of the finishing touches were completed during this trying past year, and as production continued on at the homes of over 400 animators, the filmmakers became increasingly aware of how their film was becoming more and more relevant by the minute as Asian Americans faced unspeakable injustices. With themes of trust and hope leading the way, the whole Raya team hopes to shed a more positive light on the Asian community across the globe.
- Writer Qui Nguyen shares his thoughts, "I don't think we had any idea of how the world would become by the time this movie came out, especially when it comes to the injustices to the Asian American community right now. And, I guess I'll just be frank. There have been some times where in the last 365 days there's been a lot of negative imagery and words said about Asians. So it's hard not to appreciate that this movie's coming out and-and kind of giving a counterpoint and just telling a positive story that just celebrates Asian American skin and Asian American lives, and Asian American people. Because with any group that's underrepresented, when you only see stories where you're seen as the bad guy or a thug or what have you, it starts to paint a very negative picture of you for those who don't ever get to know you, who never get to be in the room with you. And so, I think step one is representation and really being out there, both behind and in front of the camera, with the stories we tell and then just being out there, so we can acknowledge that this world is all of us, not just any one of us. Because without that, I don't know how we get better, so I'm appreciative and grateful that this movie's coming out when it is."
3. Kelly Marie Tran & Gemma Chan Bring Two Instant Disney Icons To Life
- Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and Namaari (Gemma Chan) should be instant fan-favorites; two powerful young female heroes who each embark on an epic journey that ultimately put them on a collision course with one another. As they move forward and meet Sisu, their viewpoints begin to change as the legendary water dragon teaches them each to open their hearts and trust each other in order to unite the divided lands of Kumandra.
- Tran tells us, "I think setting up these characters as kids and just seeing how authentically they connect at a young age and then cutting forward and seeing the way that they’ve sort of been divided. It's really incredible because, just like Gemma was saying earlier, the idea that we have these two characters that could have switched places at one point. When I really think about my life when things like that have happened to me, I think about just how difficult it is to get out of your own biases when you're looking at someone who you see as an enemy and then just how incredibly, by the end of the story, Raya and Namaari are then suddenly willing to step outside of themselves. They risk everything for this idea of community, this idea of what their relationship could have been this entire time. It's really, really inspiring. It's something that I want to do in my own life. But their relationship in this movie is probably one of my favorites, just because of how complicated it is."
4. The Action Is Exceptional
- Writer Qui Nyugen proved to be instrumental in creating an authentic action experience for viewers, utilizing practical martial arts as references in creating the unique fighting styles of each character and then assisting the VFX artists with realizing those stunning movements on screen.
- Nyugen credits one of the film's fight choreographers with realizing the many different fights we see in the film, including the big ones between Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and Namaari (Gemma Chan). "I'll just add that a lot of it also goes to Maggie Macdonald who choreographed all our reference fights. It was important for me to-to bring on a female fight choreographer. And she brought in a female team of fighters to do the reference because our two leads were Raya and Namaari, so I wanted to make sure that the different way a female body moves was right, and we wanted to honor that so it didn't feel like we had Raya doing a move that The Rock should be doing. It should be something that really utilized speed, strength and agility. It was just amazing to have martial arts from Southeast Asia highlighted in this way because you often see in movies like this kung fu or karate. It's really nice to be able to see martial arts that touched you my culture in here."
5. It's a Film For Fans of All Ages
- Raya and the Last Dragon's core themes are about love and trust, an eternal message that will resonate with fans of all ages for generations to come. Raya's journey takes her all across the world and as she meets Sisu, she begins to open her heart to others, resulting in her recruiting a fun-loving team that ultimately show her the path to reawakening Kumandra from its Drunn-induced slumber.
- Benedict Wong shares a touching tale of the first time he watched the film with his son. "It was the first time we'd actually sat and watched the film entirely, all the way through. And, obviously, the things about being trusted. My son turned around and gave me a big hug and said, "I trust you, Daddy." As we've said in the room. This is it. We need this to unite. As Gemma rightly said about our kids when they look at each other and an innocence is there. They see through color and things need to be unlearned. And as Qui has said, I think especially in America and it ripples all over the world, we are living through the remnants of this kind of hate that has permeated through the world. And it's, again, very timely with our beautiful film showing us that love can really lead the way."
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” travels to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.