- “My whole life, I trained to become a guardian of the Dragon Gem. But this world has changed, and its people are divided. Now, to restore peace, I must find the Last Dragon.”
Raya is the titular protagonist of Disney's 2021 animated feature film, Raya and the Last Dragon. The daughter of Chief Benja, she is the princess of Kumandra’s Heart Land. In her youth, Raya was appointed the Guardian of the Dragon Gem. When the Gem is broken, a plague known as the Druun was unleashed upon the world, turning much of humanity into stone—including Benja. To save her father, Raya embarked on a quest to retrieve the Gem pieces and use its power to vanquish the Druun for good.
Raya is a young Southeast Asian girl of average height with a slender, slightly muscular build, tan skin, long black hair, and dark brown eyes. She usually wears a yellow shirt, a brown vest, a brown belt, olive green jeans with light green stripes, dark brown boots with maroon cuffs, a red cape with a thin turquoise stripe and a yellow necklace around her neck, and a conical hat. She also wears a blue band above her elbow, and a thick brown wristband on her right arm.
Raya is a headstrong young woman who is mature and wisened for someone her age. She is a very capable person and is shown to easily adapt to situations around her. Despite her maturity, she retains a sense of humor and occasionally shows a bit of playfulness when such a moment presents itself. She deeply cares for her father and has a strong emotional attachment to certain people she considers her friends. Her biggest flaw is her inability to trust others. With the exception of Sisu, many of her new allies are immediately deemed as suspicious or sinister in her eyes. Over time, she learns to overcome these issues and can see when someone is truly good. Raya is a very focused individual and is determined to see things through to the end.
Abilities and weapons
Raya is well skilled in martial arts. She is fairly nimble and capable of handling herself in one-on-one combat. Besides her physical prowess, she also possesses some armaments to aid her:
- Kali Sticks: In her youth, Raya used these for training. They were also her primary weapon at the time.
- Whip Sword: Raya's primary weapon as an adult that belonged to her father, Chief Benja. She uses it like a typical bladed weapon, but the blade can detatch in a long bladed string that she uses to grab and attack from afar.
- Grappling Hook: Raya owns a grabbling hook that is strong enough to embed itself into stone.
Additionally, her mode of transport is a giant pill bug and pug and armadillo-like creature named Tuk Tuk who can travel at intense speeds.
Raya first appears in her youth, tested by her father for the role of the Guardian of the Dragon Gem, which holds the powers of Sisu and protects Heart from the Druun. She successfully passes and earns the title. Chief Benja invites the Tail, Talon, Spine, and Fang Lands to join in a feast. During the party, Raya befriends Princess Namaari of the Fang Land. They immediately bond and form a close friendship due to their shared interest in dragons. Namaari gives Raya a dragon-shaped pendent. In return, Raya reveals to Namaari the hidden location of the Dragon Gem, only to be ultimately betrayed by her. The other nations soon arrive to their location and fought over the orb. As a result, the Dragon Gem was shattered into five broken pieces and awoke the Druun. During the evacuation, Raya has trouble carrying her injured father to safety. Knowing they won’t make it, Benja sacrifices himself to give Raya a piece of the orb and throws her off the bridge into the river below. As she falls, Raya is forced to watch her father get turned into a stone statue by the devouring plague and can only scream as the current drifts her away.
Six years later, Raya is venturing across the Tail Land, hoping to find Sisu, the last living dragon who can help her save Kumandra and restore her father. After searching from river to river, Raya comes across an old shipwreck at the very end of the land. She places offerings and succeeds in awakening the water dragon from her long slumber. Sisu agrees to help her find the remaining pieces of the Dragon Gem. Raya and Sisu travel on Tuk Tuk to the home of the Tail Land’s chief. Raya successfully avoids all of the traps placed within and carefully removes a gem piece from the remains of the chief, who died to her own traps. Namaari arrives with her army and the trio quickly escape to a boat called, “The Shrimporium”, owned by a boy named Boun. The group then heads to the Talon Land.
Arriving at Talon, Raya encounters a “con-baby” named Noi and her Onjis, who steal the gem fragments. She chases the thieves throughout the market and eventually catches up to them. With their help, Raya is able to infiltrate the home of Talon’s chief, Dang Hu. She accidentally mistakes him for another person and finds out he is already long gone, with a new chief in his place. The new chief tricked Sisu to be stuck with the Drunn if she doesn’t reveal the location of the other Dragon Gem pieces. Raya arrives on the scene, snatches a gem piece from the chief and rescues Sisu. They return to Boun’s boat with Noi and her Onjis and headed to the Spine Land.
At the Spine Land, Raya and Sisu ended up being captured by a formidable giant named Tong, the sole survivor of his people. When Namaari and her army arrive at the front gates, Raya pleads Tong to take her friends to safety while she buys them time with the enemies. Her friends followed the plan while she fought Namaari. The Fang princess gained the upper hand during the fight and was about to finish Raya until Sisu jumped in and saved her life.
Back on the boat, Raya finally reveals Sisu’s secret to her friends and they agree to work together to get the final piece of the Dragon Gem from the Fang Land. Raya originally planned for the team to sneakily infiltrate the kingdom, but she was persuaded to follow Sisu’s plan of befriending Namaari. She decides to return Namaari’s pendent as a gift and tell her to secretly meet her in the forest via letter. For the night, Raya shares a meal with all of her friends.
The next morning, Namaari meets with Raya as promised and presents the final piece of the Dragon Gem, but is betrayed again when her former friend pulls out a crossbow. While Sisu trusted Namaari, Raya did not, causing her reckless action to deflect Namari’s arrow at Sisu instead, killing her. Blinded by rage, Raya heads to Fang alone and confronts Namaari. Upon defeating her, Raya realizes that her mistake and rage had caused chaos to Kumandra. Instead, she spares Namaari’s life and left to help her friends evacuate Fang’s citizens away from the Druun. When the gem’s pieces start to lose power and the Druun spreading closer, Raya decides to take the first step. She gives her gem piece to Namaari and turns into stone. Her friends did the same and turn into stone beside Raya. Namaari makes the choice to put all the pieces together before becoming petrified as well. After the Dragon Gem regains its power, Raya and all of the infected victims are brought back to life. With Sisu and the dragons restored to Kumandra, Raya hugs her friends before returning home.
Arriving back at the Heart Land, Raya reunites with her father and the two celebrate with the other nations, as Kumandra is united again.
- Cassie Steele was originally cast as the voice of Raya, but it was announced on August 27, 2020, that she would be replaced by Kelly Marie Tran. Reasons as to why this change was because the recasting was due to creative shifts in the character and story.
- Raya, for the majority of the film, seems to suffer from pistanthrophobia, the fear of trusting others. It is through Sisu that she learns to overcome this.
- Raya is left-handed.
- Raya is among few Disney characters to be voiced by the same voice actor both as an adult and as a child.
- While recording her dialogue, Kelly Marie Tran personally interpreted Raya and Namaari’s relationship as romantic. By Tran’s own admission, however, this was not made official by Disney.
- Some of Raya's character was inspired by the Marvel Comics character Star-Lord because he was the only superhero that had any of the nuance that could fit Raya and the filmmakers could not find a female superhero with any of those qualities.
- "Get a first look at Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon starring Kelly Marie Tran". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on August 27, 2020.
- "Raya and the Last Dragon’s Kelly Marie Tran Thinks Her Disney Princess Is Gay". Vanity Fair. Retrieved on March 5, 2021.
- "Raya and the Last Dragon: Which Marvel Superhero Helped Inspire Raya". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved on March 8, 2021.