Raya and the Last Dragon is an American animated film produced at Walt Disney Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It was released on March 5, 2021 and is the 59th animated feature in the Disney Animated Canon.
The film follows Raya, a warrior princess who must find the fabled last dragon in order to save her divided home world from a ravenous plague. Throughout her journey, Raya traverses the various kingdoms of Kumandra, with an eccentric band of misfits by her side. All the while, they must evade the clutches of Raya’s longtime nemesis, Namaari. The setting of Raya and the Last Dragon takes inspiration from Southeast Asian cultures and regions. The titular dragon, Sisu, is modeled after the Nāga, a serpentine race found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. To respectfully pay tribute to the region, the studio established a Southeast Asia Story Trust—a coalition of specialists of various fields, including visual anthropology, linguistics, botany, choreography, architecture, and martial arts.
Raya and the Last Dragon released to widespread critical acclaim, with praise directed towards its visuals, characters, world-building, and voice acting.
Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together 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.
500 years prior, Kumandra was a prosperous land when evil spirits called the Druun began to ravage everything. They absorbed souls, turning those into stone. Eventually, the dragons of Kumandra used what was left of their magic to create an orb that warded off the Druun and restored everyone to life, except the dragons who remained turned to stone. The people all wanted the orb's power, which ultimately divided them into tribes based on their placement of a giant river made to resemble a dragon: Fang, Heart, Tail, Spine, and Talon. Heart Tribe acquired the orb and has been guarding it ever since.
500 years later, Chief Benja of the Heart Tribe has been training his daughter Raya to guard the orb. Despite this, he still believes that all the nations will set aside their differences and become Kumandra again. He resolves to invite all the nations over for a feast. Raya ends up befriending the daughter of Chief Virana of the Fang Tribe, Namaari, due to their shared interest in dragons. Namaari gives Raya a dragon pendant, and she, in turn, shows her the location of the orb. However, Namaari betrays Raya, and soon the Fang Tribe attempt to steal the orb. The rest of the tribes find out, and a fight breaks out, resulting in the orb smashing to pieces. The Druun suddenly reawaken as each of the tribes steal a piece. Raya tries to rescue Benja, but he tells her to flee with the piece she has as he turns to stone.
Six years later, Raya has been searching for the end of a stream to summon Sisu, the dragon who supposedly created the orb and the only surviving member of the species, to help her recover the missing orb pieces. She ends up in what is left of the desert-like Tail Tribe and manages to summon Sisu. She admits that she did not create the orb and that her older siblings did, but finds that she can use their powers when she holds onto a piece. They find what is left of the Tail Temple and recover the second piece, with Sisu now gaining the ability to turn into a human. They encounter Namaari and her tribe, but the two manage to escape on a boat driven by a young entrepreneur named Boun, who had lost his family to the Druun. Despite Boun being friendly, Raya refuses to divulge that Sisu is a dragon, nor tell him of her quest, confusing Sisu.
They arrive at the Talon Tribe, who have built their homes over the water to protect themselves against the Druun, as Raya tries to find their leader so that she can reclaim the orb piece. While out in the town, Raya encounters a "con baby" named Little Noi and her trio of monkey-like companions, the Ongis, who adopted her after her mother was lost to the Druun. After a chase, Raya decides to hire them to help her. Sisu goes into town to look for a gift, as she thinks it is better than fighting, only to run into the real tribe leader who threatens her. Raya rescues her and reclaims the piece, allowing Sisu to spew fog and make it back to Boun with Noi and the Ongis joining them.
The group arrives at the Spine Tribe with Raya and Sisu attempting to enter the village. They are caught by Tong, a fearsome warrior who actually does not know what to do with them. Their friends break in and free them, where they are informed of Namaari's arrival. Realizing Tong is the only survivor of Spine, Raya pleads with him to assist her friends to escape while she stalls Namaari. Raya engages in a fight with Namaari and is almost defeated. However, Sisu reverts to her dragon form and fends off Namaari and the Fang Tribe. Before leaving, Namaari is moved by the appearance of Sisu. She returns to Virana to tell her, but she instead demands that she reclaim the pieces and the dragon as she fears that the other tribes will try to take what they have. Back at the boat, Raya finally comes clean to her party about Sisu, and they agree to work together with Tong giving the orb piece he had been guarding and allowing Sisu to gain the ability to summon the rains.
As they get close to the Fang Tribe, Raya suggests breaking in to reclaim the final piece, but Sisu suggests giving them a gift and asking it back. When Raya refuses, Sisu takes her back to what is left of the Heart Tribe and reveals the fate of her siblings. While Sisu did not create the orb, her siblings trusted her enough to do the right thing with it. Raya gives in and decides to give Namaari the dragon pendant as a piece offering so that she can rejoin the rest of the orb pieces. Raya and Sisu meet privately with Namaari, but as soon as she shows the remainder of the orb pieces, Namaari holds a crossbow to them. Sisu tries to talk her down, but Raya, sensing that Namaari will shoot, attacks her, causing Sisu to get hit by the arrow and falls into a river. Namaari flees as the water, which protected the Fang Tribe against the Druun, begins to recede.
The Fang Tribe is attacked by the Druun as Raya enters to confront Namaari, who is grieving Virana's fate at the hands of the Druun. The two fight while Tong, Boun, Noi, and the Ongis rescue the people from the Druun. Raya prepares to strike down Namaari, but she tells her that she has lost everything and does not care anymore. Raya comes to her senses, and she goes to help her friends. Namaari, in turn, helps the group using her orb piece. As the pieces start losing power, they fall into a pit and are surrounded by the Druun. Raya tells them that they need to put the pieces together, but her friends refuse to help Namaari. To show her faith, Raya puts her piece down and allows the Druun to take her. One by the one, the rest follow, with Namaari putting the pieces together and getting consumed by the Druun afterward. The plan works, and the Druun are vanquished as everyone is brought back to life.
The dragons are also brought back to life as they revive Sisu, who thanks Raya for trusting others. Everyone returns to their significant others as Raya returns home to be reunited with Benja. She introduces him to Sisu as all the tribes come together peacefully to celebrate.
- Kelly Marie Tran as Raya
- Awkwafina as Sisu
- Izaac Wang as Boun
- Gemma Chan as Namaari
- Jona Xiao as Young Namaari
- Daniel Dae Kim as Chief Benja
- Benedict Wong as Tong
- Sandra Oh as Virana
- Thalia Tran as Little Noi
- Lucille Soong as Dang Hu
- Alan Tudyk as Tuk Tuk
- Gordon Ip as Merchant #2
- Dichen Lachman as General Atitãya / Spine Warrior
- Patti Harrison as Chief of Tail
- Jon "Dumbfoundead" Park as Chai
- Sung Kang as Dang Hai
- Sierra Katow as Merchant / Fang Officer
- Ross Butler as Chief of Spine
- François Chau as Wayn
- Paul Yen as Merchant #1
Raya and the Last Dragon's development goes back to 2017, when Disney shelved Gigantic, a re-telling of Jack and the Beanstalk that would have taken place in 15th century Spain and focused on the young hero befriending an 11-year-old giantess. The then-untitled animation project had a November 25, 2020 release date announced when Disney revealed its theatrical release plans through 2022.
- Main article: Raya and the Last Dragon (soundtrack)
James Newton Howard composed the score for Raya and the Last Dragon. The film marks the fourth time he has scored an animated film by Walt Disney Animation Studios, having previously composed for Dinosaur, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Treasure Planet. The score was released on February 26, 2021. Jhené Aiko also contributed music for the film, as she wrote and performed a song for the end-credits, titled "Lead the Way".
Raya and the Last Dragon was originally scheduled to be released on November 25, 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was pushed back to March 12, 2021. This was later advanced one week to March 5, 2021, with a simultaneous release on the streaming service Disney+, via paid purchase through its "Premiere Access" service. The film became available to all subscribers of Disney+ regardless of a separate purchase on June 4, 2021. The film was blacked out by Cinemark, which operates 345 theaters in the United States and is the third largest theater chain in the United States, as well as Harkins Theatres, the fifth largest chain. Neither company chose to comment on their decision. Additionally, Regal Cinemas, the second largest chain, remained entirely closed during the film's opening weekend.
- Main article: Raya and the Last Dragon (video)
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 94% of 280 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7.70/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Another gorgeously animated, skillfully voiced entry in the Disney canon, Raya and the Last Dragon continues the studio's increased representation while reaffirming that its classic formula is just as reliable as ever." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100 based on 46 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Blacked out by two major theater chains, the film grossed $8.6 million in its opening weekend in the United States and Canada. The figure includes only box-office data and not paid purchases via Disney+, data for which was not released by Disney.
Possible sequel or spin-off
K. Tran said that she would "absolutely be interested" in reprising her role as Raya, and stated that she wanted a lesbian relationship between Raya and Namaari.
- This is only the fifteenth non-musical film in the Disney Animated Canon, following The Black Cauldron, The Rescuers Down Under, Dinosaur, The Emperor's New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet, Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, Bolt, Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and Ralph Breaks the Internet.
- This is the first Disney film of several things:
- Walt Disney Animation Studios' first original animated film since 2016's Moana.
- This is also the first film to have a short playing before it since said film.
- The first Disney animated film that was both produced and released during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The film was animated entirely at home.
- The first animated Disney film to have a domestic theatrical release since Onward.
- The first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to be released in theaters and on Disney+ on the same day.
- The first Walt Disney Animation Studios film not to have a scene after the credits since 2016's Zootopia.
- The first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to be released on digital just one month after its theatrical release.
- The first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to be released on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD two months after its theatrical release.
- The first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to include the 2019 MPA logo in the end credits.
- The first Walt Disney Studios film in 2021, that simultaneously had a theatrical and Disney+ release, which features a female lead protagonist. This is later followed by Cruella and Black Widow.
- Along with Encanto, this is the first time since 2016 that Disney releases two animated features in the same year.
- The first film in 2021 to spend three weeks at number one at the box office.
- Walt Disney Animation Studios' first original animated film since 2016's Moana.
- This is the second Disney film to be released on Disney+ as a Premiere Access title, after 2020's live-action remake of Mulan.
- Despite the film struggling to earn money (due to circumstances caused by the pandemic), it has peaked at number one for three weeks at the box office.
- This is the first Disney animated film without any participation from John Lasseter (following his departure at the end of 2018) since 2005's Chicken Little.
- This is James Newton Howard's fourth Disney animated film he composed music for following Dinosaur, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet.
- It is also his first Disney animated film he composed for almost two decades since Treasure Planet.
- This is the seventh Disney animated film to feature the words "and the" in the title, after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Lady and the Tramp, The Fox and the Hound, Beauty and the Beast, and The Princess and the Frog.
- This is the second Disney animated film with an unnamed scene index after Frozen II.
- "Disney announces Raya and the Last Dragon as next animated film". polygon. Retrieved on August 24, 2019.
- "Raya and the Last Dragon: Creating Disney's First Southeast Asian-Centered Movie". IGN. Retrieved on March 1, 2021.
- "Raya and the Last Dragon: Creating Disney's First Southeast Asian-Centered Movie". IGN. Retrieved on February 4, 2021.
- "Disney Moves Soul, Raya and the Last Dragon Release Dates". TheWrap. Retrieved on April 15, 2020.
- Keane, Sean (February 5, 2021). "Raya and the Last Dragon to come out from behind Disney Plus paywall June 4". CNET. Retrieved on February 6, 2021.
- Watson, R.T. (March 7, 2021). "Disney’s ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Undercut Without Cinemark". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on March 7, 2021.