Currently on Disney+ from directors Don Hall, Carlos Estrada, Paul Briggs, John Ripa and Walt Disney Animated Studios is the story of RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON.
Raya (Kelly Tran) is a young girl learning the culture, that of Sisu and traditions of her people being taught by her father Benja (Daniel Dae Kim). Showing her the lessons of getting along with the other tribes, he believes in peaceful means and shareable solutions. The problem is the other clans do not seem to share his beliefs.
Namaari (Gemma Chan) and Raya meet and show the adults how friendship is done. While sharing their stories, Namaari tells Raya that Sisu (Awkwafina) is still around. But not is all that it seems. Chief Virana’s (Sandra Oh) clan attempts to cause a rift but Benja tries to appeal to their humanity. One move causes everything to scatter, as well as the dragon gem the Heart clan has been protecting.
As Raya escapes, a new journey begins for the young girl who is left on her own. Following a map, she and her trusty animal friend Tuk Tuk are hoping to find the pieces of the dragon gem once again. Six years later, Raya finds the final place to try and bring Sisu back to set the world right.
What she does not expect is a beautiful blue dragon with a unique sense of humor and a story of her own to tell. They can not take to long for this because Raya is being hunted by Namaari who is vengeful and focused on one thing – getting what she wants. Thanks to young captain and chef Boun (Izaac Wang). Sisu and Raya escape to get to the next place and the next piece of the dragon gem.
Now the gang is almost complete as Little Noi (Thalia Tran) and Ton (Benedict Wong) joins the group of those who only want their families back.
Tran gives her Raya a gentle heart with a warrior’s glare. Joining her father in the responsibility for the Heart clan, she is quick to learn, and the lessons are about to become harsh. Thinking she is alone in finding the Dragon gem, she not only finds Sisu but a whole group of different characters and people who believe in what she is doing. Tran lends her voice to give Raya strength and its lovely.
Awkwafina as Sisu is flighty (both literally and figuratively) and is the humor of the duo. The journey with Sisu and Raya is one of learning, trusting and love. Awkwafina is funny, charming and when the time comes, pulls on the heartstrings of trust to help her new-found friend. Her silliness reminds me a bit of Robin Williams in ALADDIN and there certainly is not anything wrong with that!
Kim as Benja wants his daughter to understand why they are protecting the Dragon gem and at the same time teach her how to do things differently, less battles and more understanding. Chan as Naamari is raised differently than Raya with the eyes on a prize that is not hers to have. Time and time again she proves to Raya that the trust between them is misguided. Oh as her mother Virana continues to guide her daughter on the wrong path.
Wong as Ton has a huge heart and its hidden by a huge personage that gives people the wrong impression of him. He also believes in Raya and is about to put his weapon to the test on her behalf. What brings out his softer side is Little Noi voiced by Tran to give us the ‘awwwwwww’ factor until you realize this is not your normal little helpless tyke roaming around!
Other cast include Lucille Soong as Dang Hu, Dichen Lachman as General Atitaya, Patti Harrison as Tail Chief, Jon Park as Chai, Sung Kang as Dang hai, Ross Butler as Spine Chief, and Francois Chau as Wahn.
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Raya is a young woman who believes in her family, culture and the stories that are shared. When it all is taken away, she still holds strong to everything. That is an amazing story to share with not only kids who are taken with Disney films, but to the adults. There is something to be said for the greed of those who want to possess something that either is not theirs or just because they do not want anyone else to have it.
The story being told through RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON is not only believable but speaks on many levels. The ideal that sharing and working together in times of difficult adversity is something that has been sadly lacking, especially in the last year. Like many Disney films, Raya takes on bringing back those she loves through no fault of her own.
She believes in the good of others and continues to trust those that perhaps she should not, but Raya also has the Anne Frank philosophy that “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart”. But Raya also learns a valuable lesson in letting others help her when she realizes they want the very same thing – and oh what a group it is!
In the end – it is time to come together!